Understand the variables
Depending on where you are on the map and on the calendar, frontal impacts can vary significantly.
“If you get a front in the fall, that wind can really make fishing good on wind-blown banks,” he said. “But if it’s February or March when the waters are beginning to warm, that cold front can really slow the fish down.”
Also, because different latitudes find nature’s year-end time table advancing at a varying pace, Horton said it’s important to fish where the fish are.
“If you get a late-fall cold front, the fish are already going to be in the backs of the bays and pockets,” he said. “That could be December for us here in the Southeast, but up north, that could be November.
“Once the fish are in their pattern according to the water temperature, they’re not going to move back up shallow or back out deep, unless something like water clarity changes. For the most part, your presentations will be based on where the fish already are; you’re either going to fish more aggressively or more slowly.”
Consider also that overnight lows mean more to the big picture than declining daytime temperatures. That’s because once the overnight chill sets in, it takes longer for the day to rise to a level the fish can tolerate.
“The only thing that would make that different would be if the water temperature is just starting to get down to where the fish want it to be in the early fall,” Horton said.
But say you catch ‘em good on a pre-front Saturday when the water is 55 degrees. Wednesday sees an approaching front’s warmth raising that temperature to 58-60. The front passes, the water drops back down to 55. Should be business as usual, right?
“The fishing is not going to be nearly as good, even though you have the same water temperature because it cooled to 55, instead of warming to 55,” he said. “Because bass are cold-blooded creatures, so much depends on whether that water is warming or cooling, regardless of what that water temperature is.”