By Todd Reed
“The fish aren’t biting”, “I always catch them here”, This bait always works”. We have all said these things before and we have all had bad days out on the water. I am a firm believer that the angler is in charge of their catches about 90% of the time. They choose the lake, location, rod/reel, line, and bait to catch their fish. That other 10% when nothing seems to be working, or no one is catching fish are the days that leave many anglers shaking their head. What went wrong? Why can’t I catch some fish? Where did they go? These are the questions that often get asked when anglers strike out.
There are four main reasons that fish of any species seem to disappear or won’t play along on a fishing trip. Mother Nature plays a role in the water clarity and high-pressure systems, human pressure and stubbornness are the top four reasons why we as anglers have bad days on the water.
Mother Nature provides us with so much here in Iowa, but she can also turn the tables and take away as she wishes. The first and probably main reason anglers have a poor day of fishing is the current weather patterns, or high-pressure systems. The older I get and more observant I get about the weather the more I see this. “Fish bite best when the winds from the west…Fish bite least when the wind is from the East”, yep there is a lot truth in that old adage. The wind itself has little or nothing to do with fish biting, it is what that wind is doing that will affect the fish. When the wind comes from the east or even the northeast it typically means a quick change in the weather, this will play havoc on the barometer. The barometric pressure affects the world of a fish in a huge way. Any fast change in the barometric pressure will affect fish in a negative way. On the other hand, a west or south wind will bring in weather patterns that will gradually change the barometric pressure, altering little change in fish behavior. What to do: When anglers are faced with a rapid barometric pressure swing they should first change the size of their bait. Smaller baits may still appear worthy of a fish chasing down, while they will ignore larger baits. With the smaller baits it is vital to use a rod that is highly sensitive, I prefer a QuantumPT rod/reel combo in the medium power with a fast action tip. This type of rod will allow you to feel the lightest bite, but enough power to set the hook and battle the biggest of fish. Also, slower moving jigs and live bait will get more bites too, stay away from fast moving baits when possible.
Another reason fish will seem to disappear is the water clarity. This occurs in rivers in the matters of minutes but can take several days for lakes to get affected. Heavy downpours can muddy up the water and in turn have the fish acting negative. Their sense of sight has been decreased immensely and their overall reaction to those things around them has decreased as well. This will cause fish to seem inactive or “disappear” from the day or weekend before you were catching them. If they can’t see, they can’t chase down food and eat at the same rate hey were just a day or so ago. What to do: When anglers are faced with muddy waters they must adapt as anglers. The first thing would be to search out cleaner water. In larger river systems or lakes this can be done by looking to see where feeder creeks are coming into the lake and where the current is traveling on the larger river systems. In smaller lakes this can be much more difficult, a lake can turn to mud over night no matter where you go on the lake, perhaps another lake in the area with a smaller watershed is worth a visit. If you are still faced with muddy water then your bait selection needs to change. Bright colored lures, rattles on plastic baits and jigs, and large blades on spinners will help you counter the muddy water syndrome.
The third reason why fish may not be in the mood greet you is fishing pressure. This is due to many people using the lake or river and causing distress on the fish’s natural habitat. Large reservoirs and rivers can see a lot of boat traffic, this will turn fish off. Too many boats in an area of a lake or small river can result in the same negativity. These circumstances are really out of the anglers’ control, but they will affect how fish are feeding. Imagine yourself as a fish, you have seen a hundred boats, millions of depth finder “pings”, two-hundred thirteen 1/16th oz pink jigheads with a 2-inch minnow this month…you are going to catch on to things. Fishing pressure will and can turn fish negative. What to do: This is the time of year when crowded lakes are best to be ignored. Smaller bodies of water, small rivers that do not receive the pressure are worth a look to improve your daily catch.
The final reason why fish go tight-lipped has nothing to do with the fish, it is all about the angler. Stubbornness is cruel thing, and can ruin a day of fishing just as quickly as a huge cold front. The inability to change things up as an angler is detrimental to your success on the water. We all have our favorite baits; you won’t find me bass fishing without a Texas-rigged Hot Rod Baits Tube tied on. It has done me well in the past under a lot of different situations, but it is not 100% effective. The same bait/lure on the same body water will not work every time. What to do: We all need to get out of stubborn ways and try different baits, or different colors. When things aren’t as what they used to be, change, change and then change again. If those three changes don’t work, then blame it on Mother Nature!
Fishing is not a math equation; sometimes there is just not an answer, or at least not an easy answer. Fishing is a lot like algebra though, there are many variables that anglers have to take into consideration when choosing a body of water to fish, what baits/lures to use and finally where exactly to make that cast. Some days the equation is easy, but some days nothing adds up, hopefully this article will help you solve the next tough day out on the water with a passing grade!