If you’ve been targeting bass or making your way through bass-oriented social media circles, you’ve probably heard of “Solunar Theory” before. It’s been a concept since 1926, but it’s been making real waves in the bass fishing community a lot more in recent years.
So, what is Solunar Theory, and can you learn how to fish for bass more effectively with it? Let’s find out!
What is Solunar Theory? A General Overview
Solunar Theory was first officially developed in 1926 by the avid sportsman and respected author John Alden Knight. However, it has undocumented roots that go back much further, and it’s well-known that fishermen and hunters were using the core concepts of Solunar Theory long before John presented it via publication.
In the simplest terms, Solunar Theory presents the idea that fish and other animals alter their movements and activities according to the positioning of the moon. During certain periods, which we’ll be calling Solunar periods from here on out, it’s theorized that fish become extremely active for a time and are much more vulnerable to the efforts of a skilled fisherman. In other words, it’s easier to catch big bass during certain periods in any 24-hour cycle.
How Solunar Theory Helps You Land Big Bass
Bass isn’t necessarily difficult to catch. They can be caught day or night, rain or shine, and on a huge variety of lures and baits. So, Solunar Theory isn’t necessary for simply catching bass. You just need a bit of practice and patience.
However, for the professional bass fisherman, for the fisherman who aims to break state records and constantly catch a new personal best, optimization is key. Solunar Theory is all about optimizing your fishing strategy to not just catch a couple of bass on your day off, but to catch impressive bass in impressive numbers consistently.
What to Expect from Solunar Fishing
Now that you have a general idea of what Solunar Theory is and what it does, let’s get specific about what you can expect while implementing it into your fishing strategy.
1: More Bites
The entire premise of Solunar Theory is that, during Solunar periods, the fish are more active in general. In practice, this means you should expect to see exponentially more bites than you would by randomly heading out to the water at any given time of day.
2: Bigger Bass
Not every bite you get will be a giant lunker. You can expect to get plenty of bites from small to mid-sized bass during these periods. However, the more bites you get, the more likely you’ll see a record-breaking bass during your fishing trip. After all, they’ll be a lot more active during these periods, too.
3: Heartier Fights
Bass are known for their ability to put up a good fight. That’s why so many sportsmen target them specifically. However, they’re still prone to being lethargic during inactive periods. Luckily, the heightened activity they see during Solunar periods means they’re flared up and ready to go. Expect to see a lot of their trademark leaps and gill flares if you hook them at the right time.
Before You Get Started: How to Fish for Bass with Solunar Theory
Implementing Solunar Theory into your bass fishing strategy isn’t much different than how you fish for bass normally. However, there are a few adjustments you should make to get the most out of the high-activity Solunar periods.
1: Bring Your Heavier Gear
Sure, on a quiet Sunday, when you’re just trying to toss a few lures around, you can get away with a medium rod and lighter equipment. You’ll have fun bringing in smaller bass, and letting a big one snap your line won’t be too big of a deal.
When it comes to fishing during more active periods, you want to have your best gear at the ready. Grab your baitcaster, medium-heavy rod, your finest line, and the lures you trust the most; you’ll need them to take full advantage of the rapid-fire bites you’ll get.
2: Fish in a Pair
If you time it right and a bunch of bass on your line back-to-back, you’re going to want a fishing buddy or two. Sure, you can lip the smaller bass and get them in your live well pretty quickly, but when a big lunker nabs your bait and puts your fishing skills to the test, you’re not going to want to lift it out of the water with the sheer force of your rod. Few things suck as much as your line snapping or a big bass flopping loose just inches from the bank or your boat.
A buddy and a nearby landing net can ensure that you get that trophy-worthy bass to safety with as little risk as possible.
Besides that, having a buddy means there will always be a friendly rod in the water; even when you’re busy completing a catch.
3: Get Your Timing Right
You’ll hear more about this soon, but timing is extremely important when you use the Solunar Theory. Solunar periods are typically only a few hours long, and if you misread a chart, miss your start time, or waste time setting up your equipment lake-side, you may only get a mere hour of action, or you might miss it entirely. Then, you’re stuck waiting for the next period.
Identifying Solunar Periods: Using the Solunar Theory Effectively
To fish during Solunar periods, you obviously have to know when those periods are going to occur. This can be a bit tricky, but there are a few pointers to help you out, and the Solunar periods have been thoroughly charted if you know where to look.
Major and Minor Solunar Periods
First, you have to know that there are four Solunar periods every day. These are separated into two major periods or the longest periods of the day, and two minor periods that are roughly half as long.
One of the major Solunar periods is extremely easy to spot if you’re a night fisherman. Just look up to the sky, and if the moon is directly overhead, you’re roughly at the peak of the second major Solunar period of the day. The other is when the moon is exactly at the opposite pole, but it’s a bit difficult to visually identify that one, and it’s not as easy as saying “noon”. Being an hour off can cost you quite a bit of peak fishing time.
The other two periods are minor periods. They last roughly 1.5 to 2 hours, and they typically occur halfway between each major period. These are quick opportunities to bag a lot of active fish, but they disappear just as quickly as they start.
If you can consistently tell what time the moon is directly over your preferred body of water, you can get a rough guess for when the different periods will take place. However, this is highly inaccurate. You may end up wasting hours during inefficient times, miss a Solunar period entirely, or get started halfway through a period just to wonder why the fish “randomly” stop biting.
On top of this, the exact start and finish of each period change dramatically with each day of the month. This makes them even more unpredictable.
Use a Chart
So, since you can’t rely on common sense and guesswork to provide optimal results, how do you know when to start fishing? Well, you’re in luck. Since 1926, Solunar periods have been officially recorded and compiled into a historic chart. By looking at the patterns in Solunar periods over several decades, Solunar Theory experts can more or less determine exactly when periods will start for specific locations on any given day. Think of it as a “Farmer’s Almanac” for fishing and Solunar periods.
Conveniently enough, these charts are available in several formats. However, the most user-friendly way is to simply download a Solunar chart app that has information regarding your area or to check online for other accurate sources. They’re fairly common nowadays, and you’re just a Google search away from dozens of relevant results.
When using a chart, keep in mind that times are based on coordinates. Some will name the location for ease-of-use purposes, but you should still make sure you’re looking at predictions for the right location.
Also, make sure you’re looking at up-to-date charts that match the day you plan on fishing. As mentioned, the exact times change on a day-to-day basis.
Solunar Theory and the Tides
Contrary to what you may believe, the fish don’t peek out of the water’s surface and check the moon before they become active. They get more active with the moon’s movements because of its effects on the tides. This is key to both your fishing strategy and telling when there’s a Solunar period manually.
How It Tips You Off to A Solunar Period
The moon’s gravitational pull is what changes the tides in our oceans, rivers, lakes, and ponds. This is what triggers the heightened activity of fish, and it’s fairly noticeable with nothing more than your own two eyes.
The major Solunar periods occur during the two main high and low tides of the day. Fishing during these periods is a good way to manually sense the Solunar period, and it’s how many of your ancestors timed their fishing adventures long before John Alden studied it officially.
By paying attention to the high and low tides, you can time your fishing adventures without looking at charts. However, it’s still less accurate than putting in the research time, because the tides do take time to show noticeable differences, and you can experience many of the same issues you experience when you guess.
How It Affects Fishing
As you now know, the Solunar Theory is largely based on the moon’s effect on tides. Well, those tidal changes don’t just change how active fish are. They also change how fish behave, where they are, and how you should fish for them. For beginners, this isn’t overly important, and you can pull in a few stragglers here and there, but if you’re trying to optimize your fishing practice, this is something to know about.
As the water’s depth changes and fluctuates, bass will sit higher or lower in the water column. They’ll also move to where schooling fish is to feed efficiently. This greatly affects the way you work your lures because if you go too deep, you’ll skip your lure under the bass you’re targeting. If you work it too high, you’ll bounce it over its head with little effect.
Typically, you’ll want to stay towards the shallow waters near structures and cover, and you’ll want to stay around the middle of the water column. In general, this is where you’ll find bass during Solunar periods when they’re feeding. You won’t get too far by casting your lure to the middle of a lake and reeling it straight in.
Things to Look Out for:
If you’re specifically fishing via the Solunar Theory, there are a few things to look out for, and here are a few tips if you’re just now learning how to fish for bass, too.
1: The Fish are Active
Bass isn’t easy catches. They can thrash, leap out of the water, and wriggle a lure free with ease. In short, they’re aggressive. You’ll learn to counter these trademark moves in time, but they’re more likely during Solunar periods, and you should expect to get caught off guard.
2: The Water Column
Earlier on, you read about how the water column is affected. The general tip provided would have you holding at one spot, but you need to take water temperature and features into account, too. In colder water, bass tends to suspend a lot more, and they’re lethargic regardless of the Solunar period. It could take a slower, more perfect lure placement to attract them.
3: Lure Choice
Per usual, bass doesn’t always strike the same lure; even in a Solunar period. If you’re having trouble attracting them, cycle through your lures and see what they’re trying to hit.
Practice, Practice, Practice
You’re not going to do great on your first trip. It’s plain and simple. You’ll need to learn how to work the water column, choose the right lures, and perfectly pinpoint the Solunar period. That comes with practice. Don’t worry, though. A bit of commitment will go a long way, and in no time, you’ll be hauling in lunker after lunker with ease.
Unknown Author, Retrieved from Hunting and Fishing Times, 2020, About The Solunar Theory: https://i-solunar.com/solunar-theory
John Forbes 2020, Retrieved from Coastal Fishing, Solunar Theory: Fact or Fiction, https://www.coastalfishing.com/blogs/saltwater-fishing-101/solunar-theory-fact-or-fiction/