I didn’t plan those fishing days, but most of us figure the best time to go fishing is when you’ve got the chance. So we gave it our best shot. Three days of hard work to catch just a few fish. To say it was poor fishing would be an understatement, especially when you’ve got an Ace in the hole like Zell Rowland manning the trolling motor.

Rowland was in for a few days of factory meetings and fishing. I called lure designer/big bass expert Mitch Looper to ask his advice on where to go and to see if he’d join us.

“The fishing’s gonna suck those days,” he said.

Knowing his abilities to see the fishing future, my heart sunk. But like I said, I didn’t plan the timing; I just had to follow through. And he was right. Tough didn’t begin to describe it. I finally punted and took Zell to a place I knew we could at least have a decent day on small fish by working a spinnerbait along the weedline.

As an aside, I told Zell about the water – river backwater, shallow, lots of shoreline weeds. He tied on the only spinnerbait he had and never took it off. This is the difference between someone confident in his decisions and, well, me anyway. He let Kenny Keiser, outdoor writer, catch one, and I picked up a single fish behind him on the deck. I threw a jig, a worm, a dinger and others before tying on a spinnerbait.

“Did you see that?” I asked Kenny as I flipped the bass back into the water. “Zell let one get through.”

“I won’t let that happen again,” said one of the true heroes in bass fishing.

And he didn’t. He picked off every bass. I figure it was 30 fish easy. Big fish was just 2 pounds.

A week later Looper called and said, “LT, next Tuesday’s the day. I’d like to be on Tenkiller by 1 p.m. “

Of course I took him up on the offer, and from 1 p.m. to about 5 p.m. that day had the best fishing I’ve ever seen on that lake – 25 smallies each with the big fish more than 5 pounds.

“Last week we had a couple fronts that didn’t really drop the temperature that much but there was there was a wide variation in barometric pressure. One came through when there wasn’t even cloud cover. Two of those in a row, two days apart, with blue bird skies, added to the fact that we weren’t anywhere near a decent moon phase, made it tough.”

Our poor fishing days occurred during the crescent moon phase, too far past the new moon phase and not close enough to a half-moon for Looper’s liking. He prefers fishing the full or new moon periods (three-days prior and three days past each).  He considers the ½ moon phase a lesser time period, but still one to consider. Moon phase alone doesn’t make a decision, however. He prefers other factors to enter the picture during those days to prompt him to hook up the boat. He looks at approaching weather fronts, as well as the timing of the moon rise and position.

“You’ve got a six-day period around the full moon and a six-day period around the new moon when at least three or four days around that period you should have good trips for quality fish,” he said.

Heavy cloud cover spit rain that Tuesday as we backed the boat down the ramp on Oklahoma’s Tenkiller Lake. It had been a substantial rainstorm but the lightning had passed, leaving low clouds and drizzle, and plenty of fresh water flowing into the lake at every drain and feeder creek. The actual cold front line wasn’t expected to arrive until dark.

“When you have a front coming like all fish are energized, from the shad to the bream to the bass. All bass are low-light feeders, especially when they get big, and even though those moons don’t produce a big tidal influence on these lakes, it in some way jump starts the food chain, and we’re three days before the full moon with the moon rise about 3 p.m. If it’s not lightning, I think it’ll be good.”

Looper believes this focus on feeding by all kinds of fish creates the perfect opportunity. With small bluegills chasing glass minnows in the shallows, they’re easy prey for bass. As shad focus on feeding, they become food for all manner of preyfish.

He believes that big bass are especially knowledgeable of opportune feeding times. He says that with each year these bass fine tune their best feeding times, and that by recognizing these you can maximize your fishing time.

While weather front conditions combined with moon phase factors into Loopers decisions, he checks his computer or the local weathercast to determine if lightning is a factor in any front. No bass is worth dying for. He admits that there aren’t many days that align perfectly, and sometimes you need to take the chance and head to the ramp just in case.

This mid-November Oklahoma day aligned. The low clouds occasionally drizzled but they were spent. If the wind allows, at Tenkiller Looper immediately picks up a spinning rod and a YUM F2 2UBE in Tenkiller pattern with a 1/8 to ½ ounce insert jighead with a bendable wire weedguard. (email me at ltaylor@LURENET.Com for rigging instruction.)  We launched at the State Park and motored all of 70 yards to a drain where the 2 inches of rain in the last three hours was running in at a froth.

Looper pulled six out while I had one halfhearted swish on a Zara Puppy.

We pulled a few off the islands and I actually got on the board. The day’s both coolest and suckiest part? Just then the only other boat we saw on the lake flew wide open to my favorite spot. Looper and I picked up a couple more small fish and headed off to chase the creek inflow pattern.

The XCalibur Square Lip, in the only color I care about for clear water smallmouth – smallmouth green – came into play. As we approached a small inflow creek, I picked up three fish with one about three pounds. Looper flipped under the dock closest to the inflow and caught a 2 pound largemouth and a couple smallmouth. I picked up my only Spook fish of the day in the main flow of the creek. Several other similar areas produced similar results. The smallmouth were on fire. Looper continued catching them on the 2UBE and I was tearing them up with the Square Lip.

The last hour (angler hour = 1 ½ hours) we hit one of Looper’s favorite banks. Six-foot flats with rocks ending abruptly against riprap-type rock. We added a dozen more each, when I lucked into big fish for the day, weighing more than five pounds.

“It just all set up perfect, and it was one of those rare days that works out perfect,” Looper said. “You don’t get many, and you’ve got to take the chance and head out, even if you spend it sitting in the parking lot waiting on the storm to pass.

“But if you’re not out there  when the clouds pass and the moon is right and everything’s just right, you’ll never experience the best fishing has to offer.”