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Medicine for a cold front
It’s hard not to feel snakebitten as a bass fisherman in the spring. Whether you’re at a tournament, a film shoot, or just a weekend fun trip, it sure seems like a cold front always shows up when you do. We fishermen always curse our luck, yet I’m not sure why, since cold fronts regularly roll through in the spring every three to five days. Cold fronts are the norm, not the exception. So instead of griping about it, top anglers adapt and still catch them well. Having to stay on bass with new customers every day while guiding on Lake Fork for the past decade, I’ve found a basic gameplan that might help you get pointed in the right direction on your lake too.
For starters, don’t get ahead of the fish. While the air temperature drops quickly after a cold front, the water temp often takes 12 to 48 hours to cool dramatically. If conditions remain cloudy, rainy, or windy, bass often remain in pre-frontal patterns, biting aggressively until the skies clear and the water cools significantly.
Once the front settles in and the barometric pressure starts building is when conditions typically change. Sunny “bluebird” skies and diminishing north or east winds are classic symptoms the day or two after the front, ushering in water temps that are now significantly cooler than before. During warming trends, bass often move up onto shallow flats and roam widely. After the front, bass typically move slightly deeper and tighter to cover than before the weather change. They typically can be found along channel bends in the creeks running through spawning flats or on points at the mouth of a flat. Most bass won’t travel very far, moving to the closest available option. Other fish won’t move at all, instead burying themselves up in the thickest cover available, be it docks, wood, or weeds. The good news is that once you relocate the fish, they’re usually in large groups – and productive spots produce multiple fish. Typically, the longer and more severe the cold front, the farther towards the mouth of the coves and the main lake the bass will move.
Post-frontal fishing success depends less upon lure selection than location, so thoroughly seine key spots with a few tried and true choices. My first option is a 3/8- to ½-ounce flipping jig trimmed with a trailer in the traditional black-and-blue color scheme. No other lure is better at going into heavy cover and extracting big bass in the springtime than a Lake Fork Trophy Lures jig with a Fork Craw trailer – coupled with my go-to choice of 65-pound braided line. Big stumps along a creek channel bend or the deep edge of submerged hydrilla on points are prime territory for this lure. Pitch your jig precisely to the heaviest cover you can find and work it as slowly as you can possibly stand, making repeated casts to likely areas. Many bites will come when the jig is sitting motionless on the bottom, and only after casting to the same place multiple times. The Dobyns Extreme DX745 rod is the finest jig rod I’ve ever used, bar none. With the faintest bites of the year, especially by the bigger fish, more sensitive rods truly help you feel more bites and catch more fish. And the Dobyns 745 is as sensitive as I’ve ever found.
Another great option is suspending hard plastic jerkbaits, especially in areas with less cover. Today’s high-tech baits like Pointers are filled with small balls and beads that subtly move the lure even when at rest; and big fish can’t seem to resist the illusion of life. Fish these very slowly with a couple slight twitches between pauses of 5 to 60 seconds.
Finally, “yo-yoing” a ½-ounce red- or crawfish-colored lipless crankbait provokes reaction strikes from lethargic bass that turn up their noses at even the slowest of finesse presentations. When submerged milfoil, coontail or hydrilla is present, make long casts over the grass beds and let your bait fall into the weeds. Sharply snap your rod upwards, ripping the crankbait free and reel it until the bait catches grass again, followed by another sharp snap of the rod. Repeat this process all the way back to the boat. The rattle of the bait and the fleeing motion as it rips free from the grass triggers a response from bass even on the slowest of days. This can be a chore if not rigged properly, so I go with a well-balanced 8-foot Dobyns 804CB rod that allows me to easily flick the lure free of grass with my wrists. Plus, the extra length helps keep those barely caught treble hook fish buttoned up.
Cold fronts result in slow fishing, at least until you find a concentration of fish. But once you find them, you can really dissect the spot to extract multiple bass. Big schools of bass in small areas after cold fronts can result in some of the hottest fishing of the year, even if the weatherman tells you otherwise.
You can follow Tom Redington’s fishing tips and updates at www.facebook.com/tomredingtonfishing and www.twitter.com/Tom_Redington. For fishing articles and videos, check out his website www.LakeForkGuideTrips.com.