It is all about fish metabolism. Every slight reduction in the water temperature slows things down and creates a negative trend long-term. At the same time, a few factors can help move things in the opposite direction.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Bassmaster Elite Series angler Mark Menendez of Paducah, Ky., has earned more than $1.2 million over his two decade career as a pro fisherman, but many may not realize Menendez also holds a B.A. in Fisheries Biology.

In his recent column on Bassmaster.com, Menendez uses both his biology background and bass-fishing expertise to discuss the differences between spring and fall cold fronts on bass.

Many anglers often hear that fall cold fronts are not as hard on the bite as spring cold fronts. That has not been my experience, and it does not track with the biological facts.

In the spring, a cold front sets the bite back, but bass activity is on the upswing. The water will warm over time, and the fish are generally more active. It is just the opposite in the fall. Things are slowing down over time. A cold front makes that worse by accelerating the process, and water temperatures will not recover. 

It is all about fish metabolism. Every slight reduction in the water temperature slows things down and creates a negative trend long-term.

At the same time, a few factors can help move things in the opposite direction.

One is the need to put on weight for the upcoming winter. You hear that need referred to as the “fall feeding frenzy” by many anglers. It is real. Bass do not plan ahead, but they do have instincts that have kept them alive and reproducing for thousands of years. The need to put on weight before winter hits. Without that extra weight, many bass would die.

They also need to eat for another basic biological reason — they are carrying eggs. The eggs are already inside the females, and they are developing. While the eggs are not viable and couldn’t survive outside the body, they are there and they are taking nutrients from the females as they develop. The females need to replace those nutrients. 

Think about other pregnancies. Be it man or beast, babies develop over time. Just because you cannot see the physical effects of a pregnancy doesn’t mean it isn’t there or that the female isn’t nourishing the babies inside her body.

Remember: In Florida and other warm places, there will be bass on the beds before Christmas — maybe before Thanksgiving in some places.

Fall going into the winter also affects bass differently depending on their size. This observation comes mostly from my experience as an angler, not as a fisheries biologist.

Smaller bass are more affected by cold fronts and cold water temperatures than bigger bass. In my years on the water, I can count on both hands the number of 8-inch bass I’ve caught in water that is less than 45 degrees. At the same time, there’s no way I can count the large number of 5-pounders that I’ve caught from the same water.

I do not know, and have no real theories, about why this phenomenon occurs. I just throw it out there for you to think about. A cold-water bite might not be as frequent as a warm-water bite, but when it does happen, it is likely to be something worth remembering.

Here is your takeaway: Think about what is really happening when you go fishing this fall, and do not be afraid of the cold. Nothing will warm you up faster than a couple of big bass!

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