Local Sports

Bait presentation key to catching fish

The Florida freshwater fishing forecast for the last six days of March begins today with a mild cold front that will drop temperatures into the middle sixties. However the cold won't last long as a medium easterly wind quickly restores temperatures back into the 80s by Friday.

Rainfall is predicted at 50 percent for Friday and Saturday. However since the lunar factors will be ideal for creating larger fish feeding migrations over the next seven days, I plan to deal with the chance of rain and go fishing anyway.

The lunar factors couldn't be more favorable for anglers. The lunar orbit perigee occurs Thursday and the new moon arrives on Sunday. Fish will be forming the largest feeding migrations of the month starting today and lasting through to Monday.

The major feeding migration of the day occurs as the moon is overhead. Today the feeding period starts at 8 a.m. and peaks from 9-10:30 a.m. and ends at 11 a.m. daily. This feeding bite period moves later by about 55 minutes. The feed intensity rating will be in the five to six range today and move a half number per day upward until Monday.

The minor fishing migration of the day occurs an hour before the moonset and an hour afterward. The feed intensity rating will be in the five to six range and perhaps increase by one number as the new moon arrives on Sunday.

Why do fish bite one type of bait and not others? I believe this occurs for only two reasons.

One reason is what I call the "bait signature" in the water. The body of the artificial bait must mimic a food source that the lake has and thus be natural in movement vibrations, and be a color that produces a high level of contrast in order to be more noticeable.

The second reason is the manner in which the bait moves or swims through the habitat of the feeding fish. Take the largemouth Florida bass for instance, she moves into areas where her desired food sources are feeding and hiding. Therefore your bait will attract more strikes if it resembles this type of action.

The successful angler must put his bait into the vegetation and move it through that habitat exactly like the bait fish that are eating and hiding there. As is always the case, bait becomes hindered by the vegetation during the retrieve. And this is where anglers fail to use the right technique to maintain the natural movement of the bait fish

Instead of very slowly, smoothly, gently, finding a manner in which to advance the seemly stuck bait, mimicking the live bait's manner in swimming through vegetation, most anglers snaps the rod upward, jerking the line and bait, and usually this erratic action is followed by a forcing of the bait, ripping it through the vegetation as the hook embeds into the vegetation.

This almost always results in parts of the vegetation being stuck on the hook, causing the bait to become unnatural in appearance (the bait even more stuck than before) and thus the bass moves away from the unnatural and violent foreign intruder. And any bass in the area also move out and away until the unnatural angler leaves the area.

I've noticed anglers seem to be angry at the vegetation and react by bending the rod and repeatedly jerking the bait which many times results in having to troll into the area to unstuck the bait with more violent actions, ruining the fishing location.

Might I suggest that the fishing rod position during this part of the retrieve is the answer to the problem. Seldom does the traditional rod position, which is vertical and up high, result in being the answer to getting the bait through vegetative resistance. The higher the rod position the more it becomes stuck as the angler bends the rod repeatedly, digging the bait's hook deeper into the vegetation type.

So why not try reversing the rod position to the lowest point possible, the rod tip on the water's surface, and pointing directly as the area of the bait's resistance point. Extend your arms directly out toward the stuck bait, reeling in the slack line, and then gently, very slowly, start to pull straight back, essentially taking the rod out of the action all together and instead using the fishing line as a tow rope.

I have found that the bait gently moves through the vegetative resistance point naturally. And if not on the first attempt, move your arms back out toward the resistance point and free up the line by pulling line out, to see if the bait will drop naturally. Then repeat the process again with the rod low, and using your arms to tow the bait out and toward you.

Nine times out of 10 the bait will move past the vegetation because you didn't jerk the rod violently upward to start with. And your bait will replicate a natural swim action, stay in the feeding area, and seem to the bass feeding there to be attempting to quietly hide from being eaten while making very little disturbance but yet enough gentle disturbance to attract large bass to the struggling bait fish.

I call this bait advancing technique, "The low and tow." It's easy on the arms, easy on the bait, easy on the habitat, and puts the rod in the perfect position to set the hook. And most of all, you don't disturb the area that bass are actively feeding in. And this means more quality big bass strikes.

Remember the largest bass in the lake is smarter than the other bass because it knows the difference between natural and unnatural bait fish movements.

Dave Douglass is a bass fishing guide and conservationist in Central Florida. This column can be accessed in full at BassFishingForecast.com and FloridaBassFishingForecast.com. Main website: HighlandsBassAngler.com Phone: 863-381-8474. Email: davidpdouglass@hotmail.com