- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 23, 2002

The subject of catching bass when unexpected cold fronts chill the water and the fish begin to behave oddly was tackled (pardon the expression) some weeks ago.

Thanks to a talented local fishing guide who can't afford to cancel trips whenever the water temperature plummets, tips were offered to help find quirky, cold-affected largemouths. He proved as much during such a low-temperature outing as we boated well over 20 bass, some of them in the four-pound class.

But what happens when the air temperature hovers in the high 90s and the water climbs into the 80-degree range? Where do the bass go to stay cool and how do you adjust your fishing techniques to make an outing worthwhile?

"Actually, you needn't worry about it as much as you need to when the water suddenly chills," says U.S. Coast Guard-licensed river guide, Andy Andrzejewski, who lives in what he now jokingly refers to as "Tornado Alley" La Plata, Md. (A monster twister that recently tore into his hometown managed to permanently rearrange nearly all of the hardwood trees on Andrzejewski's property, not to mention assorted shingles, rain spouts, fences and house siding. The guide was fortunate considering how the tornado demolished dozens of his neighbors' homes.)

"When the water warms slowly, steadily," says the guide, "the fish become acclimated to it and really don't seem to mind it. Don't forget, largemouth bass are members of the warm-water family of fish and their fondness for such water has been well documented."

Recently, during a sudden super-humid hot spell the Washington area is famous for, Andrzejewski ran his 22-foot-long bass boat slowly along the edges of a hydrilla and spatterdock field inside Virginia's tidal Quantico Creek, a shallow but bass-rich Potomac River tributary.

The tide had just begun to recede and as it fell, exposing some of the roots and soil of a marsh bank, minnows could be seen flitting about in less than a foot of water. Minnows don't do this because they enjoy cavorting. No, it often means something larger, mouth agape, is right behind them. Andrzejewski urged me to cast a chartreuse-skirted spinnerbait well back into the vegetation and then bring it back out in a slow, deliberate retrieve, the willow leaf blades on the lure flashing brightly just as a couple of fleeing baitfish might.

The spinnerbait never made it to the open water. A feisty 3-pound largemouth attached itself to the lure, churning the once clear shallows into a muddy mess within seconds.

That fish was followed by a second and a third bass in a matter of 10 minutes. Andrzejewski caught those, but I finally connected on the fourth one in a relatively brief time along the short marsh bank.

What very quickly became obvious was the aggressive behavior of the bass during the earliest portions of the morning, and how the bites subsequently became fewer and fewer even when the tidal stage was ideal. The fishing guide laughed when I mentioned it.

"They're running out of water and are beginning to move into areas where there's more of it," he said. "It's also important to remember that some of them now will be looking for shade, although I've seen bass that stayed in the sun with just a few stalks to cling to, in water that barely covered their backs, during bullish heat. But right now I think we need to move to places where the majority might spend the rest of the day."

Andrzejewski confidently promised that he'd continue to find bites even in 98-degree heat. He did.

Taking the angle of the sun's rays into account, he slowly maneuvered his boat toward a shaded creek shoreline with plenty of fallen brush, tree branches and enough water depth to beckon bass and anglers. Now switching to slower-working, soft and life-like plastic worms, the guide zipped a blue-flecked imitation of a nightcrawler into a waterlogged fork of a sunken tree. The line from his reel suddenly moved sideways without Andrzejewski having touched the handle. The fishing guide quickly removed slack line and ripped the rod upward. A bass leapt from the water. We did this several times, finding the largemouths exactly where Andrzejewski said they would be.

To prove his theory he left the creek, ran into the Mattawoman Creek on the Maryland side of the Potomac, and promptly duplicated the same shoreline tree deal there because the creek's marshes sat high and dry, but he did score on bass in spatterdock patches that still contained water, shallow as it was, but also offered broad-leafed sanctuary.

"These fish don't mind the hot weather, but they want a little shade now and then," he said, "so start early on the marsh banks and in the aquatic grasses, and if the water there is shallow even in the open areas, move to sunken trees, docks, piers and boat houses wherever you find some shade when the sun is high. That's all there's to it, that and taking your time. Don't be in a big hurry with your lure retrievals."

There you have it. Nothing to it.


Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Friday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.



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