Click Below To Find Answers To Your Questions
Q. Can you tell me a little about how water temps affect bass?
Bill: Biologists say that bass prefer water temperatures between 65-75 degrees. In the mid- to high 70s they remain active up to 15 hours a day. Above 80 degrees, however, activity drops off. At 85 degrees, they’re active less than eight hours a day and at 90 degrees it is down to only four hours of activity.
Research has also shown that when water temps are in the low 70s only 40 percent of the bass activity is in the evening. But at 82 degrees as much as 70 percent of the activity occurs after dark. This makes a fairly good case for night-fishing during the hotter summer months, especially in clear water lakes.
Q. What natural factor is likely most detrimental to spawning bass.
Bill: Wind is the most important factor affecting spawning beds. Wave action resulting from wind velocities of 17-18 mph on two consecutive days destroys many nests.
Q. How important is the relationship between bass and baitfish like shad?
Bill: There are certain periods of the year when the location of baitfish is absolutely key. It is without a doubt, a critical link. During late spring after the spawn, bass will school and baitfish become the predominant forage, mostly in the open water of the main lake. During fall, schools of shad migrate into the tributaries, deep pockets and coves to spawn and can provide some excellent fast fishing. In winter, schools of shad usually relate to deep water.
During pre-spawn I pay little attention to the location of baitfish. But the other times of the year, when I am searching areas, the presence of baitfish is the number one thing I look for.
Q. What is the key to winter fishing success?
Bill: It is a fact that largemouth bass are not going to chase a lure very far—if at all—in cold water temps and they are prone to pick up smaller tidbits than to attempt to gorge themselves on larger prey. A fisherman’s understanding of this is the basic key to successful wintertime fishing in most areas of the country.
Q. Got any suggestions on how to catch hot summertime bass from farm ponds or lakes?
Bill: During the heat of summer most ponds and lakes lack oxygen down below. So the bass rely on shallow water where there is a little oxygen-rich band. The biggest mistake anglers make is to fish below the bass in low-oxygen areas.
Q. Do cold fronts always have the dreaded effect that most anglers expect for bass fishing?
Bill: Cold fronts are perceived as one of the worst nightmares a fisherman can experience. These fronts affect some waters differently than others. A front can have much more influence on a clear lake than a stained or muddy one, yet a lake can be much more affected than moving water or a river or creek. Tributaries with a current flow are considerably less susceptible to drastic changes, than still water.
Q. Can you give me some advice about fishing with changing barometric pressure?
Bill: As a general rule, I concentrate my efforts in shallower water on falling pressure and deeper water on rising pressure. Normally, barometric fluctuations are most important during late fall, winter and early- to mid-spring. Because that is when fronts are the strongest, that seem to move from both the northwest and due north across the country. Fronts that occur during the summer and early fall seem to move more from the southwest and west and have less effect, plus the recovery time is much quicker during these warmer months.
Many people think the best time to fish is on a beautiful bluebird day. Let me tell you that is not normally the case— because that’s the conditions you normally get just after a front has passed through. This is the type of day when the pressure goes up and the fish go down or into thick cover with a case of lockjaw.
Q. Where do you begin your search for fish in these creek channels?
Bill: Where I begin my search for bass depends heavily on the time of year, the water clarity and water temperature.
In my Bill Dance course you will see during early spring when the channel coves begin to warm into the low-mid 50 degree range and the water clarity becomes semi-clear to clear, I start looking for bass along the channels in a depth of 10-15 feet especially where the creek forms an irregular feature — such as a junction, a “U” bend or “S” bend, along the channel. As the water continues to warm in the days and weeks to come, the small pockets in the creek coves seem to produce well, and the last 50 to 100 yards in the tail of the creek can be good, too. If there is a channel bank, it will be the best choice, by far. This usually occurs as the water temperature reaches the low to mid-60s, and the bass will usually stay in this area until after they spawn.
Normally, the spawning period will last for several weeks until the water temperature reaches the low to mid 70s. As late spring approaches, bass begin to group up and move back to the channel ledges. With each passing day they move a little deeper along the ledges.
By mid-summer, many of these bass have moved from the creek coves out to the mouth of the cove and then on out into the main lake. Here again, the majority will set up housekeeping along the key features of the channel — where a saddle is formed, where two channels run together or along the “U” or “S” bends.
Q. What is the key to fishing in the colder months of the year?
Bill: It’s a fact that bass are not going to chase a lure very far — if at all — in 40-degree water, and they’re more prone to pick up smaller tidbits than to attempt to gorge themselves on larger prey. A fisherman’s understanding of this is the key to winter fishing in many areas of the country.
When you’re fishing cold water, you really have to concentrate on what you’re doing and what your lure is doing. Most importantly, you have to think “slow!” The idea is to fish a lure as slowly as you can, and even then, you’ll probably still be fishing it too fast, especially when you’re not catching much. These techniques and more can be found on my bass fishing DVDs!
Q: What is the ideal water temperature for bass?
Bill: The best comfort zone for largemouth bass is when water temperature range from 65 degrees to 75 degrees. And did you know — the growth rate of a fish is influenced greatly by a high protein food supply and water temperature. A great largemouth bass fishing tip to keep in mind.
Q. What can you tell me about fishing creek channels in the fall and winter?
Bill: As summer ends and fall rolls around, water temperatures begin to cool down. It’s a time when pattern fishing can really keep you hopping. During the fall, it’s not uncommon to catch good numbers of bass deep — even deeper than where you caught them in the same areas where you found them in the spring — the tail ends of the major creeks. This is because such areas attract huge schools of shad, and since shad is the preferred diet of bass at this time of year, they will be there in numbers to fatten up before winter arrives. A great largemouth bass fishing tip to keep in mind.
As the days get shorter and the nights longer, the water chills even more. This serves as a signal to our quarry that it’s time to move deeper in search of thinner, warmer layers of water. As water temperatures drop into the low 50s to high 40s, most of the bass settle down for a long winter’s nap. Their metabolism is low, but they can still be caught. Maybe not as well as in the spring, summer and fall, but they can be caught, provided you fish the right places. And that is along the creek ledges and the beds of the channels.
Q. Does wind direction really matter?
Bill: Wind can matter in a variety of ways. Wind blows phytoplankton and can actually cause it to buildup in the water along wind-swept banks. A basic link in the food chain, phytoplankton is favored by baitfish and baitfish are favored by predators like bass. So if you have a bank loaded with phytoplankton, thanks to the wind, you may soon have a bank loaded with bass.
That said, you may be thinking about the “wind blows from the east, fish bite the least” or “wind from the west, fish bite the best” sayings.
I think these sayings have more to do with barometric pressure changes than the wind. Traditionally, when the wind blows out of the east, you have a barometer reading that is not favorable to fishing. When it blows out of the west the barometer reading most often favors fishing.
Of course, if you have a certain cove you want to fish on a particular day, but the wind is not favorable, well, it is going to be tough. Therefore, be fully aware of the area you are fishing; know the lake. Consider the wind direction before you go, and you are apt to know a place on the lake that you can fish and escape such ill winds. For more tips and tricks check out bill dances bass fishing guides (bill dance DVDs).
Q. A lot of people mention down-sizing their tackle in the cooler months…using smaller lures, lines, etc., why?
Bill: Well, in winter, many reservoirs are pulled down to “winter pool” and held at a relatively constant elevation. So the water is often much clearer in fall and winter…as opposed to spring when there is a lot of rains. As a result your presentation is much more visible.
But it is also true that the vision of fish improves as the water gets colder. The colder the eye, the greater the visual acuity and sensitivity of vision becomes. A simple bass fishing secret that you might not have known about. That allows the fish to go deeper into darker water and still retain excellent vision. This is important because sight is a bass’ primary sense in feeding. It might also be smart when fishing the cold water months to use lighter-weight line, because scientific evidence shows fish see better than we ever thought.
Q. How long does it typically take for fishing to return to “normal” after a major front moves through?
Bill: Well, post-front fishing is always tough. Remember, however, that such fronts typically do not affect deep-water fish as much.
The cause of it all is the sudden change in barometric pressure (fish detect this by way of their swim bladder). It sends fish into panic mode. They need assurance and a return to comfort. Normally, this comes via a couple of days of stable weather.
Watch that barometer closely, by the way. A slowly-rising barometer is best, and a fast falling barometer can be good. An extremely high barometer most often translates to poor fishing. This is just one of many pro bass fishing tips my DVDs have to offer
Q. Bill, it’s been pretty darn cold of late. Can you tell me just how important water temperature is to fishing?
Bill: “Pretty darn cold?” I don’t know where you are from, but where I have been it’s been really cold. So cold in fact that you had to run a spinner bait across the top of the ice and get the fish strike at it and knock themselves out just to catch them. And even then you had to dig through the ice to get a hand on ’em.
Seriously, water temperature plays a major role in my fishing because it is such a major factor in dictating fish behavior. Fish use it to make their major moves and fishermen should too.
Temperature is one of the most reliable and predictable factors in fishing and a bass fishing tip you need to constantly keep in mind.
It tells how fish will act and where they are likely to be.
Knowing that fish will do certain things and certain temperatures gives the angler something of an edge. Temperature can provide not only seasonal information, but also hour-by-hour information when temps change that quickly.
Skilled anglers know how to follow fish throughout the season (from deep to shallow and vice versa) via reading the water temperature.
On a final note, don’t rely too heavily on surface temperature readings. It is much more important to know what happens well beneath the surface, at levels where fish spend their time, rather than on top
Q. Do cold fronts always shut down fishing success?
Bill: Well, the general rule is yes, they tend to make fish get lockjaw. The passage of fronts and changing barometric pressure does send fish into a panic mode of sorts. However, this is not always the case. Take for example fish found in deep water. The passage of a front does not tend to affect deep-water fish as much, primarily because conditions at greater depths are not as likely to change.
Then too, fishermen who regularly visit reservoirs that have warm waterpower lakes have found that cold fronts actually can trigger some good fishing in these areas.
Of course, this is the exception. Again, in most places a cold front will drastically slow down fish activity. Post-cold-front fishing really requires a lot of concentration and confidence. You really have to have equal parts of both to be successful fishing in the tough time that follows a front.
Q. Bill, can you tell me something about cold-water fishing?
Bill: Sure. Most fishermen understand that fish are cold-blooded and they’re body temperature is the same as surrounding water temperature. When the water gets cold, fish activity slows down for most freshwater game fish. Their metabolism “turns” at a much slower rate. Fish feed less, and move less frequently. This is especially true of largemouth bass. Smallmouth, a colder-water species, are more active in water below 60 degrees than are largemouth.
Still, for the vast majority of anglers, “water temperature”0 is invariably equated with surface temperature—the temperature of the top-most layer of water. And during the winter, this can be very misleading when it comes to finding and catching fish like bass, crappie and bluegill.
It is important to remember that water gets lighter just before it freezes. This phenomenon is not merely important to the understanding of where fish will be located in the winter; it’s also the key to aquatic life on this planet. It means that water can freeze on the surface and not on the bottom. Other liquids would freeze on the bottom, pushing fish toward the top as the freezing progressed. But good old water is unlike any other liquid.
When the water temp reaches 32 degrees and forms ice, the water on the bottom will be warmer, 39.6 degrees, to be exact, allowing life in the lake or pond to survive the cold months of winter.
Mother Nature made it this way. If it were not for this fact, nothing could survive the freeze. As cold winter winds chill the surface temperature down into the low 40s, the phenomenon known as turnover takes pale.
When severe cold fronts move in and drop the surface temp to 39.6 degrees water is at its thickest point, or highest density; in other words, it is as heavy as it will get.
This heavy or chilled surface water begins to sink and as it nears the bottom, it displaces the water on the bottom, which in turn begins to rise to the top. The bottom water is of poor quality, usually depleted in oxygen. When it reaches the top, the lake is said to have “turned over” and fishing can be mighty tough. It carries with it bottom debris such as decomposed leaves and other organic materials.
During this critical period, some interesting things can occur. Lake bottoms are usually marked by changing depth, terrain or topographical differences, and big masses of warmer water may rise up in some areas and not in others. These masses can be pushed by the wind currents, blowing against high banks or bluffs, where they spread out. These thermal edges can be seen on the surface in many cases. Look for an area where there is a slick spot or otherwise rippling water, or where the water is suddenly a different color from the rest of the surrounding water.
These warm water masses attract baitfish and game fish. At times, plankton gathers at these thermal upwelling drawing baitfish such as shad.
On an unusually warm day in the winter it is smart to fish high or steep banks where these thermal upwelling tend to gather. Watch for the place where your surface temps change dramatically in a small area; or use a temperature probe on a cord, lowering it until you find a change in temperature.
I realize it’s time-consuming to drop a probe down, but believe me, it really pays off. It explains why you can catch big fish 20-, 30- and 40 feet deep in winter. The water temp is likely to be ideal for them at that depth. Just knowing the surface temp won’t always tell you a great deal in winter.
Each game fish has its preferred temperature zone, if it is not available, the fish will locate in the warmest water available. By dropping a water temperature probe you will discover excellent fish-holding areas of warm water in small pockets, sometimes 40 feet deep or deeper.
Vertical fishing techniques are perhaps the best method to catching them, since the fish are not normally very active and tend to congregate tight in winter.
Q. I always hear that fall is a great time for top water fishing. Can you give me some pro bass fishing tips?
Bill: As we said last week. Fall is an excellent time for top water bass fishing.
And there’s no doubt about it—a tremendous amount of excitement comes from being able to see a bass strike, but that can create a problem, in top water fishing, and that has a lot to do with setting the hook.
When the water explodes all around your lure—the tendency is to bust him immediately—but when you do—you’re going to miss “catch able” bass. I’ve had much better success by striking a fish by feel rather than by sight or sound. This can be one of the hardest things in the world to master, but if you pause that extra second, while keeping a taut line, and wait until you feel the fish you'll improve your strike-catch ratio. Timing is very important. Keep your rod tip up. Be patient. Grit your teeth and you'll be the one that comes out on top.
In fishing top water lures, it’s been said that it’s best to cast the lure out, and let it set until all the rings disappear. Then begin working it back slowly.
Well, I agree and disagree. Fish like all living creatures; react differently from day to day. Lure presentation can be very critical. Some days a very slow presentation works best, but there are other days when a fast erratic retrieve is most productive as an angler you must be willing to experiment.
It is the rhythm of top water bait that also attracts bass. How you work the lure determines the rhythm and will also be responsible for your success or failure.
Once you establish the rhythm that works at a given time . . . follow it, but keep in mind it can change everyday, during a day, or every couple of days. This is normally caused by weather factors . . . water temperature changes and even the amount of wind and sunlight on the water. Answers to this question leave much to the desired, but top water veterans know that successful rhythms in working lures, change more frequently than would like.
Some anglers feel the smaller top water lures work better than a large one. I’ll agree to this, for smaller fish, but for big ’urns give me the bigger bait. When bass are hitting baits of this type when water temperature is usually warm and the fish are much more aggressive. So they’re not nearly as selective about the size of the lure. I select the “twitch-it” as my #1 top water bait because it’s a quality lure. It looks appealing—floats high, has that natural action, tremendous hooking power and flat, catches bass.
In closing let me say some days top water fishing will be as hot and fast as a bull frog on July asphalt, and other days it won’t, but if you fish one during the prime seasons from mid-spring to fall you can usually catch a few. So if you want to add to something really special to your fishing, tie on a surface plug, and don’t count on winning every trip—instead, count on having the greatest basin’ excitement you’ve ever known.
I’ve heard you say that the fall season is your favorite time to fish! Why?
There’s no doubt that the fall season can be one of the finest times of the year for largemouth bass fishing.
Not only is it a comfortable time for the fishermen - - it’s a pleasant time for the fish as well. Some say it’s the shorter photo period, others point out that the sun has moved farther south, and the rays are no longer directly overhead, even at noon, while still others will tell you it’s the dropping water temperatures.
Whatever the reason, it’s a great time to be on the water. So before winter grips the landscape, give fall a fling, and get ready for an exciting time of the year.
Q. Can you give me some spring bass fishing tips?
Bill: Warming water definitely makes fish more active in spring.
Perhaps the most important piece of equipment you can own in the spring is a temperature gauge. Things happen fast as the sun moves north of the equator; temperature is the tip-off. For one thing, shallow water warms faster than the deeper portions of a lake, and bass will prowl the shallows to feed. Way back in creek coves is a perfect spot to look for bass, especially if there are plenty of stickups along the channel.
Keep in mind that bass are cold-blooded and, as the water warms; their metabolism quickens its pace. Digestion rates increase and the need for more food correspondingly rises. There will be more food in the shallows at that time of year, so that’s where your quarry is going to be.
In some lakes, the transition can be so sudden that fishermen are often taken by surprise. One or two warm rains after a rugged winter can bring fish up overnight, and they’ll herd into the shallows like charging rhinos.
Determining spawning time is not difficult as long as you are willing to take water temperatures. About the time that the thermometer reads in the high 50s and low 60s (this of course depends upon the latitude), bass will be over the nests. Large mouths spawn in relatively shallow water, small mouths just a bit deeper. How shallow they are depends on the clarity of the lake and the amount of cover. In a clear lake without much cover, spawning will take place deeper than it would in a dingy lake with plenty of places to hide.
For best results, working the shallows requires a stealthy approach. When bass are over a nest you can flush them and they will return, but it is far better to approach silently and make a good presentation the first time. Since water temps are on the rise and fish are more active, you can move the bait much faster than you normally would in cold water.
Throughout most of the South, plastic-worm fishing doesn’t really prove effective until after the water temp reaches 60 degrees. But in some northern areas, worms have taken bass when water temps were below 50. Spinner baits are good choices over the beds and whenever bass move shallow to spawn.
When we hear professionals say that water temperature is often the most important factor in determining where fish will be, are they talking about surface temperatures?
Well, taking the surface temperature is important, but mostly because it gives you a starting point.
Good fishermen like to have a surface temperature gauge on their boat or graph because they can easily keep an eye on it for abrupt and noticeable changes.
When these are seen, with large mouth bass fishing its then best to use one of the many available electronic hand units that work by lowering a probe into the water to quickly check the temperature at various depths.
Bottom and mid-range temperatures are much more important than surface temperatures assuming there an adequate supply of dissolved oxygen there, especially during the summer months. A few degrees can make a world of difference.
Q. Can you tell me something about the spring, pre-spawn period. How long does it last?
Bill: The pre-spawn period can be shorter than a month in some areas, in others it can last two or more months, which has as much to do with nighttime temperatures as anything else.
Normally during the pre-spawn period you will have more dark hours than bright hours, meaning the nights are colder. Colder water is denser than warm water. So what the warm spring sun does to the water temperature during the shorter daytime period, the darkness of nights chills it back down.
However, once the nights warm into the high 40- to 50-degree range, day temps will normally average 20- to 25 degrees warmer, and that is what triggers bass to start moving shallower.
The timing and length of this period depends on geographic location and other natural influences that affect bass behavior. Remember, fish movement and feeding patterns may not always be predictable, especially during this period. But the more you go, the more you will learn about the pre-spawn stage and what triggers bass to respond to temperatures, certain lures and presentations.
Q. Do the different moon phases really affect the feeding habits of fish?
Bill: I think moon affects every living thing including our beloved largemouth bass. Many studies have been done on the affects of the moon and on a variety of subjects from crime, birth and fertility rates to the spawning of fish.
Moon signs have long been used by outdoorsmen, modern and prehistoric, to help pattern fish and game.
There is little doubt there is something to the gravitational pull between the moon, the earth and its inhabitants.
Fish are no different the rest of us Earthlings. According to Knight’s Solunar Table, 90 percent of all trophy fish are caught around a new moon. This is the time when it is invisible from Earth or when only a narrow crescent on the right-hand side of its surface, as seen from Earth, is visible.
You also need to note periods of apogee (when the moon is the greatest distance from the earth) and perigee (when the moon is the closest to the earth).
There are many lunar tables published in various magazines and newspapers. They read different ways, but such tables note times when the moon-earth connection sparks the most activity of fish and game. Remember, however, that even these times can be overridden by the weather.
Q. What lure do you recommend fishing with at night?
Bill: Crawfish imitators are often favored for night-fishing, and this includes most of your arsenal of jigs.
The reason behind this bass fishing technique? Crawfish move around a lot more at night than they do in the daytime, especially after a rain or when the wind is blowing against the bank. Off-colored water on the windward side is excellent, and you will also do well where there is a drain or run-off; and don’t pass up mud or gravel banks with deep water nearby.
The jig-and-eel and the spinnerbait are good night lures on most lakes during the spring and fall of the year. During the summer, a plastic worm or a spinnerbait will take more fish. Crawl these baits right along the bottom, because bass will be searching the lake floor for salamanders and crawfish. At night on a lowland or midland lake that does not stratify, bass will often move into 3-5 feet of water to feed. Lakes that do stratify through the summer — mountain or highland lakes – are also good at night, but the fish will feed deeper than they will in lowland or midland lakes.
That said, don’t forget surface plugs. They are a lot of fun to fish, too, just remember you might want to wait until you actually feel the fish to set the hook. And that is easier said than done — out there in the dark after hearing a big fish swallow up your bait.
Q. Does fishing in the wind ever have any advantages?
Bill: Well, there are plenty of times when it WILL drive you absolutely crazy, but, yes — wind DOES sometime also offer advantages! Here’s some examples:
Wind Restricts Light Penetration
Choppy wave action created by strong wind cuts down on light penetration, normally improving fishing.
Wind Oxygenates the Water
This can be a major plus, especially during the hot water months when dissolved oxygen levels are low.
Wind Creates Clarity Edges
Bass are attracted to places where mud and off colored water lines form—where one type of habitat changes into another.
Wind Often Affects Water Temperature
Depending on the time of year, wind can change water temperatures from warm to cool or vice versa, making some areas more productive.
Wind Creates Currents
Strong winds can create strong current areas in squeeze down areas—such as around bridges, between islands, across shallow to deep areas, and deep to shallow areas. Fish are attracted to current areas, because they usually have more food, sometimes better water temperatures, and often increased oxygen supplies.
Wind Drifts Plankton
During the warm months when a bloom exists on or near the surface, wind currents push plankton blooms, so shad minnows, which are filter feeders, follow. This in turn draws in bass.
Wind Can Reposition Bass
It can move ’em from deeper depths to shallower depths. It can make ’em more aggressive on wind swept areas and can move ’em from thick cover areas out into open areas to feed.
Winds Stirs up the Shallows
Wave action stirs up the shallow floor of a lake dislodging food particles from various objects like wood, rock and vegetation. This attracts bait fish, and of course, you know what they eventually attract!
Even with all these advantages, wind will also always have negative effects. And I don't think I have to tell you what they are except to say . . . I hate ’em, as much as you!
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