Put up your hand if you enjoy fishing in the wind? Hmm, not much of a response there. This comes as no surprise, as for the most part, anglers the world over absolutely abhor fishing in the wind. What other condition accounts for out-of-control drifts, crashing waves, bird-nest lines and energy sapping chaos?
If truth were known, the wind can be your friend out there, leading you to big fish and enjoyable days. Here's how to use the windy stuff to your advantage.
For smallmouth, the wind creates a strong impulse to actively move about and feed.
Overcome Your Fear
Before you can begin to use the wind to your advantage, you first must come to accept it. If you choose not to fish during a windy day, that's one less day you'll get to spend on the water this season, and that is a mistake. Don't get me wrong -- if you are facing gale force winds, and safety is of a prime concern, please leave the boat on the trailer. But if it is "everyday" wind we are talking about, get yourself out there and enjoy it.
Up until a few years ago I would cancel a fishing trip based solely on the wind. If I did head out and the wind began to blow, I would spend the remainder of the trip cursing and swearing up a storm, putting me well out of the game almost immediately. This is what wind can do to you. It can mentally put you in a headspace that forces you to question your fishing, lose your concentration and seek out sheltered areas. Big mistake. Overcoming your fear of the wind will allow you to adapt to it, and that's the first step to getting it beat.
Confidence goes part and parcel with the wind game. Rest assured that the fish are there, they may just need a different approach or technique to catch them. Launch that boat into a windy day with a positive attitude and an over exuberant confidence, and you will ultimately find success.
What Good is the Wind, Anyway?
For those that think the wind offers nothing in the way of fishing, you are dead wrong. For many of the species that swim, the wind certainly "turns them on," creating an impulse to actively move about and feed. For smallmouth or musky, this urge is strong. For other species like the walleye, wind creates a chop on the water, excellent for cutting down light penetration. Ask any walleye angler in the know, and they will tell you that the windier the weather is, the better the bite will be.
Wind has a fascinating way of churning up water and pushing it in a certain direction until it is met with resistance. As the wind crashes into an island or point, it brings with it baitfish and smaller predators, funneling them against the stationary structure. It is here you will find the larger predators, whipped into a feeding frenzy and gorging on the abundance of food.
When the wind really blows, a good angler will always head to a point, island or shoreline for sure-fire action. Whatever you do, don't shy away and sit in the calm water; it may be more comfortable, but will certainly be a lot less productive.
When dealing with windy days, and especially wind-blown structure areas, fast lures with plenty of action are most certainly in. Large wobbling-body baits for 'skies, oversized willow leaf spinnerbaits for smallies, and one-ounce rattletraps for largemouth. Upsize your lures and offer the fish plenty of action. Believe me, during the right wind conditions, these fish will be wound up tight, busting baitfish and chasing them down. For smallies, the only lure I throw on a wind-blown point is a spinnerbait, and I reel it in as quick as I can. Fish will almost pull a rod straight clean from your hands, so hold on tight and get ready for a wild ride.
Faster trolling speeds are also the norm. These fish are here to feed, so give them something that looks good to eat. The more action you can give to the bait, the better the chance of it being whacked.
Although fishing in the wind can be frustrating at times, there are ways to fight it, and of course, work with it.
For slowing down a drift while allowing you to cover more water, a drift sock is your first resort. These inexpensive "nets" are tied to the boat and lowered in the water, creating drag and slowing down the boat considerably. If one isn't enough, toss another one over the side until you get the correct speed. Drift socks can be a Godsend when out in rough water, allowing an angler to jig, cast or bottom bounce even when the waves are scooting on by. They fold into a compact size for stowing and are very simple to use -- a definite device to have on board for windy day fishing.
For light-sensitive walleye, wind creates a chop on the water, reducing light penetration.
Another trusty device is the common anchor. Often overlooked nowadays, an anchor is capable of holding your boat in place so that you can fish a piece of structure or area much more effectively. When fishing wind-blown points or islands, I will often park in front of the structure area and lower the heavy weight over the side. Not only will it hold me precisely in front of the spot I plan on fishing, but it is only a matter of lifting it from the bottom for a few seconds and replacing it, in order to thoroughly fish an entire area.
Wind can also be helpful when trying to cover large expansive flats. I will often work a grid pattern along a flat, letting the wind blow me from one end to the other, then motor back to the original spot while shifting over 10 feet or so. Using the bow mount electric will allow you to stay on course, and make slight adjustments along your route.
Trolling is another aspect of fishing in the wind that is often overlooked. If the wind is blowing hard enough, trolling with only this force of nature is often possible. When trolling with the wind, try using crankbaits or bottom-bouncers that produce action at slower speeds.
Trolling against the wind with an outboard will allow precise direction and maneuverability. The RPM's may need to run a bit higher, but it will certainly be worth it. You can also get away with running your larger outboard as opposed to a kicker for these higher speeds.
When dealing with baitcasters and bird nests, a few simple precautions can ease your pain. When possible, cast with the wind. If you have to cast against the wind, tighten the cast control knob or your magnetics. This will slow down the speed of your spool, allowing greater control over your reel. It also comes in handy to have your thumb in contact with the spool throughout the entire cast.
While on the topic of wind, safety is also of utmost concern. Please wear a PFD when dealing with rough weather, as accidents can always happen. The fishing can be excellent during a windy day, but please don't take any unnecessary risks.
As you can see, the wind doesn't have to be a hated enemy when out on the water. Learn to work with it and good things will happen. Enjoy the countless fish, and have a howling good time!