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McClelland: Don't Ignore Cold-Water Shade Lines

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By Jonathan LePera Special to BassFan - Mike McClelland has always marched to the beat of his own drum. Bucking the norm is nothing new to him, so when anglers learn that he targets the shade in cold water instead of the sun, it might raise an eyebrow or two. 

“So many guys will pull up to a boat dock in the spring and disregard the shade and just fish the cover of the dock,” McClelland said. “Through my years of fishing, I realized so many of my bites have come from the shade line instead of the dock itself." 

Regardless of what part of the country he’s fishing during the cold-water months, McClelland will seek out the shade. 

“A shade line gives bass that sense of security and cover,” he said, “but they want to be close to the sun which is creating the shade because of the cold water and the temps they are fighting this time of the year." 

Cruising for Cover

In the spring, the bass use the sun to warm themselves but the shade becomes the cover, McClelland says. Once the water temperatures start to warm in the cold-weather months, baitfish and forage start climbing in the water column seeking the warmth of the sun. 

Bass still have predatory instincts in wanting some sort of cover, McClelland added, but they don’t want to bury up into shade by hiding under a dock, preventing them from using the “soft shade lines” as ambush points. Fish will utilize the shade thrown over a point by a big tree the same way. 

They’ll cruise the edges, always keeping their body in the sunshine to feel the warmth of the sun and their nose and eyes into the shade to make them feel like they are hidden, yet always ready to ambush, McClelland says. 

When dealing with larger areas of shade created by a larger set of docks or a larger dock that may harbor a number of fish, the bigger fish tuck a little further into the shade, ducking just out of sight. Most often, the smaller fish are the first to commit while the larger fish are less aggressive when covered by shade

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