Like many of you, in my
early years, I drove to the river with preconceived plans based
on our seasons. Wow, was I wrong much of the time.
obsessed with tidal
largemouth bass for about 40-years, the last 26 as a full time
professional guide. Forty years sounds
like a lot of time but
“thousands” of days are more credential-worthy. I chose not to
believe generally accepted bass behavior because the “written
and documented accounts of bass” were of impoundment fish.”
There were no reliable studies of tidal water bass—so I assumed
For about 30-years I have been keeping day
to day fishing logs, most in the form of fishing reports, and I
have learned that it’s water temperature, not air temperature
and human-season that dictates fish behavior, thus, their
temperature, surface water temperature at first light, will
dictate where I fish, and with what offering. There will be
hourly changes and you must adjust. There is “overlap” and you
must be aware. You must also realize that barometric pressure
has much to do with fish behavior—but that is another story.
I use a
Ranger/Mercury and an Express/Mercury for my
largemouth/smallmouth bass guided outings, and both of these
perfect combinations would be pretty ordinary with out the
Lowrance Sonar/GPS equipment mounted about the boats. I rarely
monitor my Lowrance equipment for their fish-finding ability but
there is seldom a ½ hour goes by that I don’t pay close
attention to the water temperature information—because that data
is vital to my day—to my client’s production.
Yes—I do have
a distinct advantage over most of you because I’m on the water
most days. However, you do have the ability to “estimate” water
temperature from home.
From your TV
news or newspapers, take the high and low air temperatures for
the three days prior to your outing. Add the six figures and
then divide by 6.
There is more
information in this math. Add the high and low for each day. If
day #2 shows an increase, that’s a good thing. If day #3 shows
an increase over day 2, that’s really good. If there is a
decline--that’s not good.
So, keep this
article in your boat and a copy in your calendar, because this
is the way I see it:
It’s silly to think that bass don’t eat during cold water
seasons because the larger of the bass, the females, are plump
with eggs that require nourishment constantly. They will take up
positions in relatively deep water with little current because
deeper water reacts much slower to air temperature changes. They
rarely move vertically but they will choose areas within the
water column that holds baitfish. For the most part, they will
suspend, within the lower portions of the water column, and they
will take on a “white/bland” color to camouflage themselves. Old
gravel pits, marinas and deep outside channel bends in creeks
are prime locations.
My “tools” of
choice for this time frame will be: Silver Buddy blade baits;
four-inch, flat-tail grubs,
Luhr-Jensen Sugar Shads used in a
jigging motion, four-inch
Mizmo Tubes and drop-shot plastics.
fish quickly because they are suffering from the “bends” and
they will have bulged eyes. Forget that “fizzing” method because
if you do it wrong—you may as well tear her gills out.
very sunny days, the surface can warm beyond the air temperature
so look for bass and bait to move vertically slowly.
Remember—the sun is your friend now.
Degrees; Post Winter.
This is the
season when bass will make vertical movement but they will never
be far away from the deep water comfort. They may move to the
shoulder of the dropoff or a deeper flat, but they want to be
able to “go home” quickly.
I’ll begin my
day in the deeper water, where strong currents are not a factor.
My tools will be; Silver Buddies in the morning, Mizmo tubes,
Luhr-Jensen Speed Shads, Luhr-Jensen Hot Lips crankbaits and
Mouth Spinnerbaits worked very slowly over the drops.
your day begins near the top temperature of this season, be sure
you are working deeper flats where grass beds grow. My favorite
season, for bigger bass, is the top-end of his season—and the
following season. This is lipless crankbait time, especially
Sugar Shads and Rattlin’ Rapalas.
everyone’s best season because by now bass have committed to
shallows with cover. Grass beds and spatterdock will be several
inches tall by now—and rocky flats are the best of the best.
Creek mouths and main river grass flats become fish magnets.
Deep channel bends with wood cover hold “staging” bass and old
sunken wood barges and former wharves beckon the bigger girls
that are a bit hesitant to commit to the shallows.
It’s tough to
avoid areas where large numbers of fish stack-up in vegetation
and shallow cover but I will always start the day in the deeper
water nearby, away from the dropoffs and around hard, deep cover
because of the ability to catch larger bass.
deeper bass with Hot Lips crankbaits or cast and bang Sugar
Shads. I know the grass has bass but give me shallow, chunk rock
near creek mouths and along main-river, small coves. Those
soaked, fallen trees of creeks like Mattawoman or coves like
Penrod Cove and Belle Haven Cove will always provide smiles and
I’m not a big fan of bed-fishing or sight-fishing but I don’t
condemn those that do. There is no solid evidence that catching
bass from beds is detrimental to propagation—but I don’t do it.
as we have come to understand it, is a very short engagement.
Contrary to popular belief, the female seldom stays near the bed
very long. There is a short period of bumping and dance, but she
moves off quickly after depositing her eggs—and she doesn’t put
all her eggs in one basket. She may save eggs for another prime
period, or another prime nest. Spawn in the
will often encompass a month or so. New moon periods, and full
moons, when temperature is conducive, is the key.
This is a
highly underestimated season. Postspawn simply means that bass
that has spawned and moved on—not turned off. They retreat to
fairly deep water, usually the drops, near beds, and take a
short holiday from the rigors of nest protection and work on
body building. A female will lose about 14% of her weight and
the males are just exhausted.
crankbait time—and probing deeper grass clumps with jig/pig,
tube and weed-banging spinnerbaits is a very reliable option.
This is the
longest season of all, and the toughest for many. The key to
remember for this season is that Potomac largemouth bass simply want to eat. Find the food,
and you have found the bass. The difficulty is that there is
just so much cover in the form of grass beds. I’m a big fan of
the creeks this time of year, where I will examine the cover for
reasons to stop and fish. If I see great blue herons, standing
in the water, I will stop and fish. If I see surface activity, I
will stop and fish. When I see large “clouds” of baitfish—go
fish. You may have to cover a lot of river to find quantities of
bass but there are magic places where the numbers are amazing.
nothing better that a great topwater bite, with buzzbaits and
frogs, but they have a limited time to prove that bite is-on for
me. My favorite baits are a six-inch,
Case Magic Stick, Johnson
Spoon and a
Penrod Special, Big Mouth spinnerbaits.
comes a time, in the warmer weather, when bass seem to avoid
grass beds. That’s usually when the vegetation is covered with
sediment stirred up by boat traffic and strong wind. Find unseen
grass clumps, away from the obvious vegetation and spend some
quality time probing it. I will also cast 1/8th ounce
spinnerbaits to shallow wood and spatterdock. This is another
time to do the unexpected—go deep with crankbaits.
When water temperature consistently declines, you may find that
your most productive areas seen void of life. That’s a normal
cycle, and you will find that hard cover is more productive for
the first part of the day. Baitfish will be abundant but look
for movement into creeks and outskirts of huge grass beds. The
higher end of this period is “summer-like,” but the cooler end
of this season is wood and rock strong.
because you are wearing a jacket does not mean you should
abandon the prime grass beds. Wood cover is a magnet and “wood”
can be fall down trees, old wharves and sunken barges. This is a
great topwater time. I love tubes, Magic Sticks and Speed traps.
I will do many things this season.
Degrees; Pre Fall.
You will not
recognize or understand this for the most part. Generally, we
simply decide that the fish aren’t biting. Believe it or not,
but the baitfish move to very shallow water and you should also.
I go back to prespawn tactics, with smaller baits and creeks
begin to attract life big time. Main river grass may begin to
die off and pull free—and that’s oxygen depletive.
struggle, I resort to basics. If I can’t find bass in surface
grass, I’ll find grass in deep water—or go to the drops. I’m a
big fan of deeper creeks and I’ll cast spinnerbaits to
spatterdock—but crankbaits in unexpected places is my savior
most days like this.
I love this season. Bass will shy away from dying grass and it’s
tough to fish favored areas because of the dead and floating
grass. You have to make a pretty drastic move now, and that may
not mean leaving vegetation. Think about the temperature
difference. The high end of this season offers shallow
opportunities but there is a chance that there will be a
10-degree difference in one day. Baitfish will move into creeks
and coves. Slower currents and lower tides will be best. I often
change drastically in a day.
lots of time in creeks like Mattawoman, Occoquan and Aquia, plus
gravel pits near the I-95 bridge. Washington D.C waters will be
a good bet—as will Luhr-Jensen Brush Babys, Mizmo tubes and Big
See the post
winter season above, but this is another of those big-bass
seasons for a few reasons; there are fewer fishermen, bass are
away from the massive grass cover, food is scarce and the big
girls must feed that egg growth.
I seldom give
up on crankbaits, but wait until later in the day. There is a
big range for this season. Attack near the top end—finesse near
the lower end of the season. Bass want subtle, small offerings
and Mizmo tubes and grubs may be your best bet. Don’t hesitate
to check deeper, calmed water with Silver Buddies and jigged