Watch the Water Temps & Start Following the Bass!
Elite Series Pro, Justin Lucas with a nice Smith Lake Spotted Bass. – PC: Chris Brown
You hear it every autumn: ‘when the water cools, the bait migrates to the shallows, and the bass follow.’
Water temperature is dependent on other variables, such as the number of minutes each day the sun is able to warm the water. Air temperature will directly influence water surface temps.
So is water temperature actually the driving force behind the annual autumnal migration to the backs of creeks? Or does the phenomenon depend on photo periodization – the length of the days, which has been in decline since the summer solstice in late June. Following the fall equinox about 3 weeks ago, there are more minutes of darkness than daylight every 24 hours. This should pull water temps down. Right?
It has been hot all over the country lately. Heat index at our high school football practice this week has been over 100 degrees. The bank sign read ‘96’ at 5:30 PM the other day. We are in Florida, but only a few miles from the Georgia line.
So as I prepared tackle the other night I wondered how heat affects movements of bait and bass. I bounced the question to 3 top flight pros.
“I think of it as being similar to the spawn,” said Bassmaster Elite Series veteran Greg Vinson of Wetumpka, Alabama. “You’ve got some fish that make a move based on the weather, and some that go based on the clock, meaning the day length and maybe the moon phase.
“Up shallow we’re catching the early birds right now, but not the big concentrations. It seems like around here the shad and the fish are in limbo, kind of all over the place. Some are still on summer time patterns.”
Vinson expects things to change in a hurry. “Once we get a cold front, the shallow water will cool off first so that should trigger a big move.”
During the recent Open on Smith Lake Vinson had mixed results. The weather was hot prior to the tourney. “I found bait and bass piled in the back of one little creek. I caught 4 good fish out of there but I never found another creek with bait in the back of it.”
Bass tournament pioneer Shaw Grigsby of Gainesville, Florida has a wealth of experience to draw on when he speaks of annual fish movement.
“As the days start getting shorter the fish know what’s coming. They start heading that way. Temperatures fluctuate year to year and it does affect them, may delay them from moving shallow, but for the most part, they know it’s coming.
“I would start shallow first and work my way back out until I find them as opposed to doing it the other way around.”
Keith Combs recently won the B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year tournament, although the AOY title went to Brandon Palaniuk. Still, the win over such a stout field is the latest example of Combs’ prowess on the water and his understanding of fish behavior. The Texas pro says things are a bit weird on his local waters now, but the fishing is great.
“Usually in the fall the lakes get murky and the fish get shallow. This year we’re still catching them deep, haven’t seen them move to the backs of creeks.
“There’s still a ton of hydrilla out deep and because of the hurricane, a lot of current. We’re still punching deep hydrilla.”
Combs points to a recent tourney that drew over 150 boats and took 29 lbs. to win, 28 for 2nd, and featured 20 bags over 20 pounds. Rayburn is on fire!
Overall, it sounds like bass across the South are slow to make their move to the shallows this year, but once they go it should be ‘lights out’. Keep your eyes open and let us know what you see out there. Good luck this weekend!