- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 19, 2002

FORT WASHINGTON, Md. Around the time the 27th bass was flipped into the boat to be admired and then released, the complaints about a lack of action was heard from three visiting boaters. It was then we began to wonder why some of the fellows on the tidal Potomac River had such a tough time when common sense was the sole requirement on a day when the temperatures fell unexpectedly.
The fishless boaters blamed their poor day on the weather.
If there is one subject that absolutely bewilders anglers it's the various weather systems that promise to a) ruin the fishing for the next day, week or month b) increase the catches so fantastically that certain fishermen won't go near the water unless the very same weather pattern is again present or c) have pragmatists laughing about the whole weather deal because for various reasons they'll be on the water no matter what. (OK, a tornado might keep them hunkered down in the basement, but little else will.)
Actually, for millions of sport anglers the operative words are not just weather patterns, but barometric pressure. It is generally agreed that when the barometer is sharply on the rise, promising a strong high pressure system, some anglers are frightened silly because they "simply know" fish won't even think about feeding when bright bluebird skies are the rule.
Conversely, low barometric pressure is thought to be good, and the day(s) or hours before an approaching storm hits often deliver truly memorable catches. The easy explanation is that fish feel the oncoming bad weather in their bodies and, knowing that lean times might be ahead, enter an active feeding period. More difficult to understand reasons include such things as fish actually feeling the water density changes and react to them.
"For safety reasons I will check wind speed predictions, and I might cancel an outing when things get too rough on the water, but I won't stay home when I have clients who want to go fishing no matter what a barometer says about high or low pressure systems," says U.S. Coast Guard-licensed fishing guide, Andy Andrzejewski.
The pro guide, like a few others in his profession, possesses uncanny skills when it comes to finding largemouth bass. He believes the biggest obstacles to realizing consistent catches of fish is an improper tide and a sudden cold front that can quickly rearrange a waterborne creature's behavior.
Andrzejewski proved as much that day not long ago when an overnight cold front dropped into the Washington area's tidal Potomac River. By the following morning, when we reached a lengthy point on the south side of Smoot Bay, adjacent to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, the bass, that had so readily been attacking lures in water less than three feet deep, had disappeared. The cold snap obviously affected their choice of ambush spots where they normally wait for small schools of shiners, minnows or perch.
When repeated attempts at finding willing bass resulted in little more than cold fingers wrapped around our fishing rods and reels, Andrzejewski said, "It's time to resort to Plan B. These fish don't leave to go to Florida when it gets cold. They're here. Let's find them in slightly deeper layers of water that ring this land point. If they're not there, we'll fish even deeper, but one thing is sure, the bass are around here because their food supplies are here."
The shallow- to medium-depth crank baits that we had been using were exchanged for long-lipped Frenzy crankbaits, some in a gold color, some in bright green/red/black firetiger patterns. And instead of quarter-ounce spinnerbaits that can be so productive over rock beds that are barely covered with water, the guide and I switched to slowly-fished, gently-moved plastic worms or grubs that had been slathered in a fish attractant known as Smelly Jelly. (No, I don't own stock in the company. I use it because it works.)
In a matter of minutes and a space that covered maybe 100 yards, we found one bass after another in six to nine feet of water, near the rocky point and just below the edges of a strip of milfoil grass. They had moved to much deeper layers than they'd been in only a day before. What was astounding was their aggressive strikes on the wobbling Frenzy lures, or the soft, bottom-slithering plastic worms.
Only a week or so later, suburban Maryland fisherman Junior Brockington stood on the public pier at the Nanjemoy Creek's Friendship Landing as strong northwest winds blew the distant Potomac into frothing whitecaps. It marked the arrival of a high pressure system. The usual throng of boaters that would have visited on a Friday, stayed home, yet Brockington caught himself a sumptuous dinner.
Weather systems, indeed. I've quit trying to figure them out.

Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Friday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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