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Jim Porter

The fact that you are reading this article is an indicator that you might be a confirmed bass angler. And, if that be so, you and I may have shared a certain time-phased experience--- that being a gradual, but total, disregard for the weather conditions as a reason to go fishin' or not! You know what I mean, but, for those who are newcomers to our favorite sport, let's explain a bit.

Once long, long ago, by a lake far, far away, we looked out the window and stated, "Well, looks like a little rain in the forecast. Guess we'll stay home this weekend."

Within a year to 18 months, the required stay-at-home comment was, "Looks like a hurricane outside, what with the trees blowing past the house and the streets all flooded like that. Maybe we ought to put off fishing today. Those bass will keep until next week."

Six months further down the line, NOTHING kept us from our appointed rounds of the rocky points in Lake Gaston. There could be six inches of new snow, a sheet of ice over the boat ramp, or an 80 mile-per-hour gale blowing in, and we were out there!! Obviously, we had evolved to such a point in our bass fishing devotion that a little rain was not even noticeable any longer, much less a decision-influencing factor.

Gradually, we began to notice some very positive aspects about angling under rainy conditions. First off, there weren't many 'nuthouse' cases like us out there on the water, so we had all the lake to ourselves. We could even fish some of the 'community holes' without having to get in line and then worry if they had already been fished-out for the day. Second, and a bit odd, we began to note that our 'luck' seemed to be somewhat better on those rainy overcast days. That certainly appeared strange, what with the conditions so miserable, the winds so high, the cold so numbing and all that rain coming through our five dollar, discount-store rainsuit. At first, we attributed the increase in success to the fact that there were fewer anglers on the water competing for the bass. Well, that obviously had some common sense aspects.

But, as time progressed and our experience at rainy weather bassin' grew, we began to note that there was, with absolute certainty, something very positive about our success rates. The fewer anglers on the water certainly could not be totally discounted as having some effect, but it was surely minimal. No, there was something else; something we could not quite put our finger on.

And, so, on we fished, wet feet and all.

omewhere between our fourth and fifth year of truly dedicated bassin', we began to see the 'light'. (These revelations are based on experience; those who are on the water more may have noted them faster.) With all the knowledge we had gained over our time at bass fishing, parts of the puzzle started to come together. It began to dawn on us just why we might be catching more and better bass during the rainy conditions. One answer lay in the fish and their environmental responses. The other was actually due to us, as fishermen.

Let's look at the latter first.

It is a fact that no matter what you are attempting to accomplish (digging a hole, fixing a car, or catching a fish), if you are warm and dry, you will always do a better job. This is especially true out there on the water trying to hair-lip a bass. It took most of us a while to learn just how to truly be comfortable on a cold, rainy day, with 30 mile-per-hour winds cooling our soaked feet! You newcomers pay attention to the next few paragraphs, because you are going to receive the benefit of a thousand miserable hours of 'field-testing' warm and cold rains from a bass boat.

These are facts of life:
  • New rain suits always leak (Fishing Truth No. 12,477).
  • It never rains unless you have left your rainsuit somewhere other than the boat (FT No. 12,478).
If you fish a lot, especially in foul weather, buy the absolute best rain gear you can. Think nothing of spending $200 for a top-of-the-line rain suit. You are worth it, especially on a cold, blustery day!

There are some pretty good rainsuits out there today. The best are those which 'breath' and allow body moisture to escape, while holding out the rain. Those that use the Gore-Tex material are excellent, but are a bit heavy and darn expensive. My personal choice is one called 'Kool-Dri'. It is a quality product (hard to find nowadays) and is lightweight, totally waterproof and fully guaranteed. It is readily found in Cabela's mail-order catalogue. Also, the 'Kool-Dri' comes with bib-top pants, a major benefit for back comfort and unrestricted circulation. Probably the most cost-effective rain suit available is the Frogg Toggs line. It does not breath well, but it is very lightweight and is 100% waterproof. I guarantee that. It was developed for golfers originally. You can find Frogg Toggs on the Internet and at most any golf course Pro Shop.

If the temperature is below 45 degrees, consider a pair of light boots to go over your shoes, or some insulated boots as the temperature drops. Feet must be kept dry and warm at cooler temperatures. The same applies to your head and hands, if the weather is cold. It is a fact that you will fish better and harder (and be 'luckier') if you are comfortable.

The primary keys to the improved fishing experienced during rainy weather lie in understanding the effects on the bass's environment and his responses.

One of the foremost effects has to do with the amount of available light and its penetration into the water. The majority of experienced anglers have noted that bass in clear water lakes will ALWAYS be patterned deeper than those in 'stained' or 'colored' water impoundments. The answer may be relatively simple, if one thinks about it-light penetration.

Biologically, bass are primarily nocturnal creatures, with most feeding and other activities predominately taking place at night. It has also been stated that, since they have no eyelids and their pupils do not dilate (suggesting no ability to regulate light intake), bass are most comfortable and able to see well at low light levels. This appears to be a perfectly acceptable, scientific theory as to why they pattern deeper in clear water.

Rainy weather days normally reduce light penetration in two ways. First, due to cloud cover, there is a reduced amount of direct sunlight. Second, the usual winds, as well as the rain itself, serves to disturb the surface of the water, diffusing and scattering much of the existing light which is trying to pass.

From the above, we may assume that rainy-day bass are more shallow and correspondingly more active than normal. It also means that they will not have to burrow into deep cover or hold tight to shady areas to escape blinding sunlight. Generally, this tells us that the fish should be easier to reach with, and responsive to, lure presentations. There are other positive results of rainy weather. By disturbing the surface tension of the water and creating turbulence, the wind and rain cause increased absorption of oxygen, always a desirable factor.

The rising water conditions, no matter how slight, resulting from rains also cause currents to develop and waters to move. This adds oxygen, plus it mixes the waters and distributes the oxygen throughout.

Moving water has a very special meaning for fish-it spells FOOD! The rains wash small elements of the food chain in from the surrounding shorelines and tributaries and the larger creatures gather to feed. Fish, particularly bass, can be expected to gather at any location where run-off water is entering a main body, from small, normally dry gully-cuts to swollen, year-round feeder streams.

As with nearly all aspects of fishing, consistent success is a matter of applied knowledge. Understanding the positive aspects of those rainy days, coupled with physical adaptation and protection, means a lot of fish in the livewell while others are home playing Couch Potato.


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