When it comes to bass fishing, you need to know a little, if not a lot, about four different things; water clarity, water temperature, water depth and water oxygen. These four factors are simply bass fishing facts you need to know if you want to be more successful at catching fish. Although mostly out of your control, understanding these four factors will help you decide on tactics and where to fish. Bass fishing success is not all luck, but more a combination of these factors.
Oxygen Levels and Bass Fishing Success
Everyone talks about the first three that I mentioned, but you never hear anybody talking about water oxygen. Fish need oxygen just like us humans to survive. They get their oxygen from the water, which is referred to as DO, or dissolved oxygen. Fish take this DO in through their gills like we humans get it through our nose and mouth and down to our lungs. Fish need oxygen levels between 5-13 parts per million (ppm) to survive. Any areas less than 5 ppm they will avoid, and if less than 2 ppm they will die. Rivers and lakes all have areas of different oxygen levels that bass seek out that they like, which are called optimum comfort zones. Finding these comfort zones for DO can be a game changer for your bass fishing success.
Oxygen levels are much more critical in lakes than in rivers. Fish seldom are influenced by oxygen levels in rivers because of the abundance of flow and current, whereas lakes can often have areas with different levels of DO and even dead zones. Many things affect dissolved oxygen (DO) levels, such as time of year, the wind, weather and aquatic vegetation. There are devices that can tell the angler the DO level in a waterway, which will help to eliminate unproductive areas for bass fishing. They are not very expensive and work well to give you the water's DO level. Find the bass’s optimum DO and find the fish. It is not so much finding the fish, but it is eliminating areas with low DO levels where you should not be spending your time bass fishing.
How Water Temperature Affects Bass
Just like oxygen levels, fish will always seek out their optimum thermal areas. Smallmouth bass prefer temperatures around 68 degrees Fahrenheit, unlike largemouth bass which like temps around 73 degrees Fahrenheit. Fish are cold blooded creatures and can not keep their body temperatures at a constant level like humans. The temperature of their surroundings influences their body temperature. Thus, fish will be slow in cold water and more active in warm water. Bass fishing success during the spring and winter relies on finding warmer water, particularly fishing in the afternoon. In the summer and early fall, you want to be on the water early before the water heats up too hot to maximize your bass fishing success.
Understanding Water Clarity
Despite all the bass fishing articles out there, bass are sight feeders first and foremost. If they can see it they will eat it. Bass feed much more when the water is clear and can see what they are eating as opposed to when the water is stained or muddy. When bass fishing rivers or lakes, anglers should seek out the clearest areas of the waterway to find bass. They will feed in cloudy and dirty water, but your presentations must change. Fishing in cloudy or dirty waters requires anglers to slow down, use lures with rattles and vibrations or add scents and attractants. Sound is of utmost importance on bass fishing lures when fishing waters that are considered muddy or dirty. If you can not see your lure in two feet of water or less, it is considered dirty or muddy. When fishing clear or stained water you need to fish lures that are life like and resemble the forage in the body of water you are fishing. Using smaller and more natural baits will trigger more bites. If you can see your bait in 6 feet of water, I consider that clear water. Bottom line is, find clear water to get more bites.
Fishing for Bass at Various Depths
This is the most difficult of the four factors that affect bass fishing success. Fish can be located in many different depths of a body of water. Things that dictate where they may be are all the above combined with forage availability. Bass will be located at the depth where the bait are. Find the bait and find the bass. The easiest time to find and catch bass is when they are shallow, like during the different phases of the spawn.
There is a science to bass fishing success, but the difficult part of it is putting it all together into a collection of bass fishing techniques. The only way you will eventually figure it out is time on the water and keeping track of what worked and what did not as a reference for next time. Or in other words, just when you think you have it figured out, you come home empty handed. It is impossible to know all the fishing tips and techniques out there but that is what keeps it fun and keeps us anglers going back for more.