Bass anglers in many parts of the country have to learn to deal with wind as part of the equation or not fish. It’s that simple. Some places are just windier than others and if you’re located in one of those regions you need to find ways to still catch fish when the wind is blowing.
Wind can beat you mentally. If you can hear the wind howling and it affects where and how you plan on fishing, you’re already beat. You need to have the attitude that wind determines where you want to fish instead of where you can fish. If you head into the back of a cove to get out of the wind, but the fish aren’t there you’re SOL.
Use the wind to your advantage. “Wind is my friend,” joked pro bass angler Sam Heckman. Heckman is ever aware of the wind, its direction, its velocity and how it can positively impact his fishing. Heckman fished a wind-swept point on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake during the Bass Federation Championship in 2015 that others avoided for three straight days and was one fish from winning the whole shebang and garnered a second place finish. Heckman used the wind and similar to tactics to place tenth in this year’s TBF championship on Missouri’s Table Rock Reservoir.
“Wind kind of jumpstarts the whole food chain,” claimed Heckman. “When winds starts blowing into a bank, it pushes the plankton and other microorganisms suspended in the water column against the bank. Minnows, crustaceans, panfish and other forage move into the shallows or come out of hiding to take advantage of the bounty. Predators are not far behind.”
I joined Heckman last fall on Colorado’s Pueblo Reservoir. Pueblo Reservoir was the only Colorado reservoir included in the BASS Top 100 in 2015. The reservoir has a reputation for producing exceptional numbers of smallmouths, largemouths and spotted bass and the occasional trophy fish.
Wind was a non-factor in the morning. The water was flat calm and there was a noticeable chill in the September air. The scenario presented perfect conditions for throwing topwater baits. Pueblo Reservoir water levels were up and the high water had flooded the shoreline brush that had grown during the recent drought setting the stage for some dramatic topwater action.
Heckman maneuvered the boat using the bow-mounted trolling motor to position us to work the indentations and points in the brush. The bass were waiting. Bass routinely exploded on our topwater offerings, but hook ups were few. The water temperatures had obviously dropped several degrees overnight and had dampened the bass’ metabolism. We could have switched to jigs and caught some of those fish, but we were having too much fun watching the bass exploded on the top-water baits. We could feel the sun on the back of our necks and the morning chill was weakening. Soon a few of the bass started to stay buttoned up.
With the rising sun and the morning chill dissipating, we started to feel the wind, light at first, but in a matter of a half hour there was a pretty good chop in the sheltered coves we had been fishing. “Come on,” said Heckman as he pulled up the trolling motor. “I know where to go.”
There were two- to three-foot whitecaps on the main lake as we made our way to an exposed point that extended into the reservoir. The point, which had been above the water line for several years, was submerged under two feet of water now and you could easily see where the light sandy point dropped abruptly off into deeper water. The building southwest wind was crashing into the point. “Cast right up into the trees on the edge of the drop-off there and let the bait fall,” instructed Heckman.
The tube-rigged crawfish imitation casted like a bullet and we could easily reach the drop-off 30 yards distant as Sam held us with the trolling motor. My first cast landed right next to a protruding treetop and as I let it sink I felt a subtle “tick.” Rearing back on the rod I announced, “Fish!” and I looked over to see Sam’s rod bent double, too.
And so it went. Sam shuttled us up and down the point as we cast to the wind-swept edge of the drop-off. I could count on one hand the number of times I made a cast and didn’t get a strike or catch a fish. At one point, I made three consecutive casts to a prominent stump and caught a largemouth, a smallmouth and a spotted bass.
We moved to several other main lake points and had similar results. In a few hours we had caught upwards of 50 bass by playing and utilizing the wind to our favor.
Wind does several things. It stirs the water up making it murky. Predators feel more comfortable hunting in the stained water. Off times, the murky water is only on the surface. “A lot of times you have a murky layer of water where the waves crash the shoreline and then rolls back out, but underneath it the water is still clear,” offered Heckman. “That’s where the predators will be waiting. They can be much shallower than you would think.”
Wave action will bring crawfish out of the rocks to feed, but it can also displace them. “I’ve walked shorelines when the wind was really blowing and found hundreds of young-of-the-year crawfish that had been washed right up on shore. The same thing can happen to baitfish.” It creates a predator’s Nirvana.
Determining the bait de jour is priority number one. “You can cast spinnerbaits if you think the bass are keying on baitfish or use a tube or jig to imitate crawfish,” suggested Heckman. “The fish will tell you what they’re feeding on.”
Bass Pro Joe Balog prefers shallow-running crankbaits in the wind. “You can cast a long way using crankbaits and crankbaits can imitate everything from crawdads, to minnows to panfish.”
“This shallow-water, wind–induced bite can happen anytime of the day or anytime of the year,” shared Heckman. “It happens almost all year long. Dirty water absorbs more sunshine and heat so if the water is still cold it can be a great place to look.”
One important element to being successful on the water is boat control. And obviously wind has a dramatic affect on boat control.
“I was one of the first to really use a long-shaft trolling motor,” claimed Balog. “A lot of times fishing is about momentum and you can’t put together a pattern if your trolling motor is constantly coming out of the water.” Balog uses his 36-volt Minn Kota trolling motor to hold in pace while working shallow wind-swept points and for slowing or maintaining his speed on productive drifts.
“I’ve busted up my fair share of trolling motors fishing shallow water in the wind,” admitted Heckman, “but the results were worth it.”
How you’re dressed can be important on how you deal with wind. A sunny beautiful day can quickly get windy and nasty. You are either prepared to deal with it, or you go home. A formidable rain suit, like Frabill’s F4 Cyclone Rain Suit (www.frabill.com/f4–cyclone–rainsuit-jacket.html) and a quality inflatable lifejacket similar to Onyx Outdoors inflatable (http://www.onyxoutdoor.com/p/a-m-24-deluxe-automatic-manual-inflatable-life-jacket-pfd?pp=24) are mandatory equipment when fishing in the wind. I have a stocking cap and a pair of gloves in the pocket of my rain suit regardless of the season.
Fishing in the wind can be fabulous, but there’s also a certain element of risk.