Fishing Tips


Posted 4/27/2011

Spring fishing weather frequently includes wind that can make both lure and boat control difficult, but years of experience on the wind-blown lakes of the Pacific Northwest have taught Yamaha Pro Brandon Palaniuk how to continue putting bass in the livewell during even the most adverse conditions. His secrets? Use moving lures and never run head-on into big waves.

“Wind often moves bass into shallow water, especially along points or bluffs where the plankton has been washed in and baitfish start feeding,” explains Palaniuk, 23, who finished fourth in this year’s Bassmaster Classic.® “At the same time, wind may muddy the shallows and force you out to deeper water where the waves create boat control problems.

“Bass are definitely catchable when the wind is blowing hard, but it can be a challenge.”

One of Palaniuk’s favorite lures in the wind is a five to seven-inch swimbait he retrieves slowly and steadily two to three feet below the surface. The key is retrieving in the same direction the waves are moving so the bass will see it coming. Swimbaits are heavy enough to cast into the wind, and the lures look natural to bass.
“One presentation that produces strikes for me is positioning my boat in shallow water, such as up on a point, and casting deep so the swimbait comes up the slope of the point. What this does sometimes, I believe, is force bass to strike. They tend to follow swimbaits a lot, but as the lures gets more and more shallow, the fish literally run out of water. They either have to strike then before it escapes or let it go. Most of my strikes fishing this way come when the swimbait is very shallow”

The Yamaha Pro has seen bass move to wind-blown points and shorelines less than an hour after waves start rolling in, and the action continues and often improves the longer the wind blows. In a process known as upwelling, plankton is blown and washed up from deeper water to the point, bluff, or shoreline where it collects. Shad and other baitfish move in to begin feeding, and bass are right behind them.

“If I catch one bass, I cover the area thoroughly, because there are normally more fish with it,” Palaniuk continues, “but they’re not necessarily grouped tightly together. When I do find schools of bass in these conditions, I work my lures faster and closer to the surface and often see fish come up to hit them. It can get really wild at times, too.”

Because the swimbaits Palaniuk prefers have only a single hook, he often adds a smaller No. 2 treble “stinger” hook near the tail of the lure. He attaches it with a three-inch leader tied to the exposed main hook, and he buries one of the barbs into the swimbait to hold it in place.

“It doesn’t take long for bass to arrive on windy points,” says Palaniuk, “and it doesn’t take long for a lake to get really rough, either. I know when I’m catching fish like this in a tournament, I can’t forget I have get those fish back to the weigh-in. When I’m running big waves, I zig-zag through them at an angle. I never run straight into them because eventually you’ll nose-dive when you come off a wave crest, and that leads to big trouble.

“One of the most important things to consider is never to rush through rough water. Instead, the best way is to power up the wave, then slow down and drive down the wave into the trough behind it, then accelerate up the next wave. You may go 30 or 40 yards in one direction, then have to change direction slightly to get a better angle and go 40 or 50 more yards that way before turning back again. You definitely can’t be in a hurry.”

Rough water is one reason Palaniuk rates his Yamaha VMAX SHO® Four Stroke the best outboard he’s ever used. In the five and six-foot waves he faced recently during the Bassmaster® Elite tournament on Toledo Bend Reservoir, the engine’s quick acceleration allowed him to power up the sides of the waves and then back down without ever taking a direct hit over the bow. With wind a constant companion throughout the four-day event (won by fellow Yamaha pro Dean Rojas with a similar VMAX SHO® Four-Stroke outboard), Palaniuk faced 20 or more miles of rough water navigation back to the weigh-in each afternoon.

“With the right equipment, navigating big waves is not only easier but also much safer,” notes the Yamaha Pro. “The wind created some exceptional fishing conditions, and I wanted to get them back to the weigh-in.”