Wintertime Cold Fronts, Rain and Warming Trends on Alabama’s Lay Lake
Written By Reed Montgomery Owner of Reeds Guide Service (205) 663-1504
Internet Website www.fishingalabama.com See and like us! Reeds Guide Service / Reed Montgomery on Face book! Over 50 years guiding for bass on all Alabama lakes!
* It’s a given fact; the weather helps dictate the seasonal movement of fish. Especially bass.
It does not matter if it’s during the,”beautiful blooming season of Spring” when bass are found to be rather stationary with their annual, bedding rituals. This is the time of year when these bass are characteristically found in some very shallow water.
Or if its dead in the middle of a scorching hot, Summer season, when bass are “supposed” to be in the lake’s deepest water. The weather is still going to help dictate where each and every bass will linger, changing their moods and movement, almost daily.
Including, their movement is again influenced (according to the lake’s conditions and the weather), during the infamous, cooling down season of Fall. This is a time when many bass anglers may agree, “bass are much easier to fool into biting your tempting little offerings and they are much easier to catch during the Fall season.”
Fall is when the leaves slowly begin to change, into an array of nature’s beautiful colors, then the day light hours begin to grow shorter, and the air temperatures slowly begin to drop, getting cooler and cooler, with each passing week.
Fall is also when the lake’s water temperatures start to cool down significantly, especially with each passing cold front, cloudy days and cold nights. This is when Lay lake’s bass instinctively know its time to go on a major feeding spree! To put on the needed fat reserves to aid them in making it through some often very cold, and very harsh wintertime conditions, when food or prey often becomes scarce.
During the Fall season bass (those bass that were already “bunched up” in their more preferred Summertime locations), are often discovered gathering together in huge numbers, as they begin making their seasonal movement towards the lake’s shallows.
Fall is also when Alabama’s astute bass anglers can observe bass breaking the water’s surface. Often the term is called,”schooling up” when bass are found voraciously attacking, each and every available bait fish meal in that particular area of the lake. Even during the Winter season cold fronts, rain and warming trends do take place and these conditions can dictate where these bass may be found.
That is, according to the “normal” prevailing conditions! There are exceptions with nature’s ever-changing weather!
Alabama’s Coosa River breed of Spotted Bass and the native Largemouth Bass are in abundance in Lay Lake, an old lake, now over 100 years old impounded in 1914. Especially significant changes and odd, unseasonable weather conditions, can take place, almost every other day in this mid-Alabama impoundment. But still, each bass in Lay Lake are affected by the weather!
Bass anglers can actually target both of these bass species, with success! And during the Winter season, after finding these, “spots and heads” it can be discovered they are hanging around the same type of cover and / or feeding in the same locations. They will often even hit the same types of lures you offer them! Then, unfortunately they may be gone from this location on your next fishing trip to Lay Lake! That’s fishing!
These bass can be found anywhere, at any time! It’s all according to the previous weather and the current conditions. During any pre-planed Wintertime fishing trip, this should always be considered. That is, if you expect to have any degree of success. Which is… catching some big, Wintertime bass!
Both of these bass species can be found (often mingling together), in both shallow water and deeper water, all throughout Lay lake’s varied water system in Winter. They can be located around all types of fish holding cover like aquatic weeds, wood cover, rock cover and the lakes very irregular, bottom features.
Alabama’s 50 mile long, man made reservoir Lay Lake, has a lot offer the bass angler and a lot to for him/her to explore!
* Impounded in 1914 and now over 100 years old, this vast, weedy impoundment stays “at or near” a normal, full pool lake level, year round. (Call Alabama Power’s 1-800-lakes-11 number, for up-to-date lake levels and the current water generation schedules). Normal, full pool lake level for Lay Lake is 396.0.
Even during the mid-Winter months of January and February (when many Alabama lakes are lowered several feet for anticipating wintertime flooding or huge amounts of sudden rain or snow run-off), Lay lake rarely fluctuates. It can either be over full pool (swollen from recent heavy rains), or it can be down about one foot, possibly due to drought or the need for water generation for electricity.
Besides Lay lake featuring miles and miles of all types of shoreline-laden aquatic weeds, this popular recreational lake displays a number of many various types of bass holding cover (some cover visible, some not), such as loads of visible wood cover like stumps, resident-planted brush and standing timber.
There is also plenty of rock cover on Lay Lake. Like the man made rip-rap rocks found around the dam, along causeways, around bridges or culverts. These man made rocks are placed here to prevent soil erosion. They also hold some big bass in Winter!
There are miles and miles of hidden, underwater irregular bottom features on Lay Lake. Like old, deep original river channel ledges, deep drop-offs, deep first and secondary drops, deep boulder-strewn rock bluffs, and some deep water, bordering shallow main lake, stump-lined flats, including some very stumpy creek flats.
Wood cover such as standing timber (left here during the lake’s re-impoundment in the 1960’s), can be found lake wide. There are literally, hundreds of man-made piers and boat houses and many marinas, mostly located from mid lake to the lower Lay lake dam. And bass anglers will love fishing the lake’s scenic backwaters, targeting Lay lake’s big bass, found up in the dozens of major, incoming feeder creeks seen winding throughout the lake’s surrounding, scenic countryside!
There are even some old, underwater house foundations and building foundations, old cemeteries, old bridges and even some old, underwater railroads, all inundated when the lake was created in the early 1900’s! Or, covered up, when the lake was raised another fifteen feet when it was re-impounded in the 1960’s.
Still, the “weather” has a lot to do with “whether” the bass will be biting or not, when you arrive at the lake. Or you, like many unprepared anglers, may have to struggle with the prevailing conditions. So look ahead! That is, if you want to have a well planned fishing trip in mind! Be prepared, long before you ever wet a hook!
Knowing the upcoming weather conditions, the lake’s current conditions, and what took place with the weather the last few weeks is very important! Paying attention to what the local weatherman says is taking place daily (like what weather conditions will be taking place for tomorrow, and an entire week ahead), will save you plenty of time and worry. And boat gas and oil, often needlessly just, “burnt up” while you’re looking all over the lake for these bass, in some decent looking water!
Just looking for and finding some decent water to fish is very time consuming. Good, overall conditions (and finding plenty of visible prey like baitfish) and knowing good, fish-holding habitat, still requires doing your home work, long before you ever even decide to leave home. Remember, last year at this time when you had to confront similar weather and conditions.
So here are some considerations for you bass anglers when confronted with; Cold fronts, Warming trends, Rain, Cloudy days and Sunny days, Stained-to-muddy water conditions or very clear water clarity and when to just stay home. That is, until conditions improve!
Unless you are a die hard Wintertime bass angler (or you have an upcoming bass tournament and you must practice and face the prevailing conditions), then there are always much better times to consider going fishing, than after a major cold front!
Times when you can choose your own days to be on the water, that takes place usually during much better conditions, for seeking the bass you are after and finding much more comfortable conditions for you as well. Like much warmer weather! Timing is everything, that is in terms of catching bass, especially when a cold front comes in.
Before “almost” every cold front, there will be usually being a few days and nights of some very unseasonable warm weather. I emphasize the word “almost” because a cold front can often follow another cold front!
So, like said, “Timing is everything”, that is, if you expect to even have a slight degree of a chance at fooling a lot of big bass! Planning a fishing trip, to be taken right on the day of an approaching cold front, can often result with an excellent wintertime fishing trip!
Why? You may ask.
Most bass living out their lives in Alabama’s reservoirs, small lakes, and ponds, instinctively know that as air temperature slowly fall (and then water temperatures begin to drop), its time to hit the lake’s shallows and eat!
During this brief feeding period (that may last a few hours, or it can be an all day feeding frenzy), these bass are constantly on the move while they are feeding and fattening up (preparing them with a full belly), to help these bass make it through the often bright and sunny high pressure conditions and cold water temperatures, that follow a severe cold front.
So, if its been over 70 degrees for a few days (or maybe as long as a week or more), and in addition its been very warm at night, coupled with the weather man saying its going to be very cold for another week, then its time to plan a fishing trip! Keep in mind though, you have to give the water (that may have cooled significantly), a good chance to warm back up, for its usually very cold from the last cold front!
Do not expect miracles if you are going fishing on the first warm day following a cold front! Just because its now 70 degrees, keep mind only a couple of days ago it could have been below freezing! Water temperatures will peek to their warmest, after a few very warm sunny days (and unseasonably warm nights), then these bass will be in their most active state of mind when it’s been very warm and now another wintertime cold front is approaching. Then, you go fishing.
With most Wintertime warming trends, in comes the rain. Bass anglers should approach the thought, with a well planned fishing trip in mind, that when it rains its time to be fishing! And just like when an approaching cold front comes in, timing is everything when it’s going to rain. Of course, when coupled with a good rain suit as well! So be prepared, go out and buy a good rain suit (or two, one for your fishing partner as well, or a spare), if you do not have one! And don’t be afraid to fish in the rain!
During Winter there is a continuing cycle in the weather. It gets warm, then its rains and then it gets cold again. Then, it gets warm for a few more days, and again another rainy front comes in and then, it’s cold again for another week or more!
During the warm, sunny days everybody that can be on the water, will be! But when it’s raining during the Winter months, you may find yourself all alone on these lakes, catching these bass like crazy on your favorite fishing spot, all alone and possibly not even see another boat or angler even out on the water!
Some Wintertime rain is only for a day or two. Often it’s only a 20-30% chance of rain with partly sunny days. So early morning time or during late evenings may be the best time to be fishing. Or if there is another full moon nearby, the hunting and fishing times may be peeking, often landing right on the best predicted day to be fishing!
But if its going to be 80-100% chance of rain all week, with nighttime lows in the 50’s or 60’s and daytime highs in the 60’s and 70’s (coupled with many, cloudy days and you finding some decent water with lightly-stained-to-clear water clarity), then you may want to plan more than one day of fishing! Yes, its true bass do bite better in the rain, no matter what time of year it is!
But when following heavy rains of a few inches or more, bass anglers should expect muddy water in the lake’s headwaters and muddy water in the mid-to-upper lake feeder creeks as well. So be prepared to look around a little bit after a heavy rain to find good water clarity. Usually the lower end of the lake, away from any major feeder creek is the best place to discover the best water clarity following several days of heavy rain.
Always keep mind, “encountering cold, muddy water during the Winter season is the worst conditions, year round, that a bass angler will have to face!”
Like previously mentioned, “during the Winter season there are cycles.”
Cold fronts, rain and warming trends. Then, more cold fronts, rain and another warming trend! So, by now you know the best time to be fishing is prior to a severe cold front. Or prior to, during, or after, a few days of rain. Or anytime during a warming trend! The absolute, worst time to be fishing during the Winter months is right after a severe cold front, with bright blue bird skies over head all day!!
A Winter warming trend can often only last a few days. But, at times in Alabama, its can be very warm from one end of the state to the other end, for as long as two weeks! Again, right before another approaching cold front, or following a good warming trend, may be the best time to plan a “warming trend” fishing trip. Or you can take the chance of being all alone on the lake if it’s raining when you arrive!
So, now you have found some time to go fishing. What would be the best day to go? I say “the best time to go fishing is when ever you can successfully launch the boat!”
But right now, it could be warm, during the early Winter, or it could be mid – Winter and it may be too cold!? How about if tomorrow, there is a full moon? What if last week it was very cold, roads iced over, lows were in the “teens” and midday highs were in the mid-30’s? Would you go fishing? Most anglers stay home …a few days.
It could be raining and although another warming trend is here and maybe it’s been 50, 60-70 degrees for a few days, with nighttime lows only in the upper 40’s to low 50’s! With a full moon, daytime highs in the low 70’s, partly cloudy skies and a good chance of rain (plus its not going to get cold for another week!) I would say right now, or practically anytime…its time to go fishing!
Thanks and Good Fishing! No matter what conditions may arise…go fishing! Reed Montgomery, owner of Reeds Guide Service for over 50 years guiding on all Alabama Lakes for all species of bass!