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Entries in bass fishing (36)


'Confidence' Bait Can Make You a Better Angler

For many anglers, the old reliable plastic worm is a "confidence" bait. It's not one of mine, but I've still caught plenty of bass --- large and small --- on it.

“Confidence” baits sometimes are more an accident of timing than they are truly superior lures.

 Every bass angler has a confidence bait, or sometimes two or three. It is his “go to” bait when the bass won’t seem to bite anything else. It has become his favorite because he grew up throwing it or because he first tried it on a day when the fishing was tough and it produced.

Using a confidence bait gives you a psychological boost, and that’s important when the bite is slow--- maybe more important than the bait itself. It heightens your concentration and makes you more eager to fish. It makes you more attentive to where you are casting and to detecting subtle bites. In short, throwing a confidence bait makes you a better angler.

Secret: If you don’t have a confidence bait, work on developing a couple. You’ll be a better bass angler for it.

But also don’t forget that many, many variables play into whether a bass is going to bite your bait. Some we understand. Some we think that we understand. And some we don’t even know about. That watery world below the surface is so different from ours that we simply cannot know it in the same way that we know our air environment.

Once in awhile, we really do catch bass because we have chosen the “right” bait. Other times, they hit because they are in an aggressive, feeding mode, or because we have found a concentration of fish that stirs itself into a competitive frenzy when a lure passes through. During such times, just about anything in your tackle box might work.

Secret: So, when you are catching bass on a confidence bait (or a new lure that you just bought at the store), pay attention to more than just what is tied on the end of your line, its color, and the way it moves in the water.  Look at water depth and clarity. Determine where the bites occur in relation to cover, structure, and current. Note the weather conditions and wind direction.

In other words, benefit from the “confidence” that throwing a favorite bait gives you, but also be smart enough to realize that bass probably aren’t biting it because it’s your favorite or because it is vastly superior to others. Likely, they are biting because of a complex combination of favorable variables, of which the lure is just one.

This is an excerpt from my book, Better Bass Fishing --- Secrets from the Headwaters by a Bassmaster Senior Writer. Buy it here or at Amazon.



How Barometric Pressure Affects the Bite

Sometimes you're a lucky duck and sometimes you're not. But knowing how weather influences fish definitely can make you a better angler.

Spring is here --- or rapidly approaching --- in many areas of the country, and anglers are ready to hit the water.

With that in mind, I’m sharing below an excerpt from my book Better Bass Fishing on how weather influences fish behavior.

If you like what you read, I hope that you’ll consider buying the book. It contains much more information to help you “read” the weather, as well as additional “secrets” to make you a better fisherman.  


Weather influences fish behavior. Probably every angler can remember times when fish turned on or off because of a change in the weather. But science and myth mix freely when fishermen try to understand and explain why fish behavior alters because of high pressure, low pressure, wind, and other weather variables. The following should help you better understand why and how bass really are affected and, as a result, just could help make you a better fisherman.

Barometric Pressure

Generally moving from west to east, areas of high and low pressure determine our weather.

As high pressure moves in, winds tend to blow clockwise and away from the center. Weather within the center of a high-pressure area features clear sky, dry air, little or no wind, and cooler temperatures. Especially during fall and winter, high pressure brings sunny, blue-bird skies, cold winds, and poor fishing.

With the approach of a low-pressure area, the wind blows counter clockwise and toward the center. Weather within the center of a low-pressure area features cloudy sky, high humidity, light winds, steadier temperatures, and possibly precipitation. Fishing almost always is better under these conditions.

Changes occur as one type of pressure is pushed out by another. A low pressure area moving in typically brings unstable weather and falling barometric pressure. Falling pressure, anglers know, typically coincides with better fishing.

But maybe not for the reason that many believe. Some think that high pressure makes fish uncomfortable, which is why they don’t bite well upon the arrival of fair weather and a rising barometer. They also believe that falling pressure prompts fish to become more active.

Actually, what probably happens is that falling pressure allows plankton and tiny invertebrates to become more buoyant and float upward. This makes them easier prey for shad and minnows. The increased activity of these forage species, in turn, triggers bass and other game fish to feed.

Or, falling pressure simply might be an indicator of more favorable conditions overall, according to Bob Ponds, a former professional angler who worked as a radar specialist and supervisor for the U.S. Air Force and the National Weather Service.

“If you have falling pressure, you’re going to have high humidity and clouds. It will be darker and the fish will stray out farther from where they have been hiding and they will bite better,” he says. “Barometric pressure doesn’t affect how fish bite so much as it indicates conditions that affect how they will bite.”

And what happens when the barometer rises? Why do the fish stop biting? Here’s one theory:

“When you’ve got a rising barometer, fish are going to seek eddies and structure to take the pressure off them,” says Sam Griffin, a lure maker and guide on Florida’s Lake Okeechobee. “We can feel a temperature change. They can feel a pressure change. We think that fish hide in cover and behind structure to feed. They also do it to rest.”

Secret: Changing atmospheric pressure is not as likely to affect fish behavior in rivers and streams as it is in lakes and impoundments. That’s because water flow in these fisheries is a more dominating factor for increasing or decreasing pressure than is the air.


Practice Begins Today for Bassmaster Classic Contenders on Red River

Aaron Martens fishes on the Red River during Day One of the 2009 Bassmaster Classic. Photo courtesy of B.A.S.S.

The Bassmaster Classic is coming up Feb. 24-26 on the Red River near Shreveport, La.

What awaits the world’s best bass anglers on this fishery?

Here is what B.A.S.S. reports:

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — “I’ll know when I get there.”

That’s what several Bassmaster Classic qualifiers had to say about Red River conditions and how the weather might or might not dictate the bite for the Feb. 24-26 Bassmaster Classic out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La.

None of the 49 Classic qualifiers have been on the river lately, because it’s been off limits for more than two months. That will change Friday, the first of four days of practice. But until they start looking and/or casting, what Classic anglers can surmise about the Red stems from past knowledge and long-distance reconnaissance.

It’s a safe bet that the majority have been tracking weather trends and river levels for weeks. Most anglers’ ideal conditions would be moderate air and water temperatures, Goldilocks water levels (not too high and not too low) and a moderate rate of water flow. And that’s been the Red over the past few days.

But the river is famous for turning wild. That’s what makes competition there so tough, especially at the Classic, in which the prestige, visibility and $500,000 first-place prize create extra pressure on anglers.

A hard rain, for example, can quickly muddy the main channel. A swift and high main river swollen from upriver deluges can push stained water into the normally more clear and productive backwaters. Under such conditions, the big and mighty Red River suddenly seems to shrink, said Classic qualifier Todd Faircloth, who can drive two hours from his Texas home and be on the river.

“What high, muddy water does is concentrate everybody, because there’s a smaller percentage of fishable water,” said Faircloth, who competed in the first Classic on the Red River three years ago, finishing 35th.

Conversely, in a dry spell, some backwater areas can drop and be inaccessible by boat if they don’t disappear altogether.

Like most Classic qualifiers, Alabamian Aaron Martens would not like to find extremely low water when he arrives back in Louisiana.

When he scouted in December, low water was what he saw. “It was impossible or very difficult to get to any of the stuff we fished before (in 2009),” he reported. “At normal pool, fishing should be decent. I’m not sure what it is now; I’ll look at it when I get there.”

He’s hoping the South’s moderate winter temperatures will continue. Not so much for his comfort — although he’d take it, he said — but because he’s found that Red River bass tend to bite better in warmer weather.

He has not been tracking upriver or local rainfall closely.

“When I get there, I’ll check the river flow. Mostly, though, just seeing the river is going tell me the most,” said Martens, who was ninth in the 2009 Classic.

Brent Chapman from Lake Quivira, Kan., is hot off a Feb. 12 fish-off win in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open in Texas. Like other Classic qualifiers, he is expecting a backwater bite in tight quarters.

“It’s a great fishery, but it tends to fish small,” said Chapman, who finished 27th in the 2009 Classic. “You have to expect to fish around several other boats.”

Edwin Evers has not been back to the Red since Classic 2009, in which he finished fifth. At home in Talala, Okla., he tracked Red River water levels. Lower water would definitely create a crowded backwater contest, he said.

“Low water will put a whole lot more boats in those areas, and it will fish a lot smaller than it did when we were there before,” he said.

Like other anglers, Evers will evaluate the Red when he sees it again. But under any given river condition, he expects the weights to be tight.

“It’s just that type of fishery,” he said. “There’s really no hidden, secret area that somebody can use to blow this thing out. Every ounce is going to count.”

Evers noted that given extremely low water, some competitor might decide to run a shallow-draft aluminum boat or a jet boat into a skinny backwater,” but that angler will not be him. He planned to leave his aluminum rig at home. He said no condition would be likely to tempt him to give up the advantages of his fully equipped fiberglass rig.

Faircloth is of the same mind; he said going to aluminum is not an option for him.

So what does Mother Nature have planned in northwestern Louisiana come Classic time? On Feb. 16, the National Weather Service seven-day forecast pegged daily highs in the 60s and nighttime lows in the 40s, with mainly cloudy skies and rain showers through Feb. 22. The 10-day Weather Channel forecast shows that the first competition day, Feb. 24, will be under sunny, clear skies with a high of 70 and low of 48 degrees.

As to water level, according to the National Weather Service’s hydrologic statement of Feb. 15, the Red’s readings have been falling. The flood stage at Shreveport is 30 feet; the river on Feb. 15 was 18.4. For the start of practice Feb. 17, the water level prediction was at 17 feet. Normal at Shreveport is 17.72 feet. By Monday, Feb. 20, the date of the farthest-out prediction, the level was expected to be steady at 17 feet.

Fog reduced visibility in the Shreveport area to a quarter mile as recently as today in the early morning hours. Fog isn’t just a driving nuisance, it can change an entire Classic game. Fog over water can delay a morning start, as it did last year at the New Orleans Classic. This year, for any angler counting on having enough time to lock down into the Red River’s lower pools, a shortened competition day won’t work.

Given all the possibilities, will the weather be a ruling factor in Classic No. 42? Until a crystal ball appears, as Faircloth put it: “We’ll just have to wait and see what happens when we get there.”


Standing Timber Cut at Lake Conroe

Standing timber has been cut at Texas’ Lake Conroe. Learn more about this illegal disregard for fish, wildlife, and public safety at The Angler Advocate:

“Habitat is again under attack on Lake Conroe, and those responsible have little regard for fish, wildlife, or public safety. A group of local anglers have discovered some large areas of standing timber that have been recklessly removed by yet unidentified individuals in Live Branch on the South end of the lake.” 


TrophyCatch Program Coming for Florida Bass Anglers

Activist Angler with a TrophyCatch-size largemouth of 8-5 that he caught in October on Lake Okeechobee.

Twenty-five years ago, the first largemouth bass entered in Texas’ fledgling ShareLunker program also proved to be a state record, weighing 17.67 pounds.

Since then, anglers fishing Texas waters have caught more than 500 bass weighing at least 13 pounds, including 50 that weighed 15.38 pounds or better. Among them, an 18.18 record caught in 1992.

It’s almost a certainty that all of those fish were either Florida-strain largemouths or carried Florida genes that enabled their trophy stature.

Coincidentally, Florida’s state record, weighing 17.27 pounds, also was taken in 1986.

Since then, anglers fishing Florida waters have caught . . . Well, we don’t know how many trophy largemouths that they’ve caught. Texas has done a great job of recording and promoting Florida bass in its waters. But the state for which they are named?

Not so much.

That’s all about to change with TrophyCatch, set to commence in October 2012.

“We do mirror the ShareLunker program in some ways,” says Tom Champeau, fisheries chief for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

“A lot of anglers like the Sharelunker program so we sent some of our staff to Texas to see what they’re doing.”

A key difference, though, is that the Lone Star State uses those big bass in its hatcheries to create even more lunkers for its reservoirs. Florida bass are not native to Texas.

Florida-strain bass don't start large, but all have the potential to reach TrophyCatch size.

By contrast, many of the Sunshine State’s lakes, ponds, and rivers are naturally populated by Florida strain bass. In other words, breeding stock is not needed.

A golf course lake, a retention pond, a canal, just about any body of water in Florida could be home to a state-record bass just waiting to be caught --- and entered into TrophyCatch.

As a matter of fact, in this state that the Florida bass calls home, dozens of fish of state-record proportion --- and possibly even a world record or two --- have been caught but were not verified by FWC personnel. At, you can see a list of “unofficial” big bass, including several of more than 20 pounds and more than two dozen heavier than the current record. 

Appropriately, then, FWC states proudly on the TrophyCatch website that “no other place on earth has this largemouth bass promotion opportunity.”

If bass aren’t needed for reproduction, what is the value of offering incentives to anglers who catch, document, and report their catches of bass weighing 8 pounds or more?

Genetic research certainly, to find out more about the unique strain of bass that soon might by reclassified from a subspecies to a separate species of black bass. But also to “promote and celebrate our fisheries,” says Champeau.

“We want to promote fishing, catch and release, and environmental stewardship to keep our fisheries healthy,” he explains.

That’s one of four cornerstones upon which TrophyCatch was created as the “promotional engine” for the state’s new Black Bass Management Plan. Use of sound science, public involvement in management of the resource, and adaptive management are the other three. The latter involves constant monitoring and periodic adjustment to reach an end point, as opposed to inflexible policy.

To make TrophyCatch a success, sponsors will be needed, along with angler input and participation. Champeau is looking to businesses both in and outside the sport for prizes to offer participants.

“The response that we got from industry at ICAST (annual fishing industry show) to TrophyCatch was very positive,” he says.

“If we can get a truck manufacturer onboard, we could offer a truck (for biggest bass of the year),” he says. “We want to make it newsworthy.”

And how about $1 million for a new state record?

“If we can afford an insurance policy to offer that, it would be awesome,” the fisheries chief says.

“We get lots of reports of bigger bass out there, and we can’t disprove them. But we want to make sure that record-size fish are certified and legitimate.”

By starting at 8 pounds for entry, TrophyCatch could be documenting thousands of bass annually once it’s up and running. With tourists, guides, and resident anglers all participating, biologists theorize several hundred of those fish could weigh between 10 and 13 pounds and an impressive 30 to 50 could be heavier than that.

Not long ago, an 8-year-old caught and released a 15-pounder in Polk County.

“Those big fish are out there,” says Champeau. “And it’s a shame that people aren’t getting credit. With TrophyCatch, we want to document and reward them for their effort.”

(A variation of this article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.) 

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