Springtime cold front? Guide says go bass fishing anyway

Lynn Burkhead
For the Herald Democrat

As I shivered the other morning trying to convince the local bass that it was springtime and not winter, I didn’t have any warm feelings for the north wind that blowing with a decided chill.

My longtime fishing pal Rob Woodruff, an Orvis endorsed fly fishing guide now based out of Lindale, certainly understands such misery. During his many years of guiding fly anglers to the big bass fishing riches of Lake Fork, he cringed anytime the wind shifted to the north during the spring.

"A cold front doesn't make me as hopeful as I might have been otherwise at this time of the year, especially if I've had a solid pattern going on in recent days," said Woodruff. "It can certainly reshuffle the deck on the first day after a front. And sometimes, the second day after a front can be even worse. But that doesn't mean that the game is over either."

Woodruff notes that the preponderance of Florida-strain largemouth bass genetics in the North and East Texas regions can certainly knock the fish off just a bit after a frontal passage.

But then again, it's still time for the Lone Star State’s version of March Madness. And with the current moon cycle heading towards full on the 28th of this month, there’s no doubt that the state’s lunker largemouths are wanting to head for the skinny water.

But a cold front like the one that spawned hail and heavy rain on Wednesday night certainly doesn’t help anglers looking into shallow water that is all but devoid of big bass preparing to spawn.

Believe it or not, Woodruff says that all hope isn’t lost.

"Down through the years, I've learned that there are a few things that you can do to still have a chance to catch a few fish and maybe even a big one, cold front or no cold front," said my guide friend.

For starters, slow down your presentations, whether it's with a fly or with conventional lures.

"Colder water slows down the metabolism of a bass and the jump in barometric pressure after a front makes them more lethargic," said Woodruff.

Why is that? Because higher atmospheric pressures affect the swim bladder of a fish, making them less comfortable.

"You can really see that if you watch fish at an aquarium somewhere after a front," said Woodruff, a three time finalist for the Orvis Guide of the Year award. "Before a front, they seem to almost hang effortlessly in the water. After a front, it affects their balance and throws it out of kilter for a little while, so they are not as apt to feed."

A second adjustment is to pay attention to the size of lure that you are presenting.

"If you're just looking to catch fish, then it might be a good idea to go to a smaller lure or fly," said Woodruff. "But if your goal is to catch a real high quality fish, they're still going to be looking for big meals."

A third key is to adjust locations, especially early in the day when overnight lows have chilled the water down several degrees.

"Location can be very important after a cold front, especially if there's been a relatively warm afternoon the day before," said Woodruff. "When that's been the case, I start off a day by looking for areas that are going to hold heat from the previous day, places like concrete retaining walls, areas of rip-rap and especially private boat ramps that haven't had a boat launched off of them on that particular morning."

Also understand that in post-frontal conditions, an angler needs to adjust their boat position to be able to locate fish that have backed their way off the bank.

"The fish usually won't go too far away, but after a spring cold front, they'll often back off just a bit," said Woodruff. "So, if you had found bass in a couple of feet of water before the front, you might back off to the first good breakline off the bank in four to six-feet of water on the days after a front.

"Creek channels with a quick drop-off adjacent to spawning flats are also good spots to look because the water temperature doesn't change as much as you increase the depth."

Keep in mind on a chilly morning that the fishing often picks up as the day goes along.

"It pays to stick with it because often, your chances get better as the day goes along," said Woodruff. "The fish adjust to the barometric pressure change, the sunshine warms the water up a little bit and because of all of that, you don't want to quit too soon."

That's especially true in the heat retaining areas that Woodruff mentioned above, particularly those that are protected from windy conditions where waves can mix the water and cool things down.

"The fish catching action may not be as good as it is on other spring days, but you can still catch a few numbers here and there in such warmer water spots," he said. "In fact, those kinds of areas are so important that I've got a few milk runs on Fork that we'll hit on a post-frontal kind of a day. And sometimes, you can be surprised by the kind of action that you'll find."

Woodruff notes that sometimes the strikes may be half-hearted and subtle, so anglers must pay attention. At other times, though, the takes are more certain and resemble the hard strikes that an angler might expect on a warmer day. Either way, the chance to take a good bass is still there, cold front or not.

I can vouch for that advice since last spring, on an afternoon when a powerful early spring cold front had dropped temperatures to 39 degrees as a stiff north wind blew, I decided to go bass fishing anyway.

What was the result? A solid bass pushing five-pounds on the coldest afternoon of the season, that’s what!

Woodruff has similar stories that he can tell about good bass that apparently didn’t read the weather report. So, the bottom line here is that cold front or not, now is the time to get out on the water if a big bass is your angling goal for the spring of 2021.

"You can't catch a giant bass if you don't go and if you don't have your hook in the water," said Woodruff.

No matter what the current temperature is or what direction the wind is blowing.