12/15/11
Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1.    Blue-winged Olives
2.    Midges
3.    Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)

Fishing Cold Water - Part Six



In case your not familiar with the Florida strain of Bass, they prefer and are used to much
warmer water than the largemouth north of the state. If you think trout shut down feeding
when the water temperature gets in the high thirties and low forties, try catching a Florida
bass when there's a extreme cold front that moves through the state strong enough to kill
orange trees all the way to South Florida. In most cases, they don't have the opportunity to
seek deep water for protection from very warm or very cold water. They are mostly all shallow
lakes. They get a bad case of lock jaw when a cold front passes, but it's not near as bad as it
seems. The problem becomes finding them and putting a lure in front of their nose. When the
orange tree killing fronts come through every few years, it's about the same as trying to catch
trout from the streams of the Smokies when the temperature in the park goes to about zero
degrees and stays there a few days.

From the late sixties until the mid seventies something else occurred in the bass fishing world.
Whereas I had to use regular mercury thermometers to take the water temperature in the mid
sixties, surface water temperature gauges were becoming common on bass boats in the early
and mid seventies. I wasn't the only one that knew how water temperature related to finding
and catching bass. Ray Scott's BASS tournaments were rapidly changing bass fishing.

Continuing from yesterday's article, I fished two or three BASS tournaments near the last of
the six tournament series the year before I fished the first Florida tournament that was held at
the beginning of the following year. I fished a total of twenty-six of the national BASS
tournaments altogether, but never all six within a year. I was still in the general contracting
business and that make it very difficult to get away at times. I soon learned that having a full
time job doing anything else was a big disadvantage. I was just waiting for the opportunity to
fish a tournament  during the time bass were spawning so I could do my thing. I had a lot to
learn about fishing tournaments.

The first Florida tournament I fished was somewhere around the mid seventies on the St.
Johns River. During the three practice days that we were allowed to fish prior to the three
days of the tournament, the water was still too cold for bass to spawn where the tournament
was being held near Palatka. I found some males building beds (first thing that happens) by
making a thirty mile run to the South the last practice day. They were in a canal off the main
river in a protected area, which is usually the first type of place spawning occurs on the river..

The cold weather came to no one's surprise. The weather forecast was the big news for the
state of Florida. The morning of the first day of the tournament, everyone was welcomed by
ice in their boat. Beige pumps were frozen on boats that were left in the water. It was below
freezing and the news was all centered on the fact that about half the orange trees in the
state of Florida were subject to being lost to freezing weather. The first day, I convinced my
partner (whom is selected from a daily drawing) that we should make the thirty mile run (in
below freezing weather) to the canal. When we got there, it was obvious the water
temperature was five or six degrees too cold. The males had abandoned forming the beds.
Conditions really never got much better. The last of the three days still had high temperatures
in the thirties. Conditions were horrible.

To my surprise, It wasn't horrible for everyone. It took around 35 pounds to win that
tournament, if I remember right. However, eighty or ninety percent of the guys caught nothing
or almost nothing. Even so, some anglers caught plenty of bass and the word was most of the
fish came for Dunns Creek, a creek that leads off the St. Johns to Lake Crescent. I was
convinced that had been a matter of a few guys finding some warmer water. I learned a year
later, that wasn't the case at all. They just found the bass holding tight in certain areas in the
deeper water of the creek and stuck with fishing for them.
All I could say and think was
"wait until next year".  
That didn't turn out to be very smart either. i should have said, I
need to learn to find and catch Florida bass in very cold water.

The next tournament on the St. Johns was also held in February. Conditions were almost
identical. I couldn't believe it. The weather again was horrible and the cold front passed right
when the three tournament days started. What little I found out during practice was worthless.
I could not find any spawning bass within fifty miles of the weigh-in, even before the cold front
passed.. Even in the protected canals far south of the headquarters the water was still five or
six degrees too cold for spawning to occur. My hopes for catching spawning bass were over. I
did weigh-in about 18 pounds for the three days using a hit and run approach fishing
structure such as tree tops, dock piling and things that I had located over the years in a large
twenty mile area of the river. I thought that might be good under the adverse conditions, but It
took 45 pounds to win that one.  I barely missed the top forty but I was again, very
disappointed with the results. It just seemed like the weather was determined to take away
what I knew well - how to catch spawning bass. That time about sixty or seventy percent of the
300 man field tournament caught only a fish or two.

The same thing happened at another Florida tournament  a year or so later on Lake
Tohopekaliga on the Kissimmee chain of lakes. Again, the tournament fell at a time when the
water was well short of what's needed for spawning. I don't remember the numbers, but I
remember that Roland Martin did well. I knew where he found bass during practice and so did
I. I had fished the same area. After the cold front passed, I made the mistake of moving and
he didn't. He told me the night after the tournament ended that he caught every fish in the
same area we both were fishing. The water wasn't over three or four foot deep but there was
very heavy cover in the form of vegetation and the fish just held tight. I made the mistake of
thinking they would move. In spite of my experience fishing Florida Lakes, I was still learning.

Flipping was just becoming heard of. Dee Thomas, a west coast angler was the first guy I
knew that did it. Another California guy, Dave Glebe, whom Thomas taught to flip, just
slaughtered bass during several very cold water tournaments held in Florida using the new
flipping technique, the new killer bass fishing method everyone was trying to learn. He won a
tournament of a different national bass circuit on the Big O under bad cold front conditions
catching about eighty pounds when most guys couldn't weight-in two pounds. He didn't just
didn't win. He managed to make everyone look like they were all beginners.

In case you don't know, flipping is an almost vertical fishing method. It's almost like using a
cane pole in the sense you can put the bait (lure) right were you want it except you can
actually feel the take. It isn't a far cry from high-stickin for trout. i eventually learned to iron out
all the little details from Gary Klein, another California angler that still fishes the BASS
tournaments.

Later, I will get into flipping in more detail and explain why it's so effective at fishing for bass. In
short, it enables one to put the lure in front of the nose of a bass holding in dense cover
where casting doesn't work at all. Even more importantly, it lets you control the exact speed of
the presentation.
Believe it or not, in principal, it's exactly what one needs to do to
catch trout in cold water
. You have to put the fly in front of the trout and you have to be
able to control the speed of the presentation.

At sometime during the mid to late seventies after a Florida tournament or two had sunk my
hopes of winning, a tournament held on Sardis Lake in Mississippi. I do remember that it was
held in late March and I thought for sure I would have a shot at catching spawning bass,
although I knew it would take a warm weather situation. Not only did the weather turn
extremely cold just before the tournament started, heavy rains flooded the lake and the water
ended up several feet high. We were fishing areas of water several feet deep that was in
fields and woods several yards from the normal lake banks. It was very high, muddy, cold
water, a combination that makes it extremely difficult to find and catch bass. Roland Martin
won that one with 29 pounds of bass.

I was very upset and determined to figure the cold water thing out. Sometime after the first two
or three of those disappointing events, I was again clued in on to the fact there wasn't any
secrete locations that contributed to anyone's success that did well. It was just that they found
bass holding in small, isolated areas of heavy cover and stuck with them, again mostly using a
vertical type, slow presentations. In essence they put small lures, such as jigs, right in front of
the noses of bass and several guys caught fish. That did it. I knew I had to stop trying to catch
conditions the way I wanted them to be and learn to find and catch bass under severe cold
front conditions.

I purchased several large aquariums. I had the porch completely covered with them. It looked
like I had opened a tropical fish store but the fish were all bass. I mostly put largemouth and
spotted bass in them. I finally was able to put some smallmouth bass in from Elk Creek in
North Alabama. In the cold months, I keep them on the porch outside. Several times I let the
water freeze and not only killed the bass, I broke the aquariums. That cost a bunch and finally
I would just add block and/lor crushed ice to the water to get the temperature down to various
levels so I could observe what the bass would do. I'll bet all in all, I purchased a few hundred
bucks worth of ice. I would catch the bass in the Fall and leave them in the boat livewells in
cold water so they could survive until I got home with them.

I have written an article before on this site about starving a small bass about ten inches long,
just to see how long it could live without food. It's stomach was completely caved in and it
finally died. My wife and daughters were very upset at me.  

I also begin to fish lakes not when the long range weather forecast was good for spawning
bass, but when it was just the opposite. I would fish when the water was extremely cold. I
wanted to learn exactly what it took to catch them under adverse conditions. Many of my
efforts completely failed but some didn't. i will continue explaining what I learned that worked
and what didn't tomorrow. Some of the things I managed to pull off under adverse conditions
will probably be difficult for some anglers to believe.
Copyright 2011 James Marsh
I'm not trying to write an autobiography. It's my way of explaining  how water temperature affects gamefish and
in the end, how it relates to trout. I think it's a greatly misunderstood subject by many, if not most anglers, and
my intent is to try to give those interested a better understanding of the subject.
Please Note: I had yesterday's (Wendesday's article) linked wrong so those
of you that access the articles from the articles page probably didn't see it.
If you missed it, please go back and read it or this one won't make much
sense
.