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"Bass Behavior and Habits"

By: Chad Morgenthaler

 

Have you ever heard the saying, “it’s beyond my control.” I believe it has even been coined in several movies recently. Well, I don’t know if that’s necessarily true about people, but it is certainly true about bass.

There are specific conditions such as weather, water temperature, and moon phases that can control how bass behave. Each condition can affect how and when the fish will move into spawn, post spawn and behave throughout the remainder of the year. Anglers planning a fishing trip need to recognize that each of these three conditions will play a key roll in determining how bass behave and their movement.

During the spring when the water temperature starts to warm up to the mid 50’s and 60’s bass move toward the “spawn”. They’ll migrate into shallow water and feed very heavily. The largest spawn movement tends to happen during a full moon phase. This principal can be applied to all geographical areas across the country. When the water temperature and moon phases are right, the fish will begin moving into their beds. Once the initial movement to spawn is over, there will be other smaller waves of bedding fish to follow. The first movement will likely be the biggest and usually have the largest females.

In the spring during tournament time more often then not “Murphy’s Law” prevails and the dreaded cold front will move in during the spawn. This type of situation has always presented a challenge to anglers. It’s tough when weather conditions during practice are perfect leading right-up to the full moon phase: warm weather, warm water temps…can’t wait to catch a spawning lunker. I’ve learned the hard way, Mother Nature is very seldom that kind, and picture perfect spawning conditions are unlikely with unstable springtime weather fronts on the horizon.
If this happens, understanding bass behavior is crucial. Keep in mind even though the full moon has a very powerful hold on bass during the spawn, a cold front will control bass behavior more so than the moon phase or the water temperature. Bass also seem to be very sensitive to barometric pressure, and the change in pressure added with cooler water temperatures will affect the spawn.

If these conditions arise in the springtime, especially if water temperatures fall drastically in a short amount of time, the fish will likely back off and delay their movement toward shallow water. At this time an angler may be able to find the fish in their “staging” areas. Typically this means that the fish will be suspended in deeper water holding tight to structure. This does not mean they will return to their winter homes, but will stay in close proximity to where they intend to spawn. View this as a great opportunity to use your Lowrance GPS/depth finder unit, such as an LCX111CHD, and locate surrounding structure.

At the same time the water cools, the bass will also become very lethargic. They can, and will, slow down their feeding process literally overnight. Unfortunately this type of situation wreaks havoc on a well practiced tournament.

When dealing with cold front conditions during a spawn, I have two basic methods that I apply when trying to catch staging fish. First, I try to get a reaction bite with a lure such as a Rat-L-Trap or jerk bait. I’ve found that using a Kistler 7 foot medium spinning rod with 8 to 10 lb Maximum Fluorocarbon line works great. I tie on a Shaky Head finesse worm or a Mr. Blitz Tube Tamer with latch-on rattle will usually do the trick. Secondly, if that doesn’t work I’ll try a very slow and methodical approach with a scaled down version of line and baits while targeting very heavy cover. I use a Kistler 7 foot Magnesium Senko Special rod with 15lb Maxima fluorocarbon line. Then I tie on a Wave Worm Tiki Stick in Green Pumpkin or June Bug.

As spring progresses and cold fronts become less predominant, the moon phase still has control over the bass as they move into their post spawn period. At this point the moon phase can affect the feeding habits of post spawn bass. For the most productive fishing trip anglers need to calculate what time during the day bass will feed the heaviest. FLW Outdoors has made it very easy with their Solunar tables. Just logon to their website at www.flwoutdoors.com and select “Solunar Tables” from the left hand column. The tables will help determine the best feeding time as well as reflect the full and new moon cycles. FutureBass also offers a PrimeTimes calendar on each lake page. Yet another great resource is www.riverocean.org.uk/index.html This site not only provides the lunar calendar, but also explains the different moon phases and what the moon will look like during the phase.

As spring gives way to summer this is typically the time of year when anglers choose not to battle the scorching sun in pursuit of a little green fish. So, when the weather turns hot, I go night fishing. I’ve found that hitting the lake three days before, during, and three days after a full moon phase is the best time to catch lunker bass. For night fishing I use Mr. Blitz 1/2oz short arm black spinner bait with a Colorado blade. Or I prefer to use a Mr. Blitz 3/8oz black and blue jig with a black and blue #11 pork frog. I tie one of these combos onto a 7 foot Kistler Heavy Helium rod with 15lb Maxima Ultra Green line.

Navigating at night can be dangerous, so I use a cool feature of my Lowrance LCX111CHD and X26C units…night time mode. I highly recommend using one of Lowrance’s units with the night time screen mode for locating structure, navigating dark waters and safety purposes.

I know it sounds strange and a lot of anglers don’t put much stock in predicting bass behavior and movements based upon feeding charts and moon phases. I’ll admit, it can be a controversial issue, but I’m a believer. Spending the last four years as a touring pro, and covering as much water as I have, has opened my eyes. Believe me; I always know what phase the moon is in before I start practicing for a tournament. Give the charts a chance you’ll be a believer, too.

Visit Chads Website www.chadmorgenthaler.com