Before you set your alarm clock for 4:00am for your next fishing trip, you should read this. One of the most misrepresented concepts in bass fishing is the notion that the bass feed best at daybreak. This is so wrong, a majority of the time! Indeed, there are situations where this is true, but often it is the worst period of the day. In my experiences, I have observed that the morning bite is very dependent upon the season and also the trending water temperatures. So let’s break this down.
Water temperature is the driver of aquatic activity. Don’t view it as a certain magic temperature, but instead how it is trending. At sunrise, lakes/rivers usually experience the coolest water temperatures of the day. Overnight, without sunshine, water cools to its lowest point. This has the effect of dialing down the cold-blooded nature of aquatic life. I’ve seen it countless times where I will fish the evening until dark, experiencing hyper-aggressive bass chasing down lures from a distance. Additionally, bait species can be seen actively moving about searching for their own meals. But when I return the next morning at daybreak, aquatic life can scarcely be detected. The drop overnight in water temperature has sucked the life from everything! It may take until late-morning or noon for bass to become active feeders again, and by evening they may be once again on the warpath for the kill!
There are those rare nights when air temperatures fall very little or none at all. This normally sets the stage for a fantastic morning of bass fishing. The water and creatures living in it remain at elevated energy levels, making for some very aggressive bass at the first bit of daylight. Toss in some clouds or morning fog, and this “hot” morning bite will be extended until sunshine finely does appear, causing everything that had been feverishly gorging to take a break. A lull like this is typical after a fury of morning feeding, but by afternoon, the bite should be back on.
So how does this play seasonally? Consider the length of daylight through the calendar year. During those months (late-fall thru early-spring) when darkness is greater than daylight, expect on average, greater cooling to take place overnight. During these daylight-deprived colder months, most of the time I experience my best fishing in the afternoon and evenings. That is because the morning water temperatures have dipped too hard from the prolonged overnight darkness. And it takes much of the day to recover these temperature losses and finally get the ecosystem lively again. It is during the warmer months that I observe a greater chance for stable, overnight water temperatures and the ensuing “hot” morning bite.
One situation I can’t fully explain is seen on southern reservoirs during summer. The morning bite is usually the best time of day to catch a bass. To speculate, I think it’s because the overnight drop in temperatures are better suitable to a bass’s level of metabolism and comfort. It has been shown in studies, that bass prefer water temperatures below 80 degrees. Southern fisheries will have water temperatures over 90 during summertime. So the overnight cooling that occurs causes the early morning period to be the best window in a 24-hour cycle where the bass are at their physiological best.
As a fisherman, how can this information be incorporated into a strategy? First of all, recognize that shallow areas experience quicker and more dramatic temperature changes as compared to deep areas. So if you are fishing after a cold night, get out of the shallows and try to work into your plan some deeper water strategies. I often find deeper fish to be much more cooperative at sunrise due to the stability of water temperatures. Save the shallow patterns for noon or later. Sometimes there isn’t a deep water strategy option. In this case, I adjust my strategy to incorporate bottom-crawling type presentations retrieved very slowly. Eventually I may deviate from this come afternoon after the sun has warmed the water back up. Contrary to what I have often heard over the years, the morning bite usually is not the best period of bass fishing. Indeed, under the right circumstances it can be, but I usually do much better late in the day. So keep a measure on morning water temperatures to help guide your fishing strategies. Those shallow, suicidal bass the evening before will not be in the same mood the following morning after a serious, overnight chill-down.
Contrary to what I have often heard over the years, the morning bite usually is not the best period of bass fishing. Indeed, under the right circumstances it can be, but I usually do much better late in the day. So keep a measure on morning water temperatures to help guide your fishing strategies. Those shallow, suicidal bass the evening before will not be in the same mood the following morning after a serious, overnight chill-down.