Under Pressure

By M.L. Anderson

When I talked to Yamamoto Pro Tai Au about barometric pressure and how it can affect your fishing, he told me that he had once sworn he would never do a story about it because it’s sort of his secret weapon: using his knowledge of this subject he has won nearly $100,000 in the past three years. What is his secret? The barometer.        

If you do a search on the physical effects of barometric pressure on fish you will find that there is absolutely nothing scientifically proven about the subject. But most fishermen, if they pay attention, will tell you that fish bite better in stormy weather than on those “blue bird days” after a storm. So obviously, it does have an effect. Possibly, the wind, dropping temperatures, and other factors also have an effect. Tai believes that the swim bladder of a bass is affected by the increase and decrease of pressure, and that the effects lessen the deeper the bass are in the water.         

  This is what Tai likes to see when he gets to the lake

This is what Tai likes to see when he gets to the lake

Anyone can see a storm coming, but Tai is such a cloud watcher that he can tell if the pressure is dropping by the type of clouds in the sky. Low clouds mean low pressure. Those high thin wispy clouds mean high pressure and fine weather, but possibly not very good fishing. Generally, though, the poor bite lasts only the first day or so of a high pressure front. If those days happen to be your tournament days, you better have a plan.        

First of all, Tai uses barometric pressure to help him select the type of baits he’ll be using on any given day – it’s a lesson he began learning when he was twelve years old. He remembers fishing as a storm came in, catching fish on a crankbait on nearly every cast. The next day, the weather was clear, but he couldn’t get a bite. When a storm is coming, the pressure drops and the fish get active. It’s all about reaction baits in a low pressure situation.         

Once that low pressure front passes, though, it’s a whole different ball game. High pressure makes it a great day for a picnic, but it can be a bad day for a fisherman unless you adapt. Tai says on a day like this you’ll see no clouds except for thin wispy ones, birds will be just sitting around, and the reaction bite will be almost nonexistent. “On days like this,” says Tai, “I throw a slow-moving bait like a Yamamoto Hula Grub on a jig, or a Senko, or a Ned rig.” Once the pressure drops again, he’ll pick up a Yamamoto Heart Tail Swimbait.        

  With a clear, high pressure day like this, Tai downsizes and slows his baits

With a clear, high pressure day like this, Tai downsizes and slows his baits

At Mead a couple of years ago, he had just two days of practice, and those practice days were awesome. The clouds were low and he caught fish on nearly every bait he threw. But experience told him “Watch out! You know what’s coming!”, and on the first day of the tournament he threw a Yamamoto buzzbait, got four bites in 20 minutes, and missed them all except one that the trailer hook got on the outside of its mouth. So he put down all of his reaction baits, picked up a drop shot, and managed to catch seven fish that day. That’s the difference pressure can make, scientific proof or not. He ran into a buddy who was completely perplexed and asked him, “where did all the fish go?” The fish were still there, the pressure just called for a slow bait.      

On the second day of that tournament, there were low clouds off in the distance, and Tai impatiently waited for them to get over him, then picked up a crank and culled out four times. The final day was the same – starting out with high pressure then going low. He got second place in that tournament by reading the weather. Even without a storm, pressure matters.     

  High pressure right now, but check that big cloud on the horizon. A great low pressure front could be on the way

High pressure right now, but check that big cloud on the horizon. A great low pressure front could be on the way

Tai feels that bass are affected by barometric pressure more than any other single condition. High pressure turns them off even with wind. Low pressure turns them on even if it’s cold. Once at the Delta, a low pressure system moved in and everyone else thought, “oh, a cold front”, and slowed down. He stayed with a Chatterbait and caught “tons of fish.” Tai says that when pressure decreases, the bass’ air bladder expands, and the bigger the fish, the bigger the bladder, so he usually catches bigger fish during low pressure. If you find big fish then a high pressure front moves in, stay there – just slow down and go a little deeper. That’s another key: in high pressure you can either fish slower or deeper.           

Barometric pressure is the number one thing Tai looks at when he heads for the lake. If you look at a barometer, it usually only goes from 28 to 31. The actual number is not as important as the direction it is trending. Most good barometers will have either a needle you can move to the current pressure, or if it is digital, it should have a graph showing the trend of recent readings. Tai uses the Windfinder app to determine what the barometric pressure is doing. “Fishing is all about decisions – there are no secret spots, no secret baits,” he says, and knowing what the pressure is helps him make good decisions.         

  Low pressure fronts often mean storms, but not always. A barometer is the sure-fire way to tell

Low pressure fronts often mean storms, but not always. A barometer is the sure-fire way to tell

This is crucial during multi-day tournaments. He plans his day around pressure readings, and even pays particular attention to the clouds in the background when he is watching fishing shows or tournaments on TV. “If you pay attention, you’ll see that it really makes a difference in the number and size of bass that are caught”, he says.

You can purchase a barometer for your home or even for your boat, and there are also apps that can show you the pressure, designed for smartphones. Make sure you get one that can show trends. Many of the apps are free. The apps tend to rely either on measurements inside the phone itself, or they are based on altitude and do some calculations to derive the air pressure from that. A good portable barometer can be a bit pricey – I saw the top rated ones at anywhere from $40 to over $300.       

Here are Tai’s recommended baits based on barometric pressure:

High Pressure

1.      Yamamoto Senko on Ned rig

2.      Drop Shot

3.      Hula Grub on a jig head

4.      Flappin Hog for flipping (Soak it and work it more. Jig it up and down 3-5 times before moving on.

5.      Pick baits with subtle action – maybe even a crankbait with a small bill and no wobble. Work it slow.

Low Pressure

1.      Yamamoto spinnerbait

2.      Yamamoto buzzbait

3.      Cowboy for flipping

4.      Crankbait – base depth on lake and fish

5.      Loud crankbaits

6.      G Funk Desert Rig

CONCLUSION

It doesn’t have to be stormy to be a low pressure front, and storms do not necessarily mean a cold front and slow fishing. Learn to read the clouds, get a reliable barometer, and pay attention. You will be amazed at the difference it makes in your fishing.