I am always amazed at the effect that daily rain has on the lakes in Florida. Once we get into those early summer downpours, water levels start coming back up. Initially the water is dirty from all the rain, and the water temperature drops some. These factors have an immediate and enormous impact on finding catchable bass.
When the water is warming in spring and the water levels are dropping at the same time, it is tough to find water with cover and depth to hold fish. More often than not, bait is the key to finding bass in that scenario. But when things go in reverse, and the water starts cooling as the levels are coming back up, those bass are on the move. Trying to identify where they will be in this scenario can be somewhat difficult.
Bass are not where they were just a few weeks ago. This past month has produced some strange fishing results for me with bass definitely on the move. I started practicing for a tournament in 88-degree water. After the rains associated with Hurricane Elsa and daily deluges after, I saw temps go down to 81 degrees. The pattern of the fish changed, and that put me on the hunt once again.
When this happens, I slow down, take a real good look at the area I am fishing, and try to determine where those bass will go. We know they never go very far in that short of time, but figuring out exactly where they’ve gone is tricky. Fortunately, I have electronics on the boat to help me outwit those sneaky sneaks.
I have a two-part plan. Part one is to move shallower. If I see baitfish in the area, I work them as thoroughly as I can. If not, I move to the edge of shoreline vegetation, then work out to deeper water and look for vegetation under the surface that they may have moved to.
With the surface water cooling due to the rain, bass can sometimes move out rather than into shallow water. You would expect shallow water to be warmer, but not always. The rain, depending on how much we get, can have an impact on that shallow water temperature so much that it will push the bass out deeper.
The second part is to use a variety of baits at varying speeds. I like a soft plastic frog early on because I can get that over shallow water cover. I can fish it at a wide variety speeds to entice a bite, and the fact it’s weedless makes it easy to work. Once I start moving out, I go to baits that I can fish the edges or flip cover with. Soft plastics like worms and craws are good choices.
I’ll also run a swimbait around the edges of the cover. If you can find one aggressive bass, you may find numerous others with it. When I get to the deeper water, I switch to Carolina rigs, drop-shot rigs or crankbaits. Sometimes I’ll drag a worm through an area too, but when I’m trying to locate bass, I want to use baits that move a little quicker.
Switch up your presentations, baits, retrieve speeds, and colors until you find out what they are looking for. Remember, the fish have changed habits and habitats. Rising water levels and falling water temps can lead them to be in a finicky feeding mood. They may not want to eat, so you may have to get them to react to your bait.
Be patient and be thorough. You have to be willing to throw a lot of baits and take the time to cover the area. Making a cast here and there will not put you on bass; it will only frustrate you and keep you on the move all day.
Work one area until you’re confident you covered it all and know that there are no catchable bass there that day. Then move to another spot and repeat those steps. Making sure an area is covered before you leave it is paramount. I cannot tell you how many times I have left an area only to have someone come in, do something different, and catch a bunch of fish that I missed.
The early part of rainy season is an interesting time for bass fishing. Fluctuating water levels and water temperature changes play a major role where and how we fish. Know what the conditions are doing that day and what they’ve been doing leading up to your day on the water, and hopefully you get to land a few once you get out there.
Greg Bartz is a tournament bass fisherman based in Lakeland. Greg fishes lakes throughout Florida’s Heartland and enjoys RV travel around the Southeast with his wife, Missy. Contact him at Greg.Bartz@SummitHoldings.com.