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Outdoors: Winds sometimes whip up good fishing conditions

Phillip Criss admires a largemouth bass he caught while fishing at Lake Guntersville near Scottsboro, Ala. Photo by John N. Felsher

March winds can whip up the waters in a large lake like Guntersville, making boating dangerous. Many anglers try to avoid the wind by seeking refuge in coves. Nobody likes to fish in a howling gale, but a good breeze can actually help anglers put more fish in the boat.

“I love fishing in the wind,” says Kevin VanDam, a four-time Bassmaster Classic champion. “I love rough conditions because often those conditions activate the fish, but I’m smart enough to know that when the wind blows a spot out or muddies the water, I’m just wasting my time.”

As the champ explained, strong winds can temporarily ruin a fishing hole and make conditions physically unpleasant or even dangerous for an angler, particularly on a cold spring day. Brutal breezes blow lures in crazy directions, greatly reducing casting accuracy. Strong winds also make holding a boat in position tough.

“Wind affects fishermen much more than it affects fish,” says Peter Thliveros, a professional bass angler. “Extreme wind makes traveling difficult and limits where people can fish. It also limits the time that people can fish because it’s more difficult to get to places. Wind also makes boat control critical. If anglers can position their boats into the wind and fish against the wind, they can make more precise casts and cover structure properly.”

On the plus side, winds can create or change currents, positioning fish. Along the Alabama coast, stiff winds might even overcome tides. In windy conditions, pay particular attention to points, fallen trees, rocks or other objects that create small eddies where bass can ambush baitfish. Bass frequently hide in such slack water behind obstructions, but face into the flow looking for the currents to deliver breakfast to them. Since fish look into the wind to find food, always run any bait downwind.

“Frequently, the wind shows how fish position themselves on a point,” says James Niggemeyer, a professional bass angler. “Sometimes, the wind runs up against the riprap or a stretch of bank with baitfish on it. The wind stirs things up and moves the water column.”

While bass regularly face upstream looking for food, they do not necessarily face into the wind blowing across the surface. Water crashing against a shoreline “mushrooms” like a bullet. Along a windy shoreline, the current may actually move in the opposite direction for a short distance. Bass hang just over drop-off edges facing toward the shoreline, waiting to ambush whatever ventures too close.

“I always want to cast into the wind unless the wind is blowing so hard that I can’t cast,” says Alton Jones, a former Bassmaster Classic champion. “When fishing riprap banks, I put the boat about a foot from the rocks and make long casts parallel to the bank.”

Breezes also push plankton against shorelines. Small fish eat plankton. Bass eat smaller fish. In addition, waves help oxygenate the water, giving fish an energy boost. Where bass find abundant food and oxygen, anglers can find bass.

“Often, fish bite better with a little wind blowing, especially when the water temperature gets up there,” says Mark Davis, a former Bassmaster Classic champion. “Wind can move bait around and create activity. Wind can stir up crawfish and get them moving. I like to fish along rocky shorelines on a windy day when fish are not as spooky.”

On a calm, sunny day, almost any noise might spook a bass, but waves can help hide anglers from fish. The natural roar of waves crashing against a shoreline masks people sounds. Bass act more aggressively when they don’t sense danger.

Also, fish can easily see shadows or outlines in calm conditions, but with a good breeze churning the surface, fish only see distorted images, if anything.

When wind makes a lake surface too rough to fish, head for shelter, but a good breeze could mean a great day on the water.

John N. Felsher lives in Semmes, Ala. Contact him through Facebook.