A lot of recreational anglers don’t realize there is a direct connection between bass fishing and barometric pressure. The amount of pressure in the atmosphere can have a direct impact on how bass “feel” and behave.
By understanding the different types of pressure and weather patterns associated with them, you can choose the right lures, presentations, size, and speed to cater to the fish you’re targeting.
In this guide, we’ll take a scientific look at bass fishing to help you understand the correlation and how you can use it to give yourself an advantage over the other anglers on the water.
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What is Barometric Pressure?
Barometric pressure is the weight of the air above the Earth’s surface. This is typically measured in millibars and is one of the most important components of atmospheric science.
While this might seem like a science lesson, it can actually help you a lot in bass fishing because bass respond according to the pressure in the atmosphere.
The influence of barometric pressure is a result of their physiology. Bass have swim bladders, which are gas-filled organs that help them control their buoyancy and maintain their position in the water column.
They’re sensitive to changes in atmospheric pressure so when the barometric pressure drops (indicating the approach of a low-pressure system or a storm), the gas in the swim bladder expands, causing discomfort for the bass.
To alleviate this discomfort, bass tend to move to shallower waters or adjust their depth within the water column. This movement can make them more accessible to anglers and more active in their feeding.
Along with barometric pressure often comes temperature changes and weather fluctuations. During rapid drops in barometric pressure, bass are aware that rough weather is coming so they’ll feed more actively in anticipation of the storm.
Following the low-pressure system, barometric pressure begins to rise and while conditions may be favorable after a storm, the bass don’t feel that way which can result in more cautious feeding and a more challenging catch.
Understanding the Best Barometric Pressure for Bass Fishing
Here is a chart that breaks down various barometric pressures and how they impact bass fishing. This information is easy to obtain using your favorite weather app, website, or by watching the local news.
Very Low (28.8 and below)
High activity, aggressive feeding, topwater lures, poppers, chuggers, loud presentations
Increased activity, shallow fishing, power fishing techniques like crankbaits
Moderate activity, varying depths, live bait, minnows, soft plastics
Decreased activity, bass hold to deeper waters and structure, finesse techniques
Very High (30.9 and higher)
Inactive, bass are very deep or holding to shallow cover, patience or skip fishing
Falling Pressure (pre-frontal)
Highly active, aggressive feeding, best time for fishing, loud presentations
Rising Pressure (post-frontal)
Reduced activity, cautious fishing, finesse tactics or skip
I get it, you can’t always plan your fishing around the weather. Between work, family life, and other obligations, I’m lucky if I get out a couple of times a month anymore. Just because the conditions are bleak, doesn’t mean you can’t catch bass.
Let me break down each of these and provide some advanced tips to help you make the most of the conditions you’re given.
Very Low Barometric Pressure
Barometric pressure falls when there are severe weather conditions. One of my favorite times to fish is following a storm because the pressure is low and there is a lot of nutrient-rich surface runoff that pours oxygen into the water and provides the bass with more energy.
Bass will move closer to the surface during this time to feed so you’ll want to use surface lures like poppers, buzzbaits, and topwater frogs. Experiment with fast retrievals and loud and bright presentations.
Low Barometric Pressure
Conditions have settled a bit and it may be the day after the storm has passed and the sun is shining again. Now the pressure is still low but bass aren’t feeding as frantically as they were a day ago.
Use power fishing techniques, such as crankbaits and spinnerbaits, to cover water quickly and target bass in their more active state. Pull the bass out of their hiding spots with these aggressive lures and focus on structure where they may be holding onto.
Normal Barometric Pressure
As you can expect, normal pressure will follow a storm in a few days and result in moderate activity. Bass won’t be as predictable during this time because there aren’t as many direct reasons for their behavior.
That said, you can enjoy plenty of successful fishing by experimenting and seeing what works. Start with the traditional shallow presentation of a suspending powerbait or something similar. You can also use live minnows and worms during this time as well. Dropshots and split shots work great.
During normal pressure, you want to pay attention to upcoming weather patterns and temperature changes because pressure is almost always rising or falling. If a storm is approaching, pressure will start increasing which will result in high bass activity before the storm.
High Barometric Pressure
High-pressure systems typically result in decreased bass activity. Fish may become less active and more challenging to catch. They often seek deeper water.
Now this can get confusing because I said rising pressure increases bass activity. There are times though when pressure hangs out in the 30 range while the high-pressure front just kind of…sticks around without resulting in storm surge.
The cause of this is usually a nearby storm with your location being stuck on the opposite side of the front.
Fishing will be a challenge during this time so you’ll want to resort to finesse techniques like jigs, small worms, and small lipless crankbaits.
Clearing the Air
There’s a lot of misconception about the connection between barometric pressure and bass fishing but I truly believe it’s one of the most underestimated factors that the pros consider when choosing their presentations.
Before a storm, barometric pressure typically drops as the storm system approaches. This decrease in pressure is often referred to as a “pressure drop” and is a telltale sign that a storm is imminent. As the storm intensifies, the pressure continues to decrease, reaching its lowest point at the storm’s center or eye.
Once the storm passes, the pressure begins to rise again as the system moves away. This post-storm pressure increase is a crucial phase that signals the storm’s departure and the return to more stable weather conditions.
Keep in mind that atmospheric pressure isn’t always the result of fronts and changes in the atmosphere. The weather can impact pressure too.
A falling barometric pressure typically precedes deteriorating weather conditions, such as rain, thunderstorms, or hurricanes. Conversely, a rising pressure indicates improving weather.
The pressure gradient between high and low-pressure areas contributes to wind intensity. Strong pressure gradients can result in high winds associated with storms.
Understanding barometric pressure can require a little bit of scientific understanding but you don’t have to overthink it. I personally believe that this is one of the most unique ways to target fish.
By understanding what each pressure means and how it impacts fishing, you can target bass according to how they’re feeling and choose your presentation accordingly.
Just remember to downsize your lures during stable and high pressure and increase your aggressiveness during low and falling pressure.
In my opinion, the best time for fishing is following a storm during overcast conditions when pressure is staying low and the fish are still active. Good luck!