Fishing With The Wind
By Kathy Magers
When I first began fishing tournaments, panic set in any time the wind forecast was over 10 mph. I hated the wind because it made boat control difficult, drained trolling motor batteries, caused constant backlashes and left me with some "punk" hairdos before they were in style. I detested the wind - it blew my mind and gave me a bad attitude. I was defeated before I ever made my first cast.
One day, I remember reading an article about the wind being your friend. It said success would improve for those who quit fighting it and worked with it instead. I studied that article in depth and began readjusting my attitude.
Wind stirs the food chain and activates it so every level of life - from algae to baitfish to bass begins to move when the wind blows. The bite "turns on." It's much harder to catch fish from slick waters on still days.
When others would complain "Oh, no - it's going to be a miserable windy day tomorrow." they were subconsciously defeating themselves by worrying about it. But I was thinking "Oh great! The fish will be active ... if I just throw the right lures ... fish the best banks, I might "load the boat." It's amazing how attitude can make a difference.
I also found that following a few common sense rules, I was well prepared for handling the windy day. Instead of trolling with my bow into the wind letting it eat up my batteries, I put the wind to my back and only used the trolling motor for occasional course correction. I bought a "wind sock" (cone shaped canvas bag) and towed it behind the boat to slow my drift rate. What a remarkable gadget.
By listening to the weather forecast, I knew what wind velocity and direction to expect and prepared for it. Using a lake map, I marked fishable, wind protected areas in case my open areas became vulnerable and dangerous. I knew calmer waters were warmer and attracted heavy female bass during the spring spawn, so I marked the most fishshable of my practice waters. I omitted windy shorelines on days when winds were high and saved them for a calmer day.
For safety sake, launching near my best fishing areas eliminated the need to run and gun all over the lake fighting heavy waves and whitecaps. I drove the boat slower in rough water even coming off plane once the waves became too far apart to keep from falling down in between them. Other boaters came in breathless telling horror stories of losing trolling motors and windshields in the rough water. It was apparent they had simply driven too fast in water that was too rough.
Using heavier lures and tightening cast control knobs lessened the number of backlashes I got. I tried not to cast into the wind and kept it at my back when possible. Using line conditioner also helped. Fast moving, noisy lures like spinnerbaits and crankbaits produced more from wind-receiving banks because the wind activated those fish into a chasing mood. But the spawners stayed in warmer, protected coves.
For safety's sake, I made sure the boat had plenty of gas and fully charged batteries. Life vests were required by tournament rules when the big engine was running, but I usually kept mine on when fishing rough water, just in case I fell over. I had fallen in once before during a rainy, cold-weather tournament on Lake Bob Sandlin in east Texas. Wearing a heavy cold-weather suit and snow boots, I watched the surface light above grow dark as I sank fearing my clothes would soak up water and pull me under. Fortunately, the trapped air in them popped me back up to the surface instead.
I had always heard that getting back up into a boat is much harder than you think when you're wet, slippery and soaked clothing is heavy. Frightened beyond my wildest imagination, I remembered hearing about using the engine's lower unit for a step. I grabbed the engine in a bear hug and asked my partner to hit the Trim Up switch. Sure enough, it worked - and lifted me right up out of the water. Getting from the engine onto the back deck was still a challenge, but much easier than trying to climb up over the side of the boat. I made myself a promise that day to always file a "flight plan" or "fishing plan" with someone any time I fished alone because had I been alone that day, I doubt I'd be writing this column. Accidents happen.
Don't let your attitude defeat you if the weatherman predicts a windy fishing day, instead - take heart. Try using some of these windy-day fishing tips to build your self-confidence and put you in the winner's circle. Of course, there ARE limits. When small craft warnings are posted, heed them. No one's life is worth losing over a fish. Be safe, good fishing and remember: What matters most isn't the size or number of fish you catch - it's the memories you make. Don't forget the camera. And hang onto your hat!