Making the Most of Pre-front Opportunity

Making the Most of Pre-front Opportunity
Cast and Blast trips are a good way to spend time outdoors in December.
Pre-frontal system fishing is one of the key elements I will have on my mind now through the next couple of months. I try to mention this every year about this time because it is such an important factor to consider when planning your next trip.

Every angler knows that tide, water temperature, and moon phase can affect our fishing success but there is another factor that often gets overlooked, and this is atmospheric pressure. Although atmospheric pressure can't be predicted with charts like tides and moon phases, it still has a major influence on fish behavior.

Think about it. How many times have you enjoyed a red-hot bite before an approaching storm or frontal system? And how many days did it take for the fish to turn back on after the passage of that storm or front?

During pre-frontal weather conditions the barometer is usually fluctuating rapidly. Falling pressure means that clouds and precipitation are likely. Rising pressure signals that clear sunny weather is to be expected. During the approach and passage of a storm, the barometer will rise slightly and then steadily drop, only to rise again once the storm passes.

I watch the weather reports daily but this time of year I can just about predict what will happen next by paying attention to the wind pattern. I know the closer a cold front gets the stronger the winds will blow from the south and southeast and the barometer will begin to fall. This becomes noticeable for those of you with achy joints and healed broken bones but for others it usually goes unnoticed. We have evolved into staying mostly indoors and using air conditioners so we do not notice the difference in pressure as much as other animals.

Animals along with fish are still feeling what our ancestors felt during the falling barometer or pre-front conditions. They sense this change and adjust, usually changing their feeding habits as well. During this change of pressure I find that fish will feed aggressively just before the front. I try to plan customer's trips around these conditions as much as possible.

One reason for their behavior change may be because redfish and speckled trout have large swim bladders which enable them to sense the changes in the atmosphere. I believe the fish can feel the "weight" pushing on their organs and the approach of high pressure slows them down. I am not saying that the fish don't feed at these times but you might find it harder to locate a steady feeding pattern. After a day or two of steady pressure the fish usually return to their normal behavior.

What to expect when the front nears? As changing weather approaches, the skies will become dark with low, dense clouds and the winds will start to increase in strength. During these high wind periods you may have to find refuge in back lakes or other protected areas. The water will start to become off-color due to the wind but this can be worked to your advantage.

When you find these color changes you can expect they could also be a great ambush sites for feeding redfish and trout. I consider this to be structure much the same as guts or reefs. Also with the wind creating surface commotion you will find it easier to get within striking distance of your prey.

Locating baitfish is still an important element when fishing pre-front periods but you may have to look more closely as baitfish tend to be more subsurface oriented in the cooler water of winter. The baits you will find me using during these conditions in December may be completely different than the baits I will be using in January or February due to colder water and air temperatures and seasonally lower tides that you will find in the latter months.

My number one lure for December's pre-frontal conditions is the Mirrolure She Dog and the colors I choose to use are based on light and water conditions of the day. On rough pre-frontal days with heavy cloud cover, strong wind and off-colored water I will stick with a color that is easy for me to locate and monitor while working the lure in choppy water. I like the GCRBO (Halloween) and CHPR (Chartreuse/Pearl/Chartreuse) and #11 (red head, white back and belly). Again I choose these colors because I can easily see them at the end of a long cast and observe my retrieve and the fish's reaction to it easier in the generally poor visibility conditions. Remember, Old Momma speck likes an easier target too!
If I am consistently getting blow-ups but no hook up I switch quickly to the 5-inch Saltwater Assassin on 1/16 oz Assassin jighead. I normally use Texas Roach, Pumpkinseed/Chartreuse and Morning Glory. Another lure I like to keep handy is the old tried and true Cordell Brokenback. The colors I have had the most success with are the gold or the red head/white body. You can work this lure with many different retrieves but the way I work it is by reeling the lure just fast enough to make a V-wake but not so fast that the lure goes very far below the surface. This lure wobbles nicely when retrieved in this slower manner making it look just like a crippled baitfish swimming near the surface.

The key to catching during these conditions is to focus on points and coves. The coves in back lakes concentrate baitfish and are often the best producers this time of year.
There are risks in waiting to fish until the front nears, though. The weather can turn treacherous in just a matter of minutes. Pay attention to the low dark clouds looming to the north of you. Rain sometimes precedes the fronts but not always. It is important to know when to leave. If you get caught up in the "catching" you might find yourself in some dangerous and gusty north winds.

Shellie and I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and remember... fish hard, fish smart!