Feeling a few days of cooler, less humid weather was a welcome relief. I’m taking it as a true sign that the fall season is close and hurricane season is almost over. That alone is a welcome relief to many folks, considering the tropical activity we’ve had this year.
Those frontal conditions that are now moving in, along with some extended rain, have really changed things up in the lakes. The water level has gone up, the water temperatures have gone down, and the fish have lost a bit of their energy. If you find them, you can catch them. But one thing is sure, these cooler frontal conditions will have the bass on the move some, looking for warmer waters.
This past weekend is a perfect case in point. My wife and I enjoy fishing the Winter Haven chain of lakes. It has been a great fishery for us. It’s close to the house, has some nice restaurants on it, and with the time we have spent out there, we can locate bass pretty much any time of the year. That was not the case this past weekend, though.
About a month ago, we fished a tournament on the chain. The water temperature was in the upper 80s; air temps were in the mid 90s. The water was down a little but still clear. We caught a bunch of fish, with a couple over five pounds (all of them on the Gambler Big EZ swimbait). We didn’t win the tournament but had a really good day on the water.
When we returned last weekend, we had water temperatures in the mid 70s, air temperature in the low 70s, and a much higher water level. The bass were nowhere near as aggressive as they had been just a few weeks before. A few came up and introduced themselves to the swimbait, but they weren’t attacking it like they did when the water temperatures were warmer. The strikes we had were very half-hearted.
We hit three of our favorite spots and decided to call it a day early since we couldn’t get the bass to hook up. Even in the areas where they went at the swimbait, they wouldn’t bite a senko. Gambler’s Ace and Fat Ace are my favorite baits to ease through underwater vegetation. But the bass simply would not eat what we were throwing that day.
This I chalked up to the changing weather pattern. It always takes me a few trips to relocate those bass. Most don’t move far. They either pull out to feed, or they look for shallow warmer water with cover to feed on smaller baitfish in these areas. It hasn’t cooled off enough yet to put them in a complete fall pattern, so I’ll need to extend my search pattern out some and not leave any areas untouched.
Right about now is usually is a good time to start slowing down your presentation. As that water cools, the metabolism of a bass will slow some as well. They will not be as aggressive as the water cools down. My patience will be tested on a few of these next trips to make sure that I am being thorough in an area.
Bass will still feed, but easier meals may be a preferred option — which means smaller baits might work better. Bait lengths anywhere from 4 to 8 inches will be in play. Fortunately, I have enough rods to keep a wide range of baits rigged and ready.
Black and blue or June bug color schemes will be my first choices, but I’ll keep an open mind to other colors. If you can match the color to the predominant forage species in the lake, you’ll be off to a good start.
The weather is changing, and so is the way bass feed. Paying attention to their movement now will help keep you on those bass all year long. If you lose where they are, it can be tough to find them and get back to boating them. Never give up on your spots — just fish them a little slower to see if the bass are still there. If not, expand your search from there and see where they may have moved off to.
Here is hoping we all have a good fall season and continue to boat the giant bass we chase. Good luck!
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 and tournament partner, Missy. Contact him at Greg.Bartz@SummitHoldings.com.