Last week, I was fishing with a friend and we bumped into a ridiculous amount of bird play. They’d drop just as the bass would pop up on the surface, thrashing bait into the air. And just a quickly, the school would sound and it was over. When this is happening, anglers have a tendency to fly all over, outboard blaring, in an attempt to stay with the action. I’ve been that guy many times, and often all you’re left with at the end of the day is a headache Ibuprofen won’t touch. During that trip, we did OK, because I remembered the rules of bird play. These are important to know, especially if you live in the south where winter fishing often revolves around these saltwater-style blitzes.
1.) Stay Put And Be Patient – Bass generally school in the vicinity of a prime holding area, like a hump or rock pile. If you can identify what structure is keeping them in the general area, you’ll find that you’ll catch more action if you stay close to that core spot rather than chasing them all around it and spooking them with the outboard. Stay quiet, be patient, and let the school come back around to you.
2.) Keep Fishing When They’re Down – If the fish you see up top suddenly disappear before you get close, that doesn’t mean they’re gone. Have a rod rigged that will cast far, matched with a lure that will get deep fast. Small spoons, small bucktail jigs, and small swimbaits work well, but it’s the ability to reach the spot where you last saw the blitz that often makes the difference. Light spinning outfits spooled with super-light braided line (2- to 6-pound test) are perfect for hitting the divers.
3.) Change It Up – The fact of the matter is that schooling fish can be frustrating no matter how you approach them. Some schools seem like they’re so dialed in to natural bait that your artificial offerings look like Brussels sprout pie. When that happens, I recommend pulling the plug on the birds and just going fishing. Pick a pattern that’s stable and reliable for the season and tune out thoughts of what might have happened chasing the birds. Get focused on what’s going to happen by moving to a different spot and trying a new approach.