Ok, so we know the seasonal pattern the fish are in right now. We know what our lake / river has to offer. Let’s put these together and make a plan.
We have evaluated what season it is, in relation to the spawn. We have evaluated the type of lake we have, and the available types of structure, cover, and forage available.
Its pre-spawn. Or late winter. Or early spring. Whatever you want to call it. I call it pre-spawn. Why? Because the days are longer. Daylight. It’s the first of March, the days get longer every day. The life cycle of nature is in spring, reproduction mode
Let’s relate this to current conditions here in the Ozarks. Currently the weather here is a balmy 19 degrees, snowing, and windy. Water temp was around 45 degrees. I expect that’s dropped a little! A month ago, I located crappie in the mouth of a bay, not far from 40 foot of water, but in 20 foot of water. However, I caught them around 5 to 7 foot deep. Why? Because the cycle of spring has begun. That day was sunny, no wind, muddy water and 37 degree surface temp. Again, let me say…. Daylight means more than water temp. In the spring.
So, I was not far from where those fish spent winter, on a 40 foot deep ledge, with lots of cover. They had moved into a creek, but not to the bank, or spawning area. But they were getting ready. The day, itself, dictated that during mid day, full sunlight, the surface temp of the water was warming up. Those big, fat crappie were moving up in the water column just like you would back up to a wood stove in winter! 5 foot deep, over 20 foot, in 37 degree water!
How do you approach this? Slowly. Fish are cold blooded, remember. They are eager to eat, just not chase. There was baitfish everywhere, also.
So, with what the lake offers, I’m looking in this case an area that has a deep channel next to an area with flats and laydowns close by. Found it. It’s also the end of January. The days are roughly 40 minutes longer than they were a month ago. The cycle has begun. So I found an area.
In that area, I look and see some shad dimpling the surface as the sun comes up. Good. Baitfish, in the right kind of area. Now, I’m in a boat, and have a really old depth finder, but I see lots of activity holding in the 9 to 5 foot range. Others are fishing the same area from shore, and I see them casting at any sign of baitfish and having considerable luck in doing so. They are mostly fishing live bait! I don’t have any of that!
What I do have is shad imitating lures. I see a few shad in the water that are 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 inches long. Perfect. I choose two different styles of baits. First, Curl Tail Grubs and tubes. Action, and plastic. Second, I choose Bunny Butt Jigs. Flash, and hair. I set my rigs to fish one at 5 foot, and one at 7 foot. It didn’t seem to matter, caught equal numbers on each. That tells me the fish didn’t really care, just something that resembled a minnow.
There’s one example, recently, of applying seasonal fish patterns to what the lake offers. No secret spot, no secret bait. Just nature. When the water reaches that “prime” spawning temp, those fish will be done and gone. I wouldn’t get near that area then!
So, now, what’s this big ole cold front doing to the fish? Basically, nothing. Yes, it will slow them down some. Yes, I would expect them to get a little deeper. But get this…. All those shad that were “up”. This cold will kill lots of them. And in the dying process, the will be kicking and sinking down thru those fish. The fish are just going to move down a little in the water column, and let the dying shad come to them. If I had to pick a bait now, it would be sparkly and white, on a very light head that closely mimicked a dying shad falling down to them. You see, daylight has the cycle started, and a little cold snap isn’t going to change that. If you approach what the lake offers you, think it through, you can actually optimize your day by using nature to your advantage!
Now, how will you approach your next outing? Weather will warm back up quickly. Daylight has the fish in the Pre-Spawn mode. This lake offers:
Rocks: Bluffs – boulders – chunk rock – and gravel.
Wood: Standing timber – Laydowns – Brush pile, both man made and natural.
Boat Docks: sitting over almost any kind of shoreline you can imagine.
Two muddy rivers, clear upper lake, and a mid lake right in the middle!
Any one of those, or any combination of those, can be your next successful day. Don’t get hung up on a spot. Try several. If this boat dock has fish, maybe they all do? If that laydown at the mouth of a pocket has fish, maybe they all do?
Approach your lake with as much knowledge as you can, and multiple game plans, and your success rate will go up. Every time you go out, try something different. Learn something new. Just because you caught them in the last 10 trees you fished, don’t skip trying a boat dock… it may be even better!
Thanks for reading, hope this helps you become a better fisherman.