When bass disappear

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James Overstreet

Let’s get this one going with me saying that bass do not “disappear.” They go somewhere. Maybe we don’t know where that is, but they didn’t vanish from the face of the earth and they aren’t being hidden from our electronics and lures by the Romulan cloaking device.

Along with that I’ll warn you about something. If I really had the answer to this mystery, I’d use it to go to them and catch them. I don’t do that. Draw your own conclusions.

It’s a tough problem that we all face. Think about it this way: Things are perfect. The bass are actively feeding all day, and we’re catching the daylights out of them. It doesn’t seem to matter what we throw. They want to eat it.

But then, come the next day we’d have to go to the grocery store to see a fish. Nothing much seems to have changed, but we can’t find them despite our best efforts. Several things might be going on.

The first, and the one we think of most often, is that they’ve moved to parts unknown. That might be true in some cases, but I’d hazard a guess that movement isn’t our problem most of the time. The truth is that bass rarely move very far in a short period of time.

A far more likely explanation is that they simply shut down. It might be that they ate their fill the day before and simply have no interest in eating. Or, it could be that environmental factors turned them negative.

If the water’s cold and warms quickly, they often move vertically into the upper foot or two of the water column. This is especially common when the water’s heavily stained or muddy. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to find them with your SONAR, and you can fish for a long time without getting a bite. It’s like they have no interest in anything except enjoying the good weather.

And sometimes they just go negative for reasons we don’t understand. I personally think this is the problem a lot of the time. They’re fish. They’re coldblooded. They don’t think. They exist. They do things for reasons we don’t understand. We don’t know what we don’t know about how they’re affected by things we don’t even know exist.

If those things cause them to suspend in the water column or sit on the bottom motionless, most of us will never know they’re there.

I had a recent experience that illustrates the complexity of the problem. I fished a tree top every day for three days in a row. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was a 3 1/2 pounder in it. The first two days I never got a bite. On the third day she nearly ripped the rod out of my hand.

That fish was always there. Why she wouldn’t bite the first two days is a complete mystery to me. On the third day, the day I caught her, I didn’t do anything different. But, for some reason she wanted my jig that morning, the same jig she ignored the two days before. Go figure…

I realize I’ve raised more questions than I’ve given answers. That’s a part of fishing. We don’t know everything. All we can do is our best and enjoy those times when we think we have them figured out.

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