Bass Fishing: Put A Sock In It

Bass fishing in Lake Erie often ranks second to none, and the preferred fishing method requires the use of lead head jigs.

Though the mighty lake can bestow some hefty, 5-pound smallmouths, it is equally famous for conjuring-up serious winds and rough seas. Many anglers prefer staying in bed to bobbing for bass, when a stiff breeze screams across the water’s surface. Admittedly, if the waves increase to heights greater than four feet, I’d just as soon saw a few extra logs myself.


Winds Of Change
Surprisingly, however, there are times when a strong wind fails to cause the water turbulence one might expect. Examples include sudden gusts, which may have recently started affecting the water’s surface, or perhaps a breeze that recently changed direction, now blowing against previous wave action, working to calm a turbulent sea. Wind can be cruel, causing boat control problems for anglers determined to place tempting jigs in front of wary bass.

It’s not easy to fish bass in rough water, but following the author’s tips can result in a nice fish like this one.

Obviously, when air currents are idle, a boater can zero in on a stored waypoint; anchor; and bring fish to the net from his favored hotspot. When wind and waves become forceful, however, an angler will find it difficult to keep the craft moored, without encountering several problems.

Mighty waves and wind move the boat quickly and can force an anchor into recesses normally undiscovered. Chances are better than average the anchor will snare itself hard onto or under an obstacle that may refuse to relinquish the expensive tie-down. If you fish large bodies of water, it is wise to invest in an anchor designed to release its grip when you raise it under difficult situations.

Even though it is usually possible to remain anchored in bumpy seas, the effect of the jarring action experienced on the bobbing craft negates the feel required to detect light-hitting fish.


Controlling Your Drift
A boat that is allowed to drift with rough water will present a smoother ride, and increase the chances for a bass fisherman to sense the bite. The trick then, is in controlling the boat’s drift under such brisk wind and wave circumstances, with the word “control” being key. The boater must somehow subject the craft to reduced speed, while maintaining a straight, uncomplicated direction of travel.

A jig that speeds through a hotspot is not likely to render a stringer filled with bass. Somehow the angler must maintain a slower pace, keeping the bait in an area of water most likely to antagonize the bass. Electric trolling motors can be directed against the current, but in rough, windy seas, they present control problems. Electric motors also will be required to work hard, and battery depletion can quickly become a concern.

A drag-sock is the most useful tool when conditions are causing you to quickly glide past your targeted area. This parachute-type device will dramatically slow the speed of the drift, while keeping the craft pointed in a constant direction. It is generally dragged through the water from the boat’s transom, though I personally prefer attaching the device to the bow of my craft. Because the front of the craft was designed to slice through wind and waves, I find increased directional control, slower drift speed, and a smoother ride, are all achieved by dragging from the bow.

Using a drift sock (pictured) to control your drift can result in more fish in the boat.

By achieving a slow, smooth drift, the angler actually performs a few key adjustments to his presentation. The first, and most obvious is a time improvement, allowing the bait to remain submerged in the strike zone for extended periods of time. I fish Lake Erie quite often, and many of my best locations are remarkably less than 100 yards in diameter. That may seem like a lot of area, but it isn’t much on a lake of this size, especially if the wind is permitted to push my craft through the targeted area in a minute or two.


Improving Your Feel
The second benefit is improved feel of the tackle. Babe Winkleman once reported that most anglers miss up to one third of the actual occurrences of a fish striking the bait or presentation. It is difficult at best, to feel a bass striking a jig when a boat is bouncing uncontrollably. Every sudden bounce inflicts a jerk to the bait, and soon the bite is disguised as just another twitch of the line.

Under controlled situations, a little bouncing action can be transmitted through the fishing line, and actually serve to attract fish. Success comes to fisherman who keep the bait in the strike zone, attract the bass, and react quick enough to hook the fish.

A heavy-plastic, 5-gallon bucket also can be utilized, replacing a drift sock. If the bucket was manufactured with a strong handle, a rope can be tied directly to the handgrip before the container is tossed into the water. If the cylinder was created under more economical situations, simply drill six holes equally spaced around the lip edge of the bucket. Attach rope leaders, which extend about 2 feet from each perforation, and then attach the leaders to a primary dragline, which is attached to the watercraft. Presto — instant drag control.

The next time your buddies complain that the wind is preventing them from catching bass, look them in the eye, and tell them to put a sock in it!


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