By Josh Boyd
When less than ideal conditions present themselves, bass fishing can become downright tough. The slightest of variances seem to slow the bass bite to a crawl on any given body of water, and lockjaw-afflicted largemouths seem to become the subject of the day. Under these circumstances, it can sometimes seem as if coaxing a bite is about as probable as winning the lottery.
However, when tough fishing becomes the norm, much of an angler’s success is dictated by their ability to position themselves in the right place at the right time, and to make the most out of every opportunity when fish are located.
One angler who is renowned for his prowess toward catching bass with consistency when most other anglers are left scratching their heads, is 2019 Bassmaster Classic Champion, Ott Defoe. Defoe has developed a strategy for taking tough days of fishing in stride and has several tips to share that are largely universal from one body of water to the next.
Why the Bass Bite Slows
Like most anglers, Ott Defoe is quick to mention the correlation between passing fronts and difficult fishing conditions, as he largely attributes such circumstances as being one of the most trying times to be on the water.
During this time, the bite grows stagnant, and patterns that have been observed during the weeks prior seem to go out the window.
According to Defoe, the two most significant strategies for fishing a passing front are to monitor the front itself, knowing from past history when the best fishing is to be expected, and to be aware of how best to draw strikes when everything does eventually grind to a halt.
Weather Fronts: A Tale of Two Days
From his personal experience on the water, Defoe feels that the passage of a front is best perceived as a two-day event, with each of these two days varying significantly in what an angler should expect.
The first of these two days encompasses the hours directly following a front’s passage, and Defoe feels that decent success is to be found if this window of opportunity can be seized upon. “A lot of times, if a front passes today, tomorrow will see bright bluebird skies, but be windy. They will bite good on that first day when it is windy,” said Defoe.
“On that very first day after, the fishing can be almost as good as the day before, as long as you have good wind,” Defoe continued. “On that day, if you have wind, a moving bait of any type will typically produce. A crankbait, swimbait, spinnerbait, or jerkbait are all pretty effective.”
As the night falls during the first-day post-front, a change takes place on the water. Conditions change drastically, and this is when Defoe kicks into the second stage of his front fishing strategy.
“That second day after the front is when fishing can really get tough. The fish tend to suspend a lot, and they are just much harder to get to feed. That is the day that you need to find heavy cover or some current,” Defoe said.
As for Defoe himself, he favors areas with flowing current above all other locations when post-front lockjaw sets in. “That second day, finding moving water on the body of water you are fishing is key, whether it be a creek running in, a river drainage, or an area below a dam.”
Once Defoe is situated in an area that he feels will be holding bass in significant numbers, he reverts back to a strategy with which he is all too familiar, running a crankbait. “I’m much more likely to try to get a reaction bite going, if at all possible. I would rather burn a crankbait up trying to draw a reaction than I would drag a Carolina Rig around hoping for a bite. That is just my style of fishing,” said Defoe.
“I think it would surprise people just how fast I reel a crankbait in most scenarios, especially when water temperatures are above 50 degrees. Burning a crankbait really, really fast can absolutely trigger bites that you otherwise would not get, or from fish that are hard to catch,” Defoe said.
Making the Most Out of Less Than Ideal Circumstances
Those that love nothing more than boating big bass, are quickly forced to gain a level of patience far beyond the average. For every excellent day of fishing, come several that can be difficult at best. However, according to Ott Defoe, those that stay the course and make subtle adjustments to remain on the bite can still find success when it seems that little is to be had.