Playing spring water conditions in your favor
A heavy downpour, bright blue skies, 40 mph wind, or not a breath of wind – all of these are factors of finding and catching fish in the spring. While Mother Nature can be cruel at times, and always changing things up from day to day or even hour to hour, there are things anglers can do to help beat the weather conditions and catch some fish.
First, let’s discuss the heavy rains we often get in Iowa in the spring months. These rains can be beneficial and very harmful for fishing activity. The beneficial part of rain is that it can rejuvenate a lake or river system by introducing new water. This new water can cool down the water which often turns fish off in the spring. Heavy rains will make parts of the lake or river quite muddy. This isn’t to say that fish won’t bite in those areas, but you will need to modify your lure selection to get bites. When the water turns dark, your lure colors should turn dark and or bright. Black, brown, orange and chartreuse are my go-to colors when the water turns to chocolate milk. Be sure to change live bait offerings into brightly colored jig heads and bright colored plastic tails. The technical science behind this theory is if the fish can’t see it then it can’t bite it. Another thing to do in muddy water is to make sure your baits have sound to them, add rattles to soft plastics, jigs and make sure your crankbaits are of the loud variety. When given muddy water conditions, don’t give up, change your bait offerings and keep the day a good fish catching day.
The opposite of the chocolate milk lake is the gin-clear lakes and waters of the rivers. When this occurs, do the opposite. Give the fish the most natural colored baits you have. Minnow/shad looking baits, or give them the real thing if you prefer live bait. This time of year, most of the bigger species of fish are on a full feed of crawdads. Browns and greens will be good colors for those baits mimicking crawdad offerings. One big piece of advice I can share is to change your presentation for any bait. You must make longer casts when the water is clear. It is said that most fish species can see up to five times as far in the water as humans. So, if you can see your bait down five feet, the fish can see up to twenty-five in the water. This is something that a lot of anglers don’t consider when fishing clear water. The longer cast you can make, the more fish you can surprise and catch.
The last challenge that Mother Nature can throw you is the amount of wind on the water. Simply put, you can’t do anything about this, you have to make adjustments to survive the fishing day. When the days are calm and the water looks like glass, many times the fish will be inactive. When the day presents itself like this I always try topwater baits for bass. It seems like the bass, who are opportunistic feeders will crush a topwater bait. If bass aren’t on your species of fish, then live bait near heavy structure is a can’t miss. Calm, sunny days will bury fish into brush piles, rock piles and weeds, you just have to go in and get them.
The last thing and most important thing, especially when fishing from shore is choosing the correct bait. Whether you are fishing artificial baits or live bait rigs, having the proper set-up with your rod and reel is vital. If you are using a spincast or spinning reel, you may have to take your baits and sinkers/bobbers up to the next size. For example, if you normally use one small split-shot weight for your live bait rig, you may have to use two, and increase the bobber size just to make an appropriate cast. The same goes for artificial baits, if you like using a 1/4 ounce spinnerbait, you may have to go to a 3/8 ounce or even a half-ounce spinnerbait to work it, and cast it properly. As for bait casting equipment, be sure to adjust your magnetic settings so you do not get so many backlashes. This is an easy thing to do on all Quantum PT reels. A simple turn of the wrist and your baitcaster goes from a useless tool in the wind to a bait throwing machine! (small dial on the opposite side of the reel handle). Refer to your baitcasting owners manual for other brands and if this option is on your reel. By adjusting the brake mechanism, you will be able to cast your lures even in the heaviest winds.
Some days it rains and pours, while other days are bright and sunny, you just never know what you will get here in Iowa during the spring. Be prepared for all weather, and keep these tips in mind when Mother Nature throws you a curveball. Make the adjustments in your bait, gear and technique and hit a homerun the next time your fishing conditions change.