The old wind machine has been cranked up and blowing for what seems like almost all spring, and hopefully now a more typical summertime pattern will take over.
But some type of wind is pretty much a given almost every day in Louisiana, so waiting on those rare, perfect, windless days isn’t much of an option if you actually want to make a trip any time soon.
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Bernie Schultz, a native of Florida, is certainly used to windy conditions, and provided a few tips to maximize your time out on the water — even when it’s blowing.
During a recent stop at Grosse Savanne Lodge for a Shimano product presentation, he said the wind actually can provide you with an opportunity to catch fish — but stressed these pointers are geared to moderate breezy conditions, not gale warnings.
1. Head to the windier side of the lake
“Generally, wind gets things going. It stirs up the water column, gets baitfish moving and puts oxygen in the water. It’s like the cycle gets accelerated, and things start happening,” Schultz said. “I think a big mistake people make on a lake that has some depth is when it gets windy, they’ll automatically go to the protected side — and they’ve taken themselves right out of the race.
“A lot of times the windier side of the lake is more active. The fish will stage in those areas looking for an opportunity. It’s easier for them to ambush when baitfish are disoriented — and wave action can disorient. So don’t always run to the lee side of the lake to get out of the wind.
“Let the wind be your friend — within reason — you just have to make it work for you.”
2. Set up drifts with the wind
“You want to drift as much as possible and make your presentation downwind. Make the wind work for you — don’t work against it. By putting the wind at your back and drifting down a shoreline or over a field of grass, you’re spending more time casting and less time fighting the trolling motor.
“At that time, the trolling motor is only to correct your drift. Especially if you’re fishing really shallow water, the less you use a trolling motor the better. Generally if I know where fish are on a shallow flat with grass, I’ll drift through it then motor way around it to be as stealthy as possible back up to the upwind side, shut down and then drift it again. I may go over the same exact drift if it’s still productive, or I may adjust the drift by moving over or zig-zagging the flat.
“The only time I’ll battle the wind is if I’m working a specific target, like a duck blind or a dock or an isolated cypress tree — something that stands out that I think is holding fish.”
3. Keep the lure above the fish — and retrieve it briskly
“Make the fish come to you. They’re looking into the wind. Early in my career, Rick Clunn taught me a valuable lesson: When fish are facing into the wind in clear water, you have a better chance of fooling them by bringing the lure from behind them,” Schultz noted, speaking of lures with a rate of retrieve like jerkbaits, swimbaits, ChatterBaits and swim jigs. “It’s over their head and it looks like it’s getting away. They have to choose right now — ‘Do I bite it or do I let it go?’
“It’s kind of an ultimatum, and they have to react — and a lot of times they’ll react when they normally wouldn’t if it was going by really slow, when they might just ignore it or maybe move away from it.
“If a person is a lazy reeler, kind of slow with their retrieve, my recommendation is to get a higher gear-ratio reel and let the reel do the work. You can retrieve at your same rate, but you’re taking in more line with each turn of the crank .…
“A bass has incredible vision and sensory perception — they feel everything and see everything in clear water. So it’s not a matter of him seeing or detecting your bait — it’s how much time he has to see it, and many times in a windy situation, it’s helping you. But the average angler is inclined to reel too slow. The fish is going to see the bait.
“If he can read the logo on the lure as it goes by, you’re fishing too slow.”