By Mark O’Connor

I’ll admit that for many years I was skeptical of the so-called “moon tables.” I couldn’t fathom how a ball of rocks and dust some 250,000 miles away could possibly influence my beloved bass & or anything on Earth for that matter. But a lot of other anglers seemed to be using them, so I thought I’d give one an honest try.

It said the four good times of any given day were when the moon was overhead, underfoot, and on the eastern and western horizons. I used it religiously for one solid year. Did it knock my Nikes off? No. Did it improve my catch rate? I have to admit it did … a little.

My interest piqued, I Googled for more information on the moon’s influence. I found a lot of tables — all following the same, basic format (yet not always agreeing on the best times). And I was disappointed that none backed up their predictions with any degree of supporting evidence or credibility. Then I came across the AstroTables on and in Bassmaster Magazine and a site called Rick Taylor’s PrimeTimes.

Now there was a familiar name. Rick is a nationally-known outdoor journalist, who has been researching and writing about bass fishing for over 30 years. He even has his own research facility where he can observe bass behavior in their natural setting from his office window. I had read many of his feature stories in Bassmaster Magazine, plus he does the Astro Tables that appear there (and here online) monthly.

This Web site has a lot of good information, including samples, comparisons, testimonials, and straight talk about the moon’s role in fish and game activity periods. Plus Taylor offers far more than a simple digital print-out of the moon’s daily positions. His products include a graphic wall calendar (which comes with a free pocket calendar), a book explaining just about everything you would want to know on the subject, and some PC software that does it all for you. What especially caught my attention was Taylor’s warning that if I was using a basic moon table, I was missing at least 50 percent of the best times to be fishing.

I ordered everything. I read his book cover-to-cover and followed the calendar’s and software’s predictions to the letter. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you my catch rate that next year more than doubled.

Solar power

What makes the PrimeTimes system so unique is that it is a true Solar-Lunar table, consulting both the sun and moon in determining when to go. The typical moon table — often referred to as a “solunar table” — may suggest it incorporates the sun in its daily periods, but it usually does so in name only.

Taylor believes the key solar periods each day are generally more important than the lunar periods. Dawn, for example, marks the beginning of the day’s activity for the vast majority of fish and game. There is no greater and more predictable stimulus than the blackness of night suddenly turning into the brightness of day.

Then at dusk the opposite day-to-night transition can spur activity in anticipation of the failing visibility.

The other key solar period is high noon, which many anglers overlook completely. Besides being mid-way between dawn and dusk (lunch time), it’s when the sun’s light and heat energy penetrate the deepest into water. This can spark plankton blooms at the medium to lower depths, which induces baitfish to move and feed, and in turn can stimulate gamefish. Taylor says high noon also sees the sun’s strongest electromagnetic energy, which theoretically is the same force coming down from the moon. This makes the sun’s underfoot position at “mid-night” also a viable period under certain conditions.

The Solar/Lunar tandem

Still, even these potent solar cycles have their ups and downs. For no apparent reason, the fish suddenly stop biting at the usual times, and we are at a loss to figure out why.

Enter the moon.

As Taylor puts in an article on his site (Click here to read the article in its entirety):

It’s almost like a tug-of-war between these two celestial objects. On the one side we have the sun, urging fish and game to follow its dawn-to-dusk-to-dawn cycle and the changes in temperatures, winds, and light levels it causes. On the other side is the maverick moon, coming overhead 50 minutes later each day, sending down enough mysterious energy to coax many species off their solar routines and onto a more erratic one. It’s hard to say if the bass are confused. A lot of people are.But underneath this apparent discord lies predictable patterns to the moon and sun’s influence. In fact, there are times when the two sing together in almost perfect harmony to produce potentially strong fish-feeding periods. Not everyone knows about these and even fewer look for them. You would need an accurate moon table, because the lunar element in the equation is never constant from one day to the next. And you would need an accurate solar table.

Taylor’s PrimeTimes fills that bill. Click here to see how a lunar period overlapping a solar period produces those double-whammy periods

Are there similar systems out there?

If Taylor’s system is so good, why haven’t other tables followed suit? “Anybody can produce a basic moon table in just a few hours,” Taylor replied. “But doing a true solar-lunar forecaster is very complicated and time consuming. I spend over three months (about 700 man hours) making just the Wall Calendar each year. I analyze each solar and lunar period down to the minute, then literally draw each peak and valley by hand — well, with a mouse and Photoshop.”

Before he can do any of these graphics, however, he uses a couple of computer programs with secret formulas he devised to tweak the raw data he gets from the U.S. Naval Observatory, then adjusts the data even further inside a database. This takes about a month. Each year’s software takes two months to update.

A final tip

I asked Rick what he would most want bass fishermen to know about his forecasts. “Keep the solar-lunar influence in perspective,” he replied. “It is a factor, but hardly the only factor. I cringe when a customer tells me he won’t go unless PrimeTimes says it’s a good time. Unless he’s using my software, I suspect he’s missing some good bites. You always have to consider the weather, water conditions, seasonal patterns … just to name a few. ”

Does PrimeTimes guarantee results? “Give my wall calendar an honest try for one full year (it’s even better to use my software, because it adjusts for your current weather and water conditions, plus your specific quarry). During this year, trust it implicitly. If the forecast is good and you’re not catching anything, try blaming something else, like not being on the fish or using the wrong technique. Maybe your bass filled up on shad 15 minutes before you got there. Maybe another angler got to them first. There are any number of variables you can’t possibly know.

“But one thing you can know is that my forecasters are showing the relative amounts of the various solar and lunar energies influencing the bass at any given moment. And this energy is not diminished one iota by cloud cover, water clarity, hurricanes… anything. Unlike so many other factors, this one is very predictable.

“If you use PrimeTimes faithfully and fish accordingly, you will catch more bass and bigger bass.”

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