The fishing forecast for central Florida's freshwater anglers for this week will be a typical fall season fishing experience.
The lunar factor will become less significant as the full moon wanes toward the last-quarter phase and orbit apogee, which arrives next Monday and Friday respectively. The weather fishing factors become a little more predictable; with an atmospheric pressure plot that changes slightly up or down every few days averaging near 30 In Hg and produces a mild to moderate wind that shifts clockwise 360 degrees every three days.
The good news about this type of seasonal weather pattern is that there almost always is cloud cover of some type producing limited sunlight during the daytime. Fish migrate more freely when there isn't a dominant sun to expose their every move.
For the bass anglers who prefer flipping and pitching baits into tight vegetative cover, this will make their results diminish somewhat because bass are moving freely about the area. However for those anglers who prefer casting and trolling larger areas, essentially covering a lot of water with their baits, the predominately grey conditions work to their favor due to bass moving throughout the entire feeding area.
Because bass and other fish species being on the move, anglers will have to master the two most important aspects of fishing, namely, the depth and speed of their baits. These two factors or controls are the reason why some catch fish and some don't. Presenting the bait where the fish reside and/or hunt for food, at the right speed for the conditions, are the 'keys' to experiencing Florida fall fishing at its best - or for any other season for that matter.
With the air and water temperatures in the 'ideal range for fish to feed in Florida' anglers must slow down their bait retrieves from the summertime retrieve speeds, but only slightly. I've been using a 'smooth swim' type retrieve where my bait moves about three feet every four seconds followed by a five second pause before repeating the procedure.
Keeping the bait as low as possible in 7 to 12 foot depths has worked great for me. I pause when I feel vegetative resistance on the line. Then start slowly, nudging the bait past the resistance and swimming the bait about four feet, never jerking the bait forward if I feel weeds, always keeping the rod low to the water's surface to lessen the resistance as my bait passes through thick vegetation,
If the bait seems to be stuck on weeds, drop the rod tip to the water, point the rod directly at the bait, and pull gently back, essentially towing the bait without using the rod - the lower angler of the line helps the bait past the resistance point more smoothly. And this causes your bait to 'look more like what it ate yesterday', acting like or matching, "The Hatch".
Once the angler's bait matches the hatch in relation to the right depth and speed, it joins food-source group that the weather conditions caused to be active for that day, and this means more hook-sets.
Remember that the darker the weather conditions the darker the bait color should be, and conversely, the lighter the conditions, the lighter the bait colors should be.
Another thing that grey conditions produce for anglers is a better catch ratio in clear lakes, or more clear lakes such as Jackson as opposed to Istokpoga. Most clear water lakes have a higher visibility rate for both fish and angler in greater areas of the water column. .
With less light penetrating the water column into the tree-piles for instance, the fish move in a greater surrounding area. Or take a grass bed along a slight underwater gradient, if the fish has less visibility, it migrates further and covers more area as it hunts for prey.
Overcast weather conditions require that anglers use long-casting rigs comprised of light line of 10-15 lb test fluorocarbons, smaller hooks of 3-4/0 hooks, and weights that sufficiently drop the bait to the level required to put the bait in front of the fish's mouth. Also, the deeper the fish are, the larger the bait should be and visa versa.
Now, let's consider shallow Lake Istokpoga, with its very low visibility tannic water, high in suspended solids due to wave action, and how overcast conditions affect fish feeding migrations.
Bass flippers will have a tough time since bass will be moving about virtually undetectable. Instead of bass holding tight to thick vegetation as they do when bright sunlight prevails, they will be swimming throughout much larger areas on the hunt. A flipper-type angler must speed things up considerably to locate the moving bass while hoping he doesn't spook bass by being so close to their cover area.
However, the anglers who employs the pitching or casting technique increases his odds of putting his bait in front of the constantly moving bass. By staying back from areas that bass feed in, you won't affect the way fish use the area-they don't know you're there as they would with a flipper who needs to be close to the target area in order to drop the bait directly down into the target area.
With pitches, the bait stays within the feed-migration areas longer both time wise and distance wise. The 'bait pause' is also an additional technique that the flipper doesn't have. Being able to pause every four feet or so enables the trophy bass to better hunt the bait. Since bass are moving constantly in low visibility water, putting the bait within the strike zone for long periods is the better strategy. Especially when attempting to catch the smartest, largest bass in the lake, which can sense a 'Flipper' anytime, he's close by.
So, overcast conditions change the two key factors of successful fishing, speed and depth control. The angler must experiment until they discover what depth the fish are feeding in during low visibility conditions, and then retrieve the dark colored baits at the speed bait-fish operate at during those conditions.
Dave Douglass is a bass fishing guide. Website: HighlandsBassAngler.com.