Last week, during a couple consecutive guide trips targeting smallmouth bass on northwestern Pennsylvania's Allegheny River, I was reminded about the difference a day can make.
Thursday's trip was somewhat productive. It was a half-day trip, which are four-hour affairs that provide the added pressure of discovering the pattern of the day in a comparatively small window of opportunity. The conditions of the day were bright and sunny, with a slight stain to the water due to recent rain. We did OK — the elder member of the father/son team caught his personal best brown bass, one just shy of 19 inches. But the morning's catch of 15 to 20 bass was also well represented with several dink-sized fish. I was disappointed, and I suspect my clients would have likely to have hooked more quality bass.
Friday's trip — conditions-wise — pretty much mirrored that of the previous day, except that the water had cleared. Low, clear water combined with a bright sunny sky sometimes adds up to a tough day. River smallies have a good opportunity to inspect the lure, often simply following it to the boat. It often takes the ability to convert followers into biters, by manipulating the lure in an erratic manner, to have a good outing.
But happily the smallies weren't nearly as finicky as I'd expected. There were lulls in the eight hour session, but we managed to boat nearly 40 smallies, lose a few more, as well as add a couple nice walleyes. And most of the bass were excellent fish in the 15- to 18-inch range.
Over the many years I've guided for river smallmouth bass, I've attempted to discover what conditions equate into the best fishing: sunny days or cloudy/rainy; calm or windy? Clear water or stained? River rising or falling? And I've come to realize that every conclusion has a wealth of exceptions. If you spend enough time on the water you'll see this. Anglers that consider a certain set of circumstances as being the slam-dunk recipe to success probably had their red letter day during such. But perhaps they haven't spent enough time at it to experience slower days that occur during the same conditions.
Having a preconceived idea of how the fishing is going to be — particularly a negative one based on slow action of late — can place a black cloud over your efforts. Have a positive attitude and you'll often be pleasantly surprised.