Don Allphin

Co-angler Aaron Bartelt of Grand Junction, Colorado, holds two fine bass caught on Friday in a very cold Lake Powell.

Lake Powell can be the best and the worst of fishing getaways. Due to its location in what is considered a high desert, sudden and persistent wind and temperature swings of 30 degrees or more from day to night, can become confusing to both fish and anglers. Last week was a prime example of the best and worst of times to be at Lake Powell.

I arrived early Tuesday (a week ago) to a hard rain. The water temperature when I launched was 49 degrees and slowly climbing. This was a great sign that spring had sprung and the fish would be moving shallow again after a long winter spent in deeper water.

The fishing was off the charts; aggressive largemouth bass attacked crankbaits, jerkbaits and jigs, while smallmouth bass (still lethargic) sat in 22 feet of water off of points waiting for a drop shot rig, Ned rig, tube jig or grub. Twenty-plus bass in a day is awesome when the water temperature is barely 50 degrees in the morning and 53 degrees by early afternoon.

Wednesday conditions were the same but the fishing results were even better. I caught five 3-plus pound largemouth bass on consecutive points on a small, red crankbait (homemade) and my five largest fish weighed just over 20 pounds.

Then, the massive cold front that took the state (literally) by storm moved through Lake Powell near 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. And that’s when everything on the lake changed. Thursday morning the air temperature was in the low 30s and the water temperature was a cold 45 degrees with a strong north wind coming off the snowcapped Henry mountains. I did not get a single bite all day long. Lake Powell went from welcoming to threatening in a matter of hours.

However, I still had a three-day tournament, so regardless of the weather I needed a plan of attack. Knowing the fish were biting on Tuesday and Wednesday gave me confidence that the fish were still in the same areas I fished on those days. So, if the cold front kept them from biting, at least they should still be in the general vicinity. So the question was how to get them to bite?

My decision was complex yet quite simple at the same time. Realizing that the fish were lethargic, perhaps deeper, and certainly not wanting to chase baits, I downsized each of my lures. Smaller crankbait, jerkbaits and especially jigs made up my arsenal. Instead of throwing a big, large-profile casting jig, I created smaller, more compact jigs that were less intrusive as it entered the water.

Next, I slowed down my presentation. The lures spent more time in the water on every single cast, soaking, twitching and moving ever so slowly back to the boat. Patience was certainly a virtue during the next three days.

Finally, I chose to fish areas that received bright sun for most of every day. These areas warmed quicker and it was my belief that if I fished several sundrenched banks over and over again each day, the bass would eventually respond to my presentations.

The three-day tournament to qualify six boaters and four co-anglers for the 2020 Utah State Team was easily the most difficult I’ve fished on Lake Powell. However, I was patient, stuck to my game plan, but the best I could muster was four bites and four fish per day for the first two. Then, on the final day (as the weather and water warmed) I finally brought in a five-fish limit and finished fifth overall, qualifying for the State Team.

In a week’s time, Lake Powell proved to be the best and the worst of destinations. However, even at its worst, there are still fish to be caught. Downsize your baits, slow down your presentations and look for the warmest water in the lake, and you can still catch fish. Being patient and go into each day armed with a good plan and you too can conquer cold fronts.