How To Catch Bass On Tough Days

A few valuable tricks to making bass eat when the conditions are especially difficult.

Dave Lefebre of Erie, Pennsylvania earns a comfortable living as a tournament fisherman on the FLW Pro Tour. Recognized for his consistency in competition, Dave has finished in the Top-10 in 27 percent of FLW tournament events during his 12-year career. So far he has earned five career wins in various FLW series and finished in the Top-15 of Angler of Year standings the majority of years on tour. Having stated he prefers fishing "difficult bites," Lefebre understands what it takes to catch bass on tough days.

Black: Dave, you mentioned tough bites result from two entirely different situations – influence of weather and fishing pressure. Please elaborate on each.

Lefebre: Tough bites can occur when weather is out-of-the-ordinary, resulting in water that is colder, warmer, clearer, muddier, or higher than normal. Of course there is the dreaded severe cold front that causes dramatic changes in fish behavior, and you need to adjust presentations daily.

Figuring things out and adjusting to change is what I like to do. Regarding fishing pressure, I'm referring to lakes that have multiple local tournaments every day of the week. This puts a lot of pressure on the bass population.

Sometimes, I may run a long distance to get away from the easy-to-reach fishing areas. However, when forced to concentrate on heavily fished areas, finding the sweet spot on offshore structure becomes paramount. I will spend more time idling and studying my sonar units to locate that spot-on-spot for the perfect cast to a critical fish-holding spot—a site that others generally overlook.

Investing time with the sonar to find the key spot-on-spot is something I learned on small lakes in Pennsylvania where you could not run away from boats, rather I had to fish among them.

 Repetitive casts to the same spot or piece of structure will often trigger bites,
even after the fish has seen your lure a few times.
If you know fish are staged in a specific location, try an array of presentations until you find one that works.

Black: What part does mental attitude play on tough days?

Lefebre: Mental attitude is everything. In a nutshell, it's visualizing everything happening before it happens—without getting your hopes up in case it does not turn out exactly the way you want.

If things are not going according to your visualization, you must realize that a single bite in the next five minutes could change everything. It's also recognizing you must take care of your body. In my early career I didn't pay attention. Today I do – that means staying hydrated and making smart food choices on the water, as well as getting rest.

During practice for a major tournament a couple years back, the extreme heat was taking such a toll on my body that I took the final day of practice off just to rest up because I realized the necessity to be mentally and physically prepared for tournament days.

For the casual recreation angler, this can translate as a midday break if things are not working out in order to recompose and rest.

Black: I've spent enough time in the boat with you to recognize your remarkable skill set—pin-point casting and skipping; superior visual detection of fish and bottom changes in shallow water; intense scrutiny of offshore structure with your electronics; and an ability to effectively fish any lure in any presentation. Which skills are particularly critical during tough days?

Lefebre: All of them. On tough days everything is magnified. The way you read the graph, the way you idle, the way you cast are all critically important. I didn't wake up one day with a bass fishing skill set; I worked hard at developing them.

Once I determined that I wanted to be a professional bass angler, I didn't go bass fishing for enjoyment but rather to work on my skills. I spent entire days on the water just practicing various casts.

Practice is what I still do today. If I'm lacking in a particular area, I go to the lake to work on it. Versatility is crucial to fishing success during tough bite situations. You can't be limited in your skill set—you must practice everything, especially the skills which are your weakest.

Tough conditions are not always weather-related.
Fishing pressure is one of the most common and most difficult situations to overcome.
Learning to effectively fish behind other anglers will put you ahead of the game.

Black: What is the single most important advice you can provide anglers for those tough days of bass fishing?

Lefebre: There are no magic lures for tough bites—I catch bass with the same lures everyone uses. I do, however, go outside-of-the box on tough bites. Maybe 25 percent of the time I go with bigger baits than what normal anglers might consider using on given lake or under the given conditions.

An example would be switching up to a big swimbait; it works in some circumstance even if you cannot explain why. But most of the time, I'm downsizing—not my lures but my line size. For example, I may drop from 14-pound to 8-pound test on a jig rod for fishing a 3/4-ounce football head.

Lighter line sinks faster, stays in contact with the bottom better, increases casting distance and provides more natural action to lures. In my opinion, going to lighter line on tough days is positive all the way around—except for the reduction in abrasion resistance.

Once again, you've got to practice with lighter lines in order to have the confidence to switch. But I have full faith that lighter lines will get more bites on tough days.

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