DECATUR, Ala. As an Oklahoman and a bass fisherman, Edwin Evers has found himself in some gnarly thunderstorms. "I've had my line take off and go to the sky, where you're trying to pull it down," the Bassmaster Elite Series angler said. "I've felt lightning come through the rod, to where it hurts your hand."
And yet, as unpleasant and downright unsafe as fishing around a storm can be, Evers and many of the other 50 anglers remaining to fish the third and final day of the Evan Williams Bourbon Dixie Duel were looking forward to the midday forecast of possible thunderstorms.
It's no secret that, for whatever reason, bass like to feed before a storm. Anglerxs say the fish are more aggressive, and become more predictably attracted to reaction baits.
That would seem to suit Evers' style just fine. But as he noted before takeoff on Day Three, "anytime the fish are biting, it's going to suit everybody's style."
Russ Lane, who began the day in 13th, said he preferred "extreme" weather conditions, be it cloudless sunny days or full-on storms.
"It makes the fish real predictable," he said. "Sunshine and high bluebird skies? Go flippin'. Thunderstorms on a river system? It's pretty obvious that it's going to be a reaction bite."
In the low pressure right before a storm, he said, is when the fish get most keen on feeding — but he added that too much lightning and thunder can shut down a bite, as well.
"You can pretty much tell right before a storm that they're going to bite," said Jason Quinn. As for why that is? "I'm clueless," he said. "I'm just excited it's fixin' to storm."
Ditto Steve Kennedy, who said he intended to work jerkbaits he painted Friday, when high winds prompted the cancellation of the day's fishing. "The fishing ought to be better today," he said.
The bite can be so good in storms that an otherwise sensible angler such as Alton Jones may find himself on the water during, say, the remnants of a hurricane that blew through Texas a few years ago. By the time the system hit his hometown Waco, Jones said, it was merely a tropical storm. But even so.
"That's the only time I was ever dumb enough to fish in an approaching hurricane," Jones said. "But it was a good day to go fishing."
The Day One leader in the Dixie Duel, Jones said he expected the fish to be more active on Day Three than during the high-pressure, cloudless, windless Day Two. Plus, with the water down a couple of inches from the previous day, he said, the fish would be pulled away from some of the cover they had sought along banks, where floating debris made them hard to target.
The key to fishing during storms, Jones said, was to remember that fish tend not to leave their areas, only to reposition themselves. When the radar turns red, he tends to prefer a faster-moving, bigger bait.
But those aren't the only lures worth using. Evers said he'll sometimes flip during a thunderstorm. The fish like to huddle closer to tight cover along banks, he said.
"Also," he added, "I want to be near the bank, with something taller than me nearby."