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Transition Season Fishing

by: Lloyd Tackitt 10/25/2013

Imagine the life of a fish.  Always submersed and totally dependent on water temperature.  The warmer the water - up to a point - fish become more active.  The colder the water the less active.  Fish still feed in cold water, but less often and less aggressively.  In warm water they digest food rapidly, in cold water they digest slowly.  A meal unit will last a fish a lot longer in cold water than in warm water, so in cold water they don't feed nearly as often, or as aggressively.


In cold water a fish's metabolism becomes much slower, thus the slower digestion.  This slow motion season also affects not just how often they eat, but how fast they'll move to catch a meal.  Generally speaking, the colder the water, the less they eat, the longer they digest so they go longer between meals, and the slower they move to catch food.  But it all works out for them because the food they are chasing is slower too.  A fast moving baitfish would not look at all natural to them, and would require too much effort to catch, more effort than they can gin up when they're cold.


In a transition season, like this fall, you can find water temperatures on a lake to be all over the map.  Some areas that are shallow and catch a lot of sunlight will warm up more than other areas that are deeper or in the shade during the day.  Warm water springs and inflowing creeks can change the temperatures in specific ways as well.  Thermoclines aren't as solid as they will be later in the season, so deep water fish may be moving up in one area and moving down in another.  Water temperature instability is the key phrase for fall.  This can make finding a pattern difficult.  What worked like gang-busters yesterday may not work at all today.


Generally speaking if you're fishing a lake, look for those places where the water is warmer.  Shallows, creek inlets, underwater springs, dark bottoms, etc.  Use a thermometer to check water temperatures, going down one foot at a time.  Look for thermoclines near structure.  If you can find a thermocline near good structure you are probably looking at a concentration of fish.  If you can find a warm water spring, you've found a honey hole, especially if it has some nearby structure.


Here are some specific tips for different water temperatures:  Water temp first, lure presentation speed second, and lure types third

  • 45   Very Slow     Small spoons, grubs, tubes, plastic worms, jig heads
  • 50   Slow            Grubs, small jigs, plastic worms, tubes, jigging spoons, jig heads
  • 55    Slow            As above plus spinnerbaits, small crankbaits
  • 60    Medium      As above plus jerkbaits and medium crankbaits
  • 65    Medium      Top water baits, crankbaits, spinner baits, plastic worms, jerk baits, jig heads
  • 70    Medium/Fast    As above plus weedless spoons, buzz baits, topwater poppers
  • 75    Fast            Top water baits, buzz baits, large crank baits, weedless spoons, plastic worms
  • 80    Fast            Same as above, consider fishing at night

The best fishing forecasting tool you can own is a thermometer to check the water temperature.  Use it often to look for those areas that hold fish and to have an idea of what kind of bait and what speed to offer it.


Blog content © Lloyd Tackitt
Member comments
Flyrodn, CO   10/25/2013 11:00:59 PM
nice chart. Thanks
FXA0, CO   10/26/2013 11:37:31 AM
Nice chart. I assume those are Texas temperatures. Maybe the Colorado crowd can add some local flavors. I would add jerbaits worked very slowly for temperatures below 45 degrees. But that maybe more of a walleye technique and your chart seems to be targeted at bass.
Lloyd Tackitt (Lloyd Tackitt), TX   10/26/2013 3:15:46 PM
Thanks! Yes, primarily it's about bass.
Jacob J, CO   10/28/2013 8:41:02 AM
Lloyd, Everything that you mentioned about fish digestion and slow metabolism makes perfect sense to me and explain the results of fall fishing. However, I have heard from many fellow anglers that during ice fishing season they are catching more fish than in entire spring-summer time. Just wondering what would be your take on that? Thanks, Jacob
Lloyd Tackitt (Lloyd Tackitt), TX   10/28/2013 11:13:31 AM
I've never been ice fishing so I don't know how fast the action is. But maybe it's because the ice-fisherman knows a good holding spot for fish and really concentrates on it and sinceh he's not moving he has time to figure out a detailed pattern for the fish below them? Being in a boat tends to give me schizoprhrenia - I want to fish here, no there, NO I tend to move way too much. When I'm wade fishing I move a lot slower and often pull a lot of fish out of one spot, a spot that in a boat I'd only cast to once or twice. Maybe something like that?
Jacob J, CO   10/28/2013 11:47:09 AM
I think they probably referring to certain species that are considered as a predators (for the most part). I have never heard that people catching carp from ice. Predator fish is more active by its nature and can react on baits and lures frequently. Another thing to consider is that ice fishing season is relatively shorter in out warm winter states and I hope that folks are not bragging.
Lloyd Tackitt
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