Tuesday, Jul 22, 2014

Try out new tactics


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The fishing forecast for this week includes a first-quarter lunar phase that is five days from orbit perigee and a weather forecast predicting the usual seasonal afternoon thunderstorms across state.

Wind speeds will not be a negative factor, meaning there will be enough wind to create minor wave action, but no more than that. And barometric pressure will remain relatively stable just below 30 In Hg with little movement forecasted over the next four days. All in all, where ever the fish are in your favorite lakes, they won't be moving any time soon.

It is 'stable fishing factor patterns' like this week that gives anglers the opportunity to experiment with lures and baits that they might not use otherwise. It's hard for most anglers to leave their 'proven favorite bait' when the fishing is tough and feeding fish are hard to find.

But when the weather factors are stable for many consecutive days and you have located feeding fish in large consistent numbers, testing and experimenting with new baits, or baits that you seldom have confidence in, I find, is an essential 'teaching tool' that expands the angler's knowledge and serves to help complete the angler abilities and success in tough adverse conditions.

For instance, the last time I fished on Okeechobee, I checked one of my favorite areas to see what type of concentrations of bass where present. Starting with my trusty favorite plastic worm, I worked the areas where pencil reeds, cattails, and eel grass merged together and boated several mid-sized bass in the three to five pound range. I knew there was a large concentration of bass there so I decided to experiment with baits I 'never' throw-I have narrowed down the baits that I need in all conditions, over the past eight years, to twelve baits, the rest it would seem, just makes my boat lockers 'look good'.

I reached for the opposite color bait, white, and from a large worm to a small crawdad type plastic form. It resulted in the same exact numbers of strikes and the size remained in the same pound range. I picked up my top water rod with a dark brown and white pattern frog tied on and threw that out there and discovered that the size dropped to three pound bass only but the strikes increased slightly.

Determined to throw something they didn't want, I reached for a yellow swim bait, eight inch with half ounce weighted hook, and let that bait sink to the bottom. As soon as I moved it I felt a 'thud' and a fight with a six pound bass ensued. After casting this bait a dozen more times, I hooked into a heavy seven pound bass. After another two dozen casts, I had a quick strike that felt like the bait was being thrashed, but when I set the hook, I came up empty. Then fifteen minutes of casting yielded nothing, so I switched to my trusty black and blue seven inch worm again and the action was on with bass in the three to five pound range.

At this point, I decided to try some spinner bait action and tossed a three quarter ounce one with a white skirt and gold blades. First cast yielded a three pound bass so I slowed down the retrieve speed worked it along the bottom and after a half dozen attempts boated a six pound bass.

I couldn't handle any more success so I switched to a snake-like worm bait about sixteen inches long with no weight and worked that as slow as I could, pausing many times for fifteen seconds. At times, I would only move the slack line to the left or right of the bait while not trying to advance it-I learned this technique from Top-water Charlie Orme who uses customized Devil's Horses only, to beat his competition. It worked, I didn't get a single strike but I did have something huge swirl on it twice, but it never took it. I tried altering the retrieve method several different ways, but never achieved success so I went to the Medlock Jig and immediately was back to hooking the mid-sized bass again.

At this point in the morning it I had been having fun for about four to five hours and the heat increased and the wind died to practically nothing. The smaller bass took over, under three pounds, and those three factors were my signal to get off the lake.

I deduced from my experimentations that the trophy bass where not present or perhaps I didn't put the bait in front of their mouth. Trophy bass don't chase, but instead ambush their prey. Thus the six pound and smaller bass ate-up all the potential food sources first.

And for the record, a bad day of fishing is when only bass less than three pounds strike, no matter what I do. However, this particular day is what I would call, a great fishing day, with over 35 quality bass between three and seven pounds all caught on a variety of artificial baits, from one side of the lure-type spectrum to the other.

If you haven't tried fishing Lake Okeechobee lately, you're missing one of the greatest freshwater bass lakes in the world. This lake is in the best condition it's been in over 30 years according to the local anglers that grew up on this massive fishery. However, Lake Istokpoga is still 'number one', when it comes to hooking into monster bass, that is if you know how to fight them so they don't rip the hook out and swim away.

The major feeding migration of the day occurs from 4 to 9 a.m. and will have a peak period for one hour during safelight that will reach a seven on the ten-scale rating system. The remainder of the day the rating will drop to three at best.

The minor feeding migration of the day occurs from 5 to 9 p.m. with a peak period during the sunset and will have a rating of three. However, with no clouds and or rain, this rating will increase to four to five.

Lake Istokpoga's level is at 38.25 feet above sea level which is as high as the water management schedules allows for this month.

Dave Douglass is a bass fishing guide and conservationist since 2006 in Highlands County. Website: HighlandsBassAngler.com Phone:863-381-8474. Email: davidpdouglass@hotmail.com

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