Unlocking The Secrets Of Weather Systems

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Keith Nighswonger's
Western Fishing Network

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Unlocking The Secrets Of Weather Systems

The Answer Is Blowing In The Wind.

Perhaps the one thing that eludes us in our quest for bass fishing intelligence is what really happens to bass when weather systems push through an area. One thing we do know for sure is that bass are effected by changes in the weather that is above their watery domains. Over the years I have noticed a number of tendencies exhibited by bass when it comes to weather, and these tendencies seem to center around two major factors: Water temperature and light penetration. 
Water Temperature plays a major role in what a bass does. Remembering that a bass is a cold-blooded creature, sudden changes, especially sudden drops in water temperature can have drastic effects on what a bass needs and wants to do. Warmer water causes a bass' metabolism to increase, which would explain why bass chase shad to the surface all over the lake during the hottest times of the year. Cold water slows a bass' metabolism which would account for the inactivity bass demonstrate during the year's colder months.
Of course water temperature is also the triggering factor for the Spring migrations into shallow water that many anglers look forward to. In different areas of the country, water temperatures between 55 and 60 degrees will set bass into a spawning mode that will change the whole complexion of the lake we are fishing.
Water temperature should also play a role in lure selection. Remembering that certain lures play on a bass' aggressive nature while others provide a subtle, non threatening presentation that trigger strikes from non aggressive fish, I can begin to put together lure systems that will work under varying temperature ranges. Speed of retrieve is also very important. Burning a crank bait in 52 degree water may look very unnatural in the "slowed down world" of cold water, kind of like a crawdad on caffeine. Understanding which lures relate best to different temperature ranges is very helpful, and can provide us with a starting point in our quest for the little green fish. As a rule, I use the following temperature table to help in lure selection:
(F)=Finesse Offering
(R)=Reaction Offering
Keith Nighswonger's Temperature/Lure Selection Table
Water Temp, Lures Of Choice, Speed Of Retrieve

49-51 degrees
1. 3/8 jig and pig (F)
2. 1/2 Silverbuddy spoon (F)
Dead Stick-SLOW
Shake on bottom near baitfish.

52-54 degrees
1. 3/8 jig and pig (F)
2. 1/2 Silverbuddy spoon (F)
3. Split shot grub (F)
Shake slowly
Slow vertical (near bait fish)
Slowly pulled over rock.

55-57 degrees
1. 3/8 jig and pig (F)
2. Deep-diving crankbait (R)
3. Split shot grub (F)
Shake slowly up hill
Slow crank, pull, stop-repeat
Slowly pulled over rock.

58-60 degrees
1. 3/8 jig and pig (F)
2. Texas Rigged Strait-tail worm (4") (F)
3. "Look Alive" Soft plastic Rip bait. (F)
4. Deep-diving crank bait(R)
5. 1/2 Spinner bait (R)
Crawled slowly, up hill
Shake slowly up hill
Dead stick
Slow, start-stop-pause

61-64 degrees
1. 1/2 Spinner bait (R)
2. Suspending Rip bait (R)
3. "Look Alive" Soft plastic Rip bait. (F)
4. Texas Rigged Strait-tail worm (4") (F)
Medium Start-stop-pause
Slow twitch
Shaken slowly, up hill

65-68 degrees
1. 1/2 Spinner bait (R)
2. Suspending Rip bait (R)
3. Top water (R)
4. Look Alive Soft Plastic Twitch Bait (F)
Medium Start-stop-pause
Slow cadence, 1-2-3-pause
Quick, erratic retrieve

69-72 degrees
1. 1/2 Spinner bait (R)
2. Suspending Rip bait (R)
3. Top water (R)
4. Silverbuddy (F)
Fast Start-stop-pause
Fast cadence, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-pause
Ripped through schools of baitfish on the surface

This table should serve as a guide for using water temperature in selecting lures. These are my preferred lures, others may be substituted, however, the trend is what is important. The colder the water, the more finesse (F) presentations are effective. As the water warms, (and a bass' metabolism increases,) the emphasis on reaction (R) lures increases.
It should also be noted that the amount of light penetration will play a major role in whether I will use a finesse approach or reaction lures.

Light penetration does some interesting things to bass, especially in their positioning related to cover. My experience has demonstrated that under bright conditions, shallow water bass will seek heavy cover or shade much in the same way you or I might decide to move indoors during the extreme part of the day. There are many theories as to why this is true, sensitive eyes, fear of predators, ability to surprise-attack. To me it boils down to one word: Comfort. Bass that do not live in the shallows will tend to move into deeper water when bright conditions are dominant. In both conditions, one thing is for sure, the more light penetration, the more difficult it is to get bass to bite.

When light penetration is low, it tends to position bass next to or on the edge of cover. For what ever reason, under low light conditions, bass tend to come out of hiding places and they tend to become more aggressive. Bass that are deeper, will move up on points and also become more aggressive. Aggressive bass require aggressive presentations, thus, reaction lures become the better choice in these situations.

Reaction lures work best with some wind. (TL) Silverbuddy, Excalibur Minnow Nichols Pulsator Spinnerbait. (BL) Excalibur Fat Free Shad-deep diver, Excalibur Fat Free Shad-medium diver, Nichols Lightening Shad

What Causes Low Light Conditions? Low light conditions are caused by a number of things:
Darkness-All right, this is very obvious, but anywhere you go in this country, the very best bass fishing occurs at night! For a most exciting experience, try fishing a night tournament at Lake Casitas during the Summer where a three fish limit can weigh 27 to 30 pounds! Get the point?
Early Morning, Late Afternoon-Any time the Sun is not directly overhead, low light conditions are created.
Storm Fronts-Cloud cover or fog, tends to block light penetration creating low light conditions. 
Shade-Caused by high canyon walls, logs or brush piles, shade is often craved by bass as a source of comfort.
Wind-On bright, sunny days, wind causes a choppy surface which breaks up light penetration. Often in tournament situations, you hear pros begging for a breeze to make skittish bass "turn on."
Lures For Light Penetration As a rule, when light penetration is at its brightest, finesse presentations tend to be more effective. Small, subtle finesse baits can fool leery bass into biting because these baits offer a non-threatening action, which represents an easy meal.
Under clam conditions in clear water, finesse lures are the best bet. (TR) R & R Stroker worms, (LL) Skinnybear jig, Nichols Salty Mother Tube jigs, Nichols Impact jig and "Looks Alive" Soft Plastic Twitch bait.
During periods of low light, reaction lures become a better choice because of the bass' natural aggressive tendencies. Being positioned next to cover, the bass is in better position to intercept a passing crank bait or spinner bait. It should also be noted that under some low light conditions, such as those caused by wind, the bass may have a difficult time finding a very subtle, actionless lure like a small worm.

Weather Patterns
Having discussed the effects of water temperature and light penetration, we now shift our focus to the effects of weather patterns. When barometric pressure is stable, lake conditions also begin to stabilize. Warm, calm days will cause water temperature to rise, which will cause bass metabolism to increase, which should increase a bass' aggressiveness. However, under these stable conditions remember, we will likely not have any wind, or cloud cover, which means light penetration will be extreme, which means that we will likely face slow fishing during the hours of the day when the Sun is at its highest point. On days like this, I like to take advantage of the low light morning hours. Typically, if the water temperature is right, I will start off with a top water lure and fish as much low light as possible. On lakes like Southern Nevada's Lake Mead, I can fish my top water patterns well into mid morning by "running and gunning," moving from one shady area to another, fishing tight to steep canyon walls that still have shade on them.
By mid day, however, I will begin to run out of shade, and if the barometer is stable, the lack of wind will force me to abandon my reaction patterns and opt for a finesse presentation. Under stable conditions, I will be comfortable, but the high light penetration will force the bass to seek more comfortable surroundings, which forces me to change my approach.  If I had my way, I would like to see a little bit of barometric change take place during the day. A slight change in barometric pressure is usually enough to cause a breeze which is what I need to get the bass positioned next to cover or up on points where I can catch them on a reaction bait like a spinner bait or crank bait. A falling barometer seems to be better than a rising barometer.
Falling barometric pressure indicates that a front is passing through. A front can be slight or extreme, but for whatever reason, bass tend to let go and get active as a front approaches.  Cold Fronts If you can fish ahead of a cold front, this can sometimes be the best fishing possible. The sudden drop in barometric pressure can really turn the bass on. As the wind comes up, the bass reposition, bait fish get stirred up and the reaction bite can really be there, (it should be noted that wind does not push bait fish, wind blows above the water not below it. What wind does is churn up water, dispersing micro organisms, which attract bait fish and generally gets the food chain active, including Mr. Bass.) As a front passes through however, we often experience a drop in water temperature. This drop in water temperature can be extreme and very often shuts off any good reaction fishing that we may have been experiencing. Fish that were on points may pull off and suspend, shallow fish may also shut down. Sudden drops in water temperature often ruin what were good fishing conditions.
When the bite shuts down due to the passing of a front, we may need to turn to our finesse lures. Split shotting, down shotting, doodling or vertically jigging a spoon my not seem all that glamorous, but these techniques will help us get those fish that do decide to bite.
After the front moves through the area, we experience a rise in barometric pressure. This pressure rise is what "blows the storm front through." Here again we get the wind and clearing conditions develop. The sudden brightness will again make fishing difficult, however the wind may help us get a few crank bait fish. As the weather again begins to stabilize, things will again start to return to normal. The water will warm up, the fish will become more active and I will hope for a slight breeze to position the bass next to
cover so I can get them with my reaction lures.
When it comes to unlocking the mysteries of weather patterns, the answer may indeed be blowing in the wind.
*Blowing in the wind is a Bob Dylan song.


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