|By: Jim Root, 9:16 PM GMT on January 29, 2014||+1|
You may have read Dr. Jeff Masters’ recent blog post about Northern California experiencing one of the worst droughts on record. Being that I live in NY and it has seemed for the past three years (I’m knocking on wood as I write this) like all it does is rain and/or snow here, it never occurred to me that something like this could be taking place so close. When I reach out to Gary Dobyns and ask him about it, he is surprised that I haven’t heard.
“It’s bad, Jim. Orville is 197 feet low right now.”
I almost drop my phone when he says that, and I need to clarify that I’ve heard him right.
“I’m sorry Gary. I thought I heard you say 197 feet LOW.”
“That’s right,” He says. “It’s still 500 feet deep, but it’s really not good.”
My next question, of course, is “How’s it fishing right now?” He tells me that it’s actually really good, which surprises me almost as much as his previous statement. In my experience, based on fishing places like Smith Mountain Lake or Santee Cooper, when the water is lower, the fishing is drastically impacted. Granted, in those lakes, “lower” is much more moderate: 8, 10, maybe 12 feet, but it’s not always a good thing for fish/fishing if water levels fluctuate like that. My next question is: “how has it impacted the boat launches?”
“That’s been the biggest impact,” says Gary. “T o my knowledge there’s only one working boat launch at this point in time.”
That’s HUGE on any lake, let alone the second largest reservoir in the entire state of California, particularly if you live quite a distance from that ramp and are accustomed to just dropping your boat in a mile or two down the road. But if you’re looking for a good lake to fish right now, jerkbaits, spinnerbaits, worms, or jigs are all producers for some solid Cali bass in water that’s a steady 49 degrees. Just make sure you're not lodging too far away from a working boat launch.
Meanwhile in Florida and Texas, uncharacteristically cold temperatures have had a huge impact on bass. The spawn, a term used to relate to breeding season, is (mostly) contingent upon two major factors: water temperature and moon phase. When the water rises above 45 degrees, the Largemouth begin moving in from their deep water wintering areas. But when it moves into the 55-65 degree range, that’s when they’ll seek shallow, protected areas to spawn, which can produce some of the most exciting bass fishing of the year! Of course not all lakes warm at the same rate, and within each body of water you generally find the warmest section in the Northwest. Fish also don’t spawn all together, but tend to come in shallow in waves during peak moon cycles. This year’s FLW Opener falls right in between the full and new moon, so odds are good it won’t be a slug fest like you’ve seen in the past (last year’s winner Drew Benton bagged over 75lbs), and the weather hasn't been warm enough for a long enough period to initiate the breeding cycle.
The FLW Rayovac (formerly the Everstart Series) just kicked off its season opener with a field of 226 boats at Lake Okeechobee with a win going to Keith Fels with 54lbs. A week later at Sam Rayburn in Texas, weather forced tournament officials to cancel the second day and allow all 112 pairings to fish day three. At the end of the day, they crowned local fisherman Chris McCall champion with a two day weight of only 33lbs. The first of the B.A.S.S. Southern Opens at Toho saw a similar result; flights that launched later reaped the reward of warmer afternoon temperatures that got fish biting a little better. But nowhere near the weights we’re used to seeing from big lakes in Florida, as Van Soles took the win with just over 50lbs of Florida Largemouth. If it doesn’t warm up soon, the next big tournament in Florida (The fist FLW Major at Lake Okeechobee) won’t produce those heavy bass. Just to put it into perspective for you, 2014 has begun like this: 54, 33, and 50. In 2013, those same three opening events saw winning weights of 59, 60*, and 47* (*these events were at different lakes but still in the same states and at world-class bodie of water).
Casey Martin with some Florida GIANTS!
I spoke with my friend Casey Martin, FLW Pro, who did well last year in the opening tournament at Okeechobee, but he doesn’t expect the same 26-28 pound bags of fish at weigh-in because of how far behind the spawn is. He doesn’t think it’ll be a finesse bite (that lake really isn’t known for it) so it’ll still most likely be a flipping/punching pattern that wins it, but if it doesn’t warm up fast, the fish won’t have put on the weight from prespawn feeding that pushes those weights to what we’ve seen in the past, and finding them might be more of a challenge with their whereabouts harder to pinpoint.
Finally, I just want to add that I will be at the Bass Pro Shops in Harrisburg, PA, February 6th and 7th, from 4-8pm to give tips, advice, and do demonstrations. If you're unable to make it, clips from that trip and others will be available here, as well as at the Reel Weather Youtube channel that can be found by clicking HERE or by simply entering Reel Weather in the search box at Youtube.com.
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