Change tactics during warming trends

We’re having a warming trend here in Michigan this week which brings me to a pattern that a lot of anglers overlook.

Yeah, it’s been cold here for the past couple of weeks and water temperatures have dipped into the 40s. But this little stretch of warmer weather is developing a pattern that a lot of people overlook.

I share this with you because it’s something that happens nationwide during the fall. A lot of fronts have been sweeping through the country, bringing water temperatures down and triggering the fall pattern.

After that, we get stretches where we get a barrage of cold fronts and warm-ups, and it’s those warm-ups that can throw you a curve.

The water is cooling down and fish haven’t moved into winter haunts in most parts of the country; they’re still in the backs of creeks, on grass flats and where the bait is located.

The natural instinct is to go out and throw your crankbaits and spinnerbaits to trigger a bite.

However, those warm-ups are associated with high pressure systems, bright skies and not much wind. Typically, most lakes are clearer than they’ve been all year, so that’s another element to consider.

Because of conditions, the fish usually aren’t actively chasing bait or super aggressive. That signals a fundamental change in presentations you’ll need to catch them.

Instead of casting fast-moving baits – like you can when the wind is blowing – you’ve got to use techniques with more triggering qualities and lures that stay in the strike zone longer.

Some anglers believe finesse tactics are best. You can slow down and pitch a jig, a drop shot or work a shaky head and catch fish, but I prefer to mix power with the finesse.

This is when I turn to soft jerkbaits, like the Caffeine Shad. The Caffeine Shad can be twitched to look like a dying shad and it gives off a very visible, yet erratic action. I like the crystal natural colors when the water is ultra clear or pearl and shad patterns when there is some color in the water.

When you have cover, like vegetation or boat docks, I’ll throw a Swimming Caffiene Shad on a belly weight rigged weedless around cover or a jighead with the hook exposed if there isn’t much concern of snagging. It’s like a swimbait; I can retrieve it slowly and it gives off a lot of wobble.

I prefer those baits over more traditional finesse tactics because I can cover more water efficiently.

Now, if I get a few bites in an area, I will slow down and pitch soft plastics. But until I find the fish, those power finesse baits help me find them.

If I’m fishing a highland reservoir, like Table Rock and some of those lakes with a lot of rocky banks, I’ll go to jerkbait, like my Slash. Again, it stays in the strike zone, has great action and good drawing power in that clear water. If I get a few bites in the area, I’ll go back through it with a shaky head worm or a drop-shot rig.

Of course, if it’s windy, I find fast movers more effective. But without the wind, the fish aren’t as aggressive so you have to keep a bait in the strike zone longer and trigger the strike.

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!

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

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