My thoughts on sound and being stealthy

I get asked a lot about the effect of underwater sounds on bass.

One reason people inquire about sound because they know I’m a longtime believer in HydroWave system that emits natural fish feeding activity through an underwater speaker on my trolling motor.

The HydroWave is as much a part of my arsenal as a spinnerbait, a jerkbait and side-imaging electronics.

But there are other manmade sounds that anglers need to be cognizant of that can have a negative effect – at times – on bass.

Given the hours I spend in the woods as a hunter, I know the importance of stealth when stalking animals. It’s no different than stalking bass; it’s important to be as quiet as possible.

But not all sounds create a negative reaction for fish.

One advantage of growing up on the clear waters of Michigan is I often watched how different sounds, pressure and activity affected bass. It’s been eye-opening, and some of my observations may surprise you.

For example, bass seem unfazed by the sound of outboard motors running around the lake. In fact some of our best days of fishing occur on hot afternoons when the lake is covered with water skiers, pleasure boats and other marine activity.

On the other hand, sudden unnatural noises made in close proximity of fish can be detrimental. Like, if you drop or throw your pliers or drop a tackle box on the bottom of the boat it can cause fish to react negatively.

Another negative is running your electric motor on high and intermittently, or thrashing the surface with the prop because the motor isn’t far enough down in the water.

It’s best to run your electric on low and constant speeds rather than turning it on and off repeatedly at high speeds. Again, it’s the sudden change of noise that can put the bass on guard.

Another issue that can make the bass wary is an older trolling motor that clanks in the bracket when you engage it. You should periodically grease the pins, spray lube on pinch points and tighten the bolts on the bracket.

Bass are more tolerant of routine trolling motor noises (run at steady speeds) than carp or shad. You can spook a carp in the shallows by simply activating a trolling motor. Yet, I’ve seen bass sometimes turn and look in my direction when I engage the motor.

That’s because bass are curious of those sounds that aren’t loud or overly invasive.

Of course, on those windless days when the sun is bright and the water is super calm, you have to be extra careful with the sounds you are making. If it’s windy and waves are crashing, underwater background noise isn’t as intrusive to the fish.

I’ve also heard some anglers talk about turning off their electronics when around fish, claiming that the constant “pinging” sound coming from the transducer will spook the fish.

I’ve never seen that. In fact, I’ve watched bass swim casually by my boat when I was in shallow water with the two depthfinders pinging away.

In my mind, my electronics are too critical so I’d rather take the chance of spooking a few fish than go without them.

If you are among the group that does think the electronics pinging can spook the fish, simply put them in standby mode. That stops the pinging and you don’t have to go to the trouble of rebooting when you need them.

We can debate the noise issue until the cows come home, but my advice is put more emphasis on a stealthy approach, like keeping the sun at your back and moving methodically, avoiding abrupt noises and keeping your bait in the water.

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!

Kevin VanDam's column appears weekly on You can also find him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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