Bass fishing with Divan: Seasonal changes and effects
To help the reader better understand Bass and Bass fishing in general, we need to look at the basic fundamentals. Finding them first. I enjoy analogies! Let’s start with one; most of you reading this have probably hunted an animal of sorts, so when you went to shoot the animal, did you start firing random shots Into the Bush hoping that you might hit something? I don’t think so, so why do we apply the concept to fishing then? Back to business! We could categorize the basic understanding into two divisions namely: location and presentation. First, we’ll discuss location and in a later issue, we’ll cover presentation.
Location in itself can be broken down into two subdivisions; small ponds or farm dams and larger reservoirs. The obvious difference between the two is their size. Due to the different dynamics of each, they can’t, and shouldn’t be seen as one and the same. This was abundantly clear when I first made the transition from farm ponds to larger impoundments. If I have to be honest, it took me a full season to truly understand the whole concept of fish movement and positioning. Even if someone had taken the time to try and explain the whole business to me, I still doubt that I would have understood the concept without actually being faced with it. The only way for me to learn and retain that information was the hard way, trial and error so to speak.
Let’s do small waters first; This is where everyone starts off… a pond on the family farm, commercial venues or whatever. These waters vary in size from tiny mud holes to impressive irrigation reservoirs the size of 2 or 3 Rugby fields. On these types of waters, I place heavy emphasis on cover, to a lesser extent structure and bottom composition. Cover is the presiding factor that will determine where, and how bass position themselves. Obviously certain criteria comes into play here; the 3 C’s – cover, comfort and chow. Ask yourself: is there cover?, is the water a comfortable temperature at the target depth? Are baitfish relating to that area? If you can tick all those boxes, great! You’re on the money! Bass will relate to the entire depth column in ponds for the majority of the year.
Winter bass fishing is tricky, bass need stable water to retreat to during Winter, deep water offers stability, most farm ponds aren’t that deep… do you see where the old adage “ bass don’t bite in Winter “ comes from? Without sufficient depth to retreat to, bass will effectively become dormant, unresponsive and unwilling to waste any energy until optimum conditions presents itself. Bass have a preferred temperature band that they like to operate in relative to the area. Northern and coastal waters will differ from highland reservoirs due to the average daily temperature difference.
So in essence, bass don’t migrate to the full extent of the word in small waters. Decent holding areas are limited on small waters and a fish might become resident in an area or on a specific piece of cover and, will be reluctant to give it up unless conditions force it to do so. How it’s positioned on or in said piece of cover depends on many factors: light penetration, depth, water clarity, fishing pressure, water temperature etc. Daily movement is something to consider, but this happens on a smaller scale and won’t have a profound effect on success. It may come down to a morning or afternoon bite depending on conditions, they seldom move far, but they definitely switch on and off (feeding vs feeling sorry for themselves). This is the case with the Florida strain especially. Thankfully we have the Northern strain to fall back on.
The majority of farm ponds are small enough to cover in a few hours. If you’re having difficulty getting a fish, take it on the chin and change what you were doing. There’s always one that’s willing to eat somewhere. Often in the past, I would throw baits that I enjoyed fishing with, instead of baits that I know would be better suited for the scenario, but took more effort to present. Don’t get stuck in your ways, be flexible!
Larger bodies of water have a different dynamic. The annual cycle obviously has four seasons. Three of these seasons have blurred lines with the exception of winter. What I’m saying is: you can be in 1ft or 30ft on the same body of water and still catch them through all three seasons. Let’s get more specific… were currently in Winter so that’s where we’ll start. Winter starts with fish migrating to deep stable main-lake areas. Old river beds, main-lake points, defining landscape features if you will. When I say fish I’m referring to the majority of the population, not rogue fish or lost pockets. They will remain deep until the days start to grow longer. When conditions allow, male bass will start moving shallow and can be caught in great numbers. The bigger females remain slightly deeper whilst waiting for the males to start construction on bedding sites. Under precise conditions, the female moves onto the nest, they conduct their business and the female moves off whilst the male stays behind to guard the nest. The female doesn’t go far, she needs to recover and start feeding so she’s not just heading straight back to deep water, she’ll stick around for a couple of days. We’ll cover the spawn in more detail in a later issue.
Now the blurred lines… when the majority of fish are done spawning, they return to business as usual. This entails the obvious: cover, comfort and chow. With this being said, know that you might still find fish in all three stages of the spawn, ex: pre spawn staging fish, bedding fish and post-spawn recovering fish. The staging and recovering fish use the same lines or areas to operate in, condensing them and making them easier to find. These areas are normally the first dramatic depth change or definitive cover break. These areas don’t pertain to the spawn specifically, and Bass use these throughout the year if conditions are favourable.
When summer arrives in full fury, fish tend to avoid super shallow water in the absence of cover. Cover, in turn, offers comfort and chow. Remember I’m referring to the majority of the population, and depth counts as cover! For example, on Loskop: fish avoid the shallows in high summer and early winter due to lack of cover, but Rust de winter has enough shallow cover to keep them from shifting off to the real deep parts. One has to have perspective here! Deep on Loskop is 50ft, deep on Rusties is 15ft. So, in reality, one can fish the same zones from early spring to early winter and still be presenting to the bulk of the population. Deep winter is the only time that fish will make a noticeable shift in location. If you want to be successful, you have to follow them deeper or suffer the embarrassment of an empty sack come weigh-in. If you find them stacked up, the bite can be more prolific than the best early season days.
I hope this has given the reader a better insight into bass fishing and fish movement. Don’t sweat the small stuff! Put a bait where they live and the rest will take care of itself. See you on the water!
Read Divan’s previous story right here – Bass fishing and Social Media.