Look for fish to feed more aggressively during a barometric pressure change and you'll catch 'em up. A light rain decreases visibility and fish can't give your offerings a closer look.
Tom Keep is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. When they are not fishing, Keep and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.
His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011. From dreaded cold fronts and soaring barometric pressure to a walleye chop, light rain, or leaden skies, Mother Nature plays a hand in our favorite pursuit.
Be forewarned, in extreme swelters, die-offs of curly-leaf pond weed coinciding with hot temps and a lack of wind can drive down a lake's oxygen levels, causing widespread summer kill of bass, pan fish, walleyes, pike, and other species. Reduced light conditions ignite feeding behavior in everything from trout to walleyes, while the rain keeps fair- weather fishermen on shore.
In-Fisherman friend and veteran batsman Scott Bonnet tosses a big, suspending slash bait like the size 10 Papal X-Rap in calm conditions, and chugs a Skitter Pop when a light wind mixes with the rain. Large pike, for example, commonly become active in relatively shallow shoreline seedbeds that produced only small fish in sunny weather.
Casting or trolling deep-running crank baits such as Bomber's Fat Free Shad or the Papal DT16 are good ways to locate fish. When you have a choice, focusing on flowing water is another solid option, since river fish are often less affected by fronts than their lake-run cousins.
Fish often sulk tight to bottom or cover, in loose groups rather than schools, and turn up their noses at presentations that worked so well a day or two earlier. Compensating tactics range from finessing small baits to fishing large lures fast, in hopes of triggering reaction strikes.
Sometimes, small mouths that ruled a reef in calm conditions exit the area when big pike take center stage. For bass, pike, walleyes, and more, a suspending jerk bait slashed just beneath the wave trough can be deadly, as can Colorado-blade spinner baits, whose flash and thump rise above the din of heavy seas.
In-Fisherman art director Jim Faff and guide Billy Roster experienced such action on Minnesota's Lake Vermilion, when muskies and trophy pike went on a rampage prior to the arrival of a mega-storm that dumped up to nine inches of rain on the nearby city of Duluth, causing major flooding. But if barometric pressure becomes too high or too low, fish will be less active.
The water's current can affect them, too, making them move very slowly. Wind speed and direction are critical, as they have a great impact on your fishing.
There is an old proverb that states, “Wind from the West, fish bite the best. The wind can stir up the food chain and provide more cover from the sun due to the action of waves.
So, it is better you fish in a position where your bait moves with the wind -- just like other food in the lake. Early morning and late afternoon are great periods, too, as the fish will move to the shallows to feed.
Very high or very low temperature limits the movement of fish. This is because the extreme temperature can affect the food chain as well as the amount of oxygen available for fish.
The heavy clouds prevent light from penetrating the water. The fish will feed more actively during this period than on bright days.
The mere mention of the “C” and “F” words will make a fisherman drop to his knees and hang his head in despair, pleading, “Oh Lord, please, please, not a cold front!” Bass are known to prefer stable, consistent periods of weather, be it sunny, rainy, cold or windy.
That is, bass will engage in specific genetically dictated behaviors during different seasons and weather conditions. Bass have returned to their routine seasonal patterns of normal daily activity, feeding and resting.
If heavy rains cause widespread muddy water they will rely more on their hearing and lateral line to feed. There are also shifting or gusty winds and a rapid rise in barometric pressure with cold fronts.
The rise in barometric pressure, literally the weight of the air pushing down on the water. Though not an absolute, it is believed this increased pressure discombobulates the bass causing them to lose their sense of balance, become lethargic, even temporarily stop feeding.
On the positive side, for a short period just before the arrival of a cold front bass tend to “feed up”, though the window is small. After that, they will “hunker down” in their normal home territory till they become acclimated or the weather changes again.
There is another theory about why bass are affected by cold fronts developed by Doug Cannon, well known as a leading authority on large mouth behavior. These changes in temperature, barometric pressure and increased solar intensity cause these creatures to stop moving around.
If you are fishing after the recent passage of a cold front search for bass in areas of “structure” where they would move from shallow to deep water. Fish transition areas like river beds, channels, weed edges, gradually sloping points or drop-offs.
Use search baits like crank baits and spinner baits till you find them, then fish slow! Jigs, plastics like worms, craws and lizards or slow moving swim baits are good.
Flipping and pitching jigs and worms up close and personal are good techniques for reaching them. Bass find a great sense of security here, and they move far under them rather than staying under the edges as they usually do.
Skip lightweight lures, such as tubes, under the dock with spinning gear. These generally move from southwest to northeast bringing warmer, moister air and promise pleasant fishing weather.
Rain adds oxygen to the water which stimulates bass resulting in their becoming more active. I struggle mightily when it is windy not to venture back into the calmer coves and creek arms where boat control and casting are easier.
The wind may be aggravating the snot out of you above water, buffeting you about, almost tipping you overboard, giving you terrific backlashes and wearing your trolling motor out! The wind pushes all those little creatures (plankton) the bait fish love against shorelines and the bass follow.
The wind creates waves which in turn buffet about the hiding places of food for creatures like crawfish, shad and other crustaceans. Furthermore, the waves hide the noises all we stumble footed anglers make moving around in our boats and stifles the whirring of our trolling motor propellers so the bass don't know we're coming.
Big, fat top waters, spinner baits with large blades, heavy jigs of at least 3/8 ounces and crank baits that can get down easily and keep you in touch with what's going on down under. The entire concept is based on the influence sunrise and sunset, the phases of the moon and tides may have on the daily behavior of wildlife, fish included.
As I understand the theory, its foundation is based on stable weather conditions and to determine the best fishing times” in your area must be adjusted to include local weather patterns, barometric changes, temperature variations, geologic location and even the position of the moon.