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Once you get a dose of fishing fever for some it can become an all-consuming passion. For the casual caster sometimes they are limited by time, financial resources, work restraints or family responsibilities. Often I hear people describe the prefect situation that they are waiting for to grab their gear and go. Sunny day, seventy-five degrees, no wind, water clear, not much current and on a major moon phase are what is viewed as the best chance of pushing the kayak off in search of their favorite fish. In my experience the best time to go is whenever you can. Seriously, it really gives you the angling edge. At what surface water temperature does the topwater bite start? You can’t know unless you stay aware of the temps and break out the surface bass baits early. What about rain, does help, hurt or even matter? I always laugh when this topic comes up, my automatic response is “the fish are always wet it doesn’t really make much difference to them.” Of course it would change the bite somewhat. The wind and cloud cover that accompanies the rain generally sees me grab the spinnerbait rod and start slinging some bladed baits. Because of the change of light penetration I’ll have at least one willowleaf blade on the spinner. On a darker day with stained water I’ll go double willow for the increased flash. In water extremes, really cold (below 50 degrees) or really hot (above 85 degrees) bass will most times go into a slowdown. I pick up the jig / worm rod and start pitching to cover and slow my retrieve down until the fish “tell me” what they want. Imagine that too the strike zone decreases under the extreme circumstances.

When the wind lays down a subtle soft plastic, likely rigged weedless and weightless to provide a tempting slow fall. As the wind picks up I try noisier lures, bigger baits and add some speed to the retrieve. In ultra-clear water lighter, small diameter line and downsized lures seem to produce bites. In current baits that you can keep constant contact with help to intensify the signal traveling through the rod blank. Jigs up to ¾ ounce, ½ ounce spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits draw the attention of the bass resting in current breaks and swirling eddies. While I personally am a fan of a small window of intensity in the form of major moon phases, in my opinion that is limited to twelve days every twenty eight.

Three days before or after a moon event are a good bet to get your “string stretched.” But again fishing when you have the opportunity is highly recommended. Because many fresh and saltwater species feed by sight appealing to this sense is critical. To understand this concept you don’t have to throw the glow in the dark models of lures. Subtle making the bait a bit more mysterious is the key to the catch. Make the fish want to investigate what this creature is that is invading its territory. Getting the color, size and profile correct goes a long way to getting a hit. As mentioned early the strike zone changes as the conditions change. Most notable would be muddy water. The eyes of a bass collect light much better than ours, this still requires a glimpse of what you are swimming back to the “yak.” In discolored water you can opt for noise making rattles, bigger buzzbait blades, propellers on topwater lures and possibly cranking baits equipped with rattle chambers.

It’s easy to become distracted with adverse weather and water conditions. Also with many paddlers their confidence levels can dwindle down to low levels because it seems there are lots of natural (or unnatural) obstacles to overcome. Almost all the topflight angers are confident. The highest level of confidence comes from spirit and experience. In short if you believe you’re going to catch fish you’ll probably stay at it longer and go stronger. In my presentations I often talk about the three “C’s”, confidence, concentration and casting. While the first two aspect are human factors the casting portion is from practice, muscle memory and the mechanics of the cast. Casting accuracy isn’t much different than the good swing of a golf club or baseball bat. When the fish are aggressive casting, even the sloppiest cast is still often rewarded with a bite. When fish are finicky putting the bait in the sweet spot can be the difference between a bite and the bass ignoring the bait. When I was guiding or we had a TV film crew set up I did try to pick times and conditions that were conducive to the catch. I centered my hopes around the moon phases which do not vary and are predictable, possible spawning modes, fall feeding binges and the target species being in shallow, forage filled waters.

Also high on the list is anticipating where the fish will be, what they are most likely to be feeding on and what they will be doing. Having baits in your boxes that match your expectations is important. Game plan for the elements and the potential changes. In the dojo where I trained and taught karate there was a sign that read, “Fighting is a game of adjustments.” So is fishing. Those capable of making the adjustments are the same are the same people who consistently catch fish. We all look forward to the warm days, with a gentle ripple on the water’s surface a major moon phase and non-stop action but more likely most of the time there will some elements of surprise to greet you as you prepare to slide the kayak into your favorite fishing hole. Play to your strengths and don’t pass up the opportunity to try a new technique, a new spot or improve and aspect of your game. You can still have a perfect day under imperfect conditions. Don’t turn your day a disaster, zip up those lifejackets.