Fort Mill Times

Brad Harvey: It is possible to take on rain-soaked bass

What a wet year. I’ve become so accustomed to dry summers and drought conditions it seems as if that’s just the way it’s supposed to be around here.

Having spent the better part of a decade in a constant rain deficit, this year it’s almost as if Mother Nature is looking to make up for all of it in the span of a single calendar.

And people wonder: Just how does all of this rain affect the fish and fishing conditions?

The truth is there’s no clear answer due to a number of factors involved.

Plain and simple, weather affects bass fishing. Typically, its effect can be pretty predictable but our current scenario is anything but typical.

There are a handful of factors that come into play including temperature, barometric pressure, wind, cold fronts, warm fronts and precipitation. Because the rain is the part of our equation that’s totally out of whack, we’ll stick to it for our purposes.

There’s been lots of debate during the years as to whether or not “the bite” turns on as the rain falls and hits the water. One old fisherman’s tale says the droplets of rain hitting the water mimic insects lighting on the surface, thus triggering the fish to attack. But scientists declare that it has more to do with the rate of rainfall.

Light and steady precipitation can cause a spike in the bass’ feeding activity and most fishermen have experienced it. This is because the pH level of the water goes up but does so slowly.

If the rain turns heavy, however, it shuts them down. This is because the pH level of the water has dramatically dropped making the bass uncomfortable. This happens due to rising carbon dioxide levels, which displace the amount of dissolved oxygen that the fish are used to and makes breathing difficult.

Another issue caused by rain is the temperature change. The rain is usually much colder than the temperature of the water, which can cause the fishing to turn south in a hurry as, once again, the fish become uncomfortable.

These lower oxygen levels and water temperatures aren’t a huge deal in Lake Wylie but they can decimate the fish population in smaller lakes and farm ponds by causing the impoundment to “turn over,” causing a fish kill.

As crazy as it sounds, turning over is exactly what is taking place because usually the colder water is at the bottom of the water column. When the colder rain water gets dumped on the surface it passes through the warm water on top and causes tons of problems as it completes this flip-flop.

Most fishermen falsely believe the water near the surface of a lake or pond is warmer because it gets all of the sunlight. But, cold water is denser and heavier than warm water. If that wasn’t true you wouldn’t see the temperature change when you dive deep down.

Since the cold water is heavier, it is pushed down to the bottom taking all of the oxygen as it passes through the warm water that has been sandwiched between the two layers of cold stuff.

But, what if you want to try your luck despite all of this extra water we’ve got running around? To find out, I asked a pro.

Davy Hite, the pride of Ninety-Six, is as accomplished a professional fisherman as exists.

He’s was named BASS Angler of the year in 1997 and 2002, won fishing’s Super Bowl, the Bassmaster Classic, in 1999 and the FLW Tour Championship the year before that.

During the years Davy has nine overall wins and 45 top 10 finishes on tour which qualifies him to the level that sits just above expert.

“Davy, I need your input on something,” I said.

“Whatcha got?” he responded.

“Well,” I said, “we’ve had all of this rain dumped on us and into our water and I need you to tell me just how to go about fishin’ ‘em.”

With a bit of a chuckle at my desperation, Davy proceeded to toss in his 2 cents’ on the subject.

“You know that much rain usually shuts it down,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean it’s always a bad thing overall. In the long-term it’s really good for the fry which assures a good overall fish population. And catching fish isn’t impossible either. In fact, the last tournament I won was on Lake Pickwick and we sort of had the same conditions.”

“Whadja do?” I asked.

“You have to understand what’s taking place and take advantage of it in the best way you can. Your best fishing is going to be found in the rivers since the influx of water will create more current and those bass will lay back in the eddies.”

“So, basically, you’re trout fishing?” I asked.

“That’s exactly right,” Davy replied. “If you keep in mind that they’re sitting in those eddies out of the current in the same way that trout will do you can find them and catch them.”

Get on out there and give it a shot yourself.

With a little luck and persistence, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised.