The saying, “Timing is everything,” never was more valid than when plotting the capture of huge largemouth bass. The effects of season, time of day, and physical (but barely tangible) factors like moon phase and barometer seem to make a big difference in the catchability of these rare giants.
Such trophy-size bass typically turn up in Master Angler contests, electrofishing surveys by fish and game departments, and the occasional photo in weekly fishing periodicals — proof that such fish reside among us. Only rarely, though, do we tangle with such creatures. Then, likely as not, chancy malfunctions lead to premature release some distance from the boat. Insights into particularly good times to catch outsize bass can help in planning trips to trophy lakes in Florida or Mexico, or help to decide when to trot down to a local farm pond.
The moon is a source of unceasing fascination among anglers. Many plan trips around the monthly lunar cycle, and thousands of top anglers consult solunar tables regularly to check for the daily major and minor periods of fish and game activity. Veteran In-Fisherman readers will recall the extensive study of solunar periodicity done by In-Fisherman researcher Ralph Manns and published in a two-part series more than a decade ago. No room to cover Ralph’s extensive findings here, but we present the thoughts and findings of other noted big bass anglers.
Reading moon phases is far from a proven science. Big bass experts across North America have differing views of the extent of lunar effect on bass behavior and the timing of the most positive effects.
Brett Richardson, Bergenfield, New Jersey, has contributed many features to In-Fisherman on a variety of topics. No fishing, however, gets him going like chasing outsize largemouths. To identify trends in his catches over the years, Richardson analyzed the dates of catches of bass from 6 to 8 1⁄2 pounds from northeastern lakes and reservoirs and sorted them by moon phase.
“Most lunar calendars suggest that the three days before and after full and new moons present the best fishing opportunities,” Richardson notes, “but analysis of my catches of big bass indicate that the four days prior to full and new moons were most productive. In fact, 85 percent of the biggest bass were caught within those two four-day periods.
“Particularly from early spring through the Prespawn Period, the full moon is far more powerful and all lunar effects are most pronounced during this part of the bass’ annual calendar. And I found that the season with the least lunar effect stretched from the Postspawn Period through early summer. But for me that has not been particularly productive for big bass anyway.”
Though he hasn’t kept records as meticulous as Richardson’s, top-ranked bass pro Alton Jones sees entirely another angle to moon phase. “I have tracked moon phase and catches since my guiding days at Richland-Chambers Reservoir in Texas,” Jones begins, “and find that for most of the year, a full moon is not an omen for good fishing during the day. Catches are notably lower, particularly for large bass. In fact, when I’m looking at my tournament schedule, I often do research to determine how much weight it will likely take to win a particular event. When I see that the dates fall around a full moon, I scale the projected weight downward.
“I believe that the reason daytime fishing can be slower during a full moon is that bass tend to feed more at night if conditions are well lit by a bright moon. In murky lakes, you often have little or no night feeding by bass, but the best action will come during a bright full moon.
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