A crazy year for seasonal patterns

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Kevin VanDam

Kevin VanDam

In the world of professional bass fishing, Kevin VanDam is at the pinnacle and arguably the best in the world.

This has been a year of paradoxical shifts in the nation’s weather patterns, and it’s really affected our seasonal pattern strategies.

While that may not be the case in the very Deep South, it certainly is in the mid-states and many northern regions like where I live.

For example, I was on our family’s pontoon recently, enjoying a little tubing and water skiing with the family. We had nice weather, and in mid-July, the fish are usually schooling off the deep weedlines. Yet, on that day, I was stunned by how many quality bass were cruising around on sand near shore in 2 feet of water!

In fact, we still have bluegill beds in the shallows, and yet we’re usually having to drop shot schools of bluegill out deep.

Now, I’m not saying all of this is due to a really late spawn. But I believe the extended winter, cool spring and continuous rains in some regions have affected the bass’ environment and spread out the seasonal patterns.

You no longer can predict the majority of the quality bass will be on deep ledges this time of year. Although they spawned during the normal spring period, they continue to trickle in and all of the fish aren’t doing the same thing we typically expect.

That was noticeable at BASSfest in Tennessee. Several of the top finishers caught fish shallow during a time when at least 10 out of the Top 12 anglers would have had to catch their fish on deep ledges.

I’ve long said that anglers put too much stock in water temperature as the primary trigger to move bass into seasonal patterns. There’s so much more that goes into it and we’re seeing that this year.

Bass are controlled by their environment. I believe the cooler weather has changed the habits of bug hatches and forage fish locations, creating a shift in the food supply and bass reacting to what they have available.

A good example is how the extended winter affected the vegetation on Southern impoundments. A vast majority of it died back and while it’s coming back, it has taken longer to grow. That dramatically affects bass location throughout the year.

With bass in various phases of seasonal patterns, it’s really made it difficult to map a strategy for tournament anglers. During the spring, you couldn’t just focus on spawning fish and you can’t assume the best fishing is going to be on deeper, summer spots right now. The fish are spread out, they all aren’t doing the same thing on a given lake, and you have to work harder for them.

I don’t ever remember a year when this condition was more pronounced than it is this year.

It’s made me realize I have to keep an open mind. I can’t say, “This is the seasonal pattern and the temperatures are in the 80s and the fish will be deep.”

No doubt there will be some fish deep, but there are still good fish on the banks.

Fishermen are so educated about seasonal patterns that we get tied into one way of thinking. Because of that knowledge, we tend to rush the seasonal pattern and are baffled because the fish aren’t there. We’re all looking for that magical window and this year’s weather patterns have made it more difficult.

And you know what? That’s not all bad. It adds another chapter in our bass fishing education. The fish are making us think, and when we do put together a successful pattern, it makes it all the more satisfying.

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!

Kevin VanDam's column appears weekly on Bassmaster.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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