Bringing the science of weather to the sport of fishing. I'll discuss how weather affects what the fish are doing and how to catch them!
By: Jim Root , 7:15 PM GMT on June 02, 2014
Now that I'm back from the first Bassmaster Northern Open of 2014 at Douglas Lake in Dandridge, TN I've had some time to think about my practice and my two days of competition. I'd never fished Douglas before, nor any other TVA lake for that matter. For those of you who don't know what TVA stands for, it's the Tennessee Valley Authority, which is a system of lakes that are regulated by dams. These lakes have levels that can fluctuate as much as 20-40 feet in a single day, and can add another level of difficulty to fishing not seen in your standard run-of-the-mill lakes. These fish have a river mentality, and can often be found in water as deep as 80 feet. Something I never imagined would be possible for largemouth bass.
This time of year the water is up, probably at a level that would seem "normal" to most visitors. Because Douglas Lake has a smallmouth rule that limits your catch to one per day that must be greater than 20 inches, there's no point in looking for them (this rule is in place to help grow the population). While I did catch some by accident, my time was spent targeting largemouth only. There were a small number of bass on beds, with the majority of the fish having had spawned during March and April. Once they finish spawning, they begin to make their way from the creeks where they reside in the spring, to their summer grounds in the deeper main-lake waters. My practice was very successful. I found a really good size school of fish that yielded catches of 6.5lbs, 5lbs, 4lbs, and a HUGE female I saw sunbathing that would have pushed double digits. I knew it was a good spot but others knew about it as well, and I wasn't sure I would have it to myself or not. I had other spots on the lake as well, most of them main lake points near the dam, that would allow me to scrape a few others if I needed to. My confidence was rather high, considering I'd never been there before.
What I didn't expect to have happen was for the small increase in temperature that occurred (7 degrees from Wed to Thurs) to push my fish from my location in Muddy Creek to deeper water. This was something that I had no way of knowing without the knowledge of experiencing it. Knowing this is crucial. The next time I fish this lake post-spawn like I did on this trip, I will concentrate solely on the fish that have already transitioned to the main lake. The reason being is that those fish have already settled into their summer home, and will move or be impacted by weather far less than the fish who are still making their way out from their spawning grounds. This subtle shift in temperature was enough to move my fish far enough that I couldn't find them. By the time I had decided that they wouldn't come back, it was already noon, and I had lost half the day.
If you do plan to fish this lake and to target the fish deep, please be sure to get a real good lesson on fizzing your fish before you do. Fizzing is when you release air from the fish that are caught deep. If you don't do this, your fish will die. When they're quickly brought up from depths greater than 20 feet, if you don't quickly throw them back, and put them in your livewell, they won't swim right side up. This will cause them to not be able to breathe, and thus, die. The proper way to fizz a fish is with a needle, inserted through the side of the fish. Do not fizz the fish through the mouth. If you don't know what you're doing, you will kill that fish. I personally would fish this lake after they lower the water level. It will concentrate the fish, making them easier to find. I know there are huge bass there and you've got good odds of finding them when the water level is lowered.
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