One of the biggest chores in bass fishing is staying with the fish. Staying with them means following their patterns and throwing baits that mimic what they are feeding on. Any number of factors can throw fish off their usual routine, such as cold fronts, changes in pressure, and water levels. These, for the most part, are easy to adjust to, and soon you will be back on the fish. One scenario happens all too often that leaves even anglers such as Kevin Van Dam scratching his head. A heavy rain. Nothing can change the dynamic of a lake more than a couple of inches of overnight rainfall. Even if it doesn’t rain long, heavy rain can change the water temp, pressure, level, current, and most importantly, the clarity of the water.
It may seem as if last night’s thunderstorm somehow removed all the bass from the lake but rest assured, they will still feed. You just need to change up your tactics.
Even when the conditions of a lake change drastically, fish will usually stay in the same general area depending on the bait. You can generally have luck locating an inflow of freshwater or an area where the water isn’t as stained. You can also try fishing a bit deeper than you were before the big rain. Even if the water looks like a muddy mess on top, below there is a good chance the clarity of the water hasn’t changed much.
If you are fishing directly after a heavy rain, before the water muds up, you can quickly locate the baitfish and, in turn, locate the bass lurking below. A large amount of fresh rainwater will cool off the water temperature and produce oxygen. Baitfish will come to the surface for the oxygen and create a wake, giving away their position to bass and fishermen alike.
Regardless of the clarity of the water, you will want to target areas in the sunlight. Shaded areas do not tend to produce well after a large rain since there wasn’t a disturbance to the surface from the rain. Docks and shade trees over the water should still be targeted; just be sure to cast around the edges and not into the shade. Structure such as logs and brush piles should still be fished as if there hasn’t been a change to the water.
The most significant change in your fishing tactics will take place in your tackle box. A good rule of thumb when fishing stained water is to throw something flashy such as a spinnerbait. Anything with a blade will draw bass closer, at least to get a closer look. The vibration alone will help fish locate the potential food.
When the rain washes dirt and other debris from the shore into the lake, it will also bring different food sources such as insects and worms. If you are a ‘match the hatch’ kind of fisherman, use this opportunity to throw baits such as small jigs and Texas rig worms.
Bass will typically not aggressively feed when the water is disturbed with mud, but nevertheless, they will still host their opportunistic feeding pattern. They will still bite a crankbait or rattletrap, but it will have to be thrown in their area and will more than likely be a reaction strike. A slower bait like a soft plastic or jig can be very effective once the fish is located.
Bait size also plays a factor in producing strikes after heavy rainfall. Since visibility is low in murky water and you are playing off reaction bites, increase the size of your bait by just one or two sizes. The bigger bait will be easier to see and will entice the larger fish to bite. Downsizing your bait in stained water typically only works when you throw a small jig that mimics a bug or a soft plastic that looks like a redworm or small crawfish.
While the bite after a heavy rainfall may not be as productive as before the rain, you can switch up your tactics and still be productive on the lake. We all know that any change of factors can turn off bass, but no matter the conditions, if you find where they are and what they’re feeding on, you can catch them. So next time when you have the boat ramp to yourself because of last night’s flood, tie on the biggest, loudest, brightest spinnerbait you have and cover as much water as possible. You will look forward to the next rain.