Break Out of Your Comfort Zone ~ Clint Basskett
We all do it. We fish our past history instead of exploring the present, current conditions. It’s very hard to forget about that huge bass or big stringer that you caught using a particular technique or lure. It’s also difficult to ignore a spot that has been productive in the past under the prevailing seasonal pattern.
So how does this negatively impact our fishing success? Well, you have a limited number of hours in the day and most of us have a limited number of days on the water. The more time we spend chasing ghosts the less time we have to figure out where the bass are now and what technique will work best to catch them.
I found an area a few years back that was, for lack of a better word, “magical”. It was a clean rocky bank that broke quickly to the deep water. It was only about 100 yards long and consistently produced trophy sized Largemouth Bass in the late fall for several years. The magic temperature was from 52 degrees to about 42 degrees and I caught most of them fishing creature & craw style baits down the break as well as deep diving crankbaits.
I live in Northern Idaho where a bass over 7 pounds is a trophy and out of all the bass that I have caught over 7 pounds, many of them came from this area as well as many others in the 3-6 pound range.
Two years ago I noticed a significant decline in the productivity of this spot and as of this writing, it has pretty much died. Last year I wasted countless hours trying to recreate my past success trying a number of techniques, but the magic was gone. I finally took the time to analyze what could have changed to so drastically affect my success at this location. It finally occurred to me that the problem was probably related to current, specifically the lack of current. The productive temperature range coincided with the Fall water drawdown and when the spot was producing, the current was strong due to that water drawdown.
The past two summers have been incredibly dry and hot and abnormally dry during the fall. This has set up a situation where we are going into the drawdown period below full pool. As a result of this, there is no need to release large amounts of water. Instead, the water is barely trickling out and releases are sporadic. There is not enough flow to set up a significant amount of current on the bank that I was fishing. I feel the current is what positioned the bait and the bass in this area.
So how do you know when to say when and abandon a spot or a technique that has been productive. First of all, you need to analyze the conditions. Bass behavior can be affected by changes to their environment that may not be obvious without really studying the area that you’re fishing. Increased or decreased vegetation, fishing pressure, current, water temperature, and falling or rising water can all dramatically affect fish location and behavior. In this regard, it’s very helpful to start a journal to track all of the variables that might have influenced your fishing day. Dates, times, location, and technique should all be documented. You should also note the weather, water temperature and whether your fishing day occurred during a period of stable weather or whether it could have been influenced by pre-frontal or post-frontal conditions.
By comparing current conditions to the conditions that prevailed on those memorable fishing days you might discover that the problem isn’t with the area, spot or technique. It may instead be because of conditional differences and it’s just not the right time. In some cases, depending on which factors influenced the decline, the spot may take years to recover or not recover at all.
So what’s the take away from all of this? Since there is really no miracle alternative that will work everywhere, all I can say is that you shouldn’t waste your time on the water chasing ghosts. Use what you know about seasonal patterns to find productive areas that are not affected or may be positively affected by the conditional changes that have had a negative impact on your area or areas. You might not find a place that’s as productive but at least your not wasting your time fishing for bass that are not there.
It’s a daunting task to leave what you know and explore new water or try new techniques. This is especially true in the cold water months when bass won’t typically pursue baits aggressively but eventually, you will figure something out. If you find that you’re getting very discouraged it may be beneficial to fish with someone who you know is currently catching them.
They may not show you their best spots nor should you ask, but if you’re observant with conditions, why they are fishing in certain areas, the techniques and cadence they are using. Then next time you’re out fishing without them, try to duplicate what you learned.
Sometimes catching one bass or even seeing a fish caught will give you the confidence to stay with what you’re doing that will prove to be productive. It’s been my experience that confidence is an absolutely essential component of fishing success. When you are fishing confidently you are expecting a bite so you are focused and tend to fish areas more thoroughly.
While I wish I could offer you some incredible insight with regard to specific information about alternative locations or techniques, the best I can do is to caution you against chasing your tail. Now I just need to remind myself to take my own advice.