On the drive home from a great day of bass fishing, we reminisce about the fantastic day we had. Sometimes we catalog why the fishing was so good, what baits worked and why. “Boy, the next time I see these conditions, I know exactly what to do!”
Why is it that most anglers do not do the same thing after a nonproductive day on the water? Anglers can learn just as much, if not more, from the days we don’t determine a bass catching pattern. We try to forget these days as fast as we can. However, it should be, “Boy, the next time I see these conditions, I’ll remember what not to do!”
In my experience, knowing what won’t work during certain conditions leaves more time to experiment with other techniques and presentations. For example, let’s assume I’m fishing the day after a cold front has blown through the area. My first thought is that the bass will be lethargic. So, before I head out on the lake I lay out my jig rods and other slow moving presentations. After fishing all day, I have only a couple bites. Obviously slow wasn’t a ticket to success. Keeping in mind that bass may not eat all day every day, they will eat some time every day. I’m a firm believer there is always a pattern that will produce five solid bites a day. I’ve been crushed way too many times at weigh-in to believe otherwise. It’s up to us as bass anglers to figure out that pattern.
We had the Bassmaster Classic on the Red River; home water for me. The night before the first day of competition a major cold front blew through dropping daytime temperatures by forty degrees and the night temperatures into the twenties. With a set of conditions usually making me stay home and watch football on my sofa, these anglers brought impressive limits of bass to the scales.
By learning what won’t work, we start to piece together what will work. My jig and slow moving baits did not work, but the next day they might. As the bass recover they become more and more aggressive and feed heavier. I have learned through trial and error that the morning after a front, while still difficult to catch a bunch of bass, can be productive with reaction baits. Instead of trying to find something they will eat out of hunger, it’s better to find something they will eat out of instinct or reaction.
The first day after a front bass can suspend in open water and wait it out, or they can bury deep into cover. Bouncing a jig on a bass’s head buried in a brush pile can work. However, it takes a lot of brush piles and a lot of bass to find one that is willing to eat. I’ve learned through experience it’s better to pick up a lipped or lipless crank bait, a jerk bait, or a spinner bait, and cover some water looking for a reaction bite. With only so many brush piles, the majority of bass are left out in the cold (pun intended) to suspend in open water. By fishing for these suspended bass with reaction baits, you can cover a lot more water because you are fishing faster. Covering more water means putting a bait in front of more bass, more bass means more chances at drawing a strike.
Once I figured out that reaction baits provided more strikes, I started working with color, size, retrieves. Now, many cold fronts later, I have a confident game plan to catch bass. Every region is different, and anglers have to experiment. The bottom line is don’t get stuck on what should work, spend the time to figure out what will work. I promise it’s not going to happen in a trip or two, and there are days when nothing seems to work. However, by staying versatile, paying close attention to the conditions, and not repeating past efforts, you too can dial up a bass catching pattern for every condition you face.