Prime Times: How to Know When to Go


After years away from fishing, I jumped back in the water in 1992. I caught my first smallmouth bass in 1994 and by 1998 smallies were my fish of choice to catch and release. Always looking for that advantage with my smallie efforts, it was in 2000 that I first started paying attention to Rick Taylor’s Astro Tables in Bassmasters Magazine. I didn’t know the science behind the tables, but I thought I’d give them a try. The tables show the Best Days of each month rated 1-100 with two primary feeding periods based on the moon being overhead or underfoot. Well, overall my numbers increased on those higher rated days and at times I remember a noticeable uptick in activity during those primary periods. The Astro Tables had my attention. It wasn’t until 2004 that I ordered my first Prime Times Wall Calendar and Astro Table Pocket Calendar from Taylor and Prime Times.

Prime Times for Fishing:  How to Know When to Go

Back then I was still working and decided if I was going to pick a vacation week to fish, I’d consult the pocket calendar, which is simply a twelve-month version of what’s printed in Bassmasters Magazine. It seemed If one week in May was highly rated and another was not, I’d pick the higher rated week, knowing that if all other factors were the same, the smallies would be more active. Using the Astro Tables helped me make better use of my time on the water. Do I only fish on days rated 50 and higher? No, but over the past 20 years 75 to 80 percent of my days on the water are when the Prime Times Astro Tables show a day rated 50 or higher. Even though I don’t have to pick vacation days any more, when I receive my Prime Times Astro Tables pocket calendar for the coming year, I note the days I hope to be on the water the coming year based on a daily rating of 50 or above. So, for 2020, I’ve already identified almost 100 days I hope to be on the water fishing, weather permitting.

If you’ve had a chance to come to one of my talks or read one of my smallie articles, you know that I try to get to what works quickly and try to keep it simple. I pick waters that should hold smallies, use presentations that are proven and adding the information in the Astro Tables makes my time on the water more productive and more fun. Since that May day in 1994 when I caught and released my first smallmouth bass, I have caught and released just under 23,500. A key tool in my tackle box has been Prime Times Astro Tables. I have dozens of stories of highly rated days and truly outstanding results. May 15, 2018 was one of those days, rated at a 91, with one of the two primary feeding periods from Noon to 3:00 p.m. It was a sunny day with moderate winds, so no negative factors with the weather and up in Sturgeon Bay, WI, 7 hours on the water produced 50 smallies with 20 from 4 to 6.25 pounds and many over 3 pounds. But, could I have done even better? Yes, and keep reading to find out how.

Several years ago, Taylor strongly suggested I learn and spend more time with the Prime Times Wall Calendar than the Astro Tables. I’ve been a lazy and have not. Now, having read his book, How to Know When to Go: The Art and Science of Predicting the Best Times to Fish and Hunt, having the Ultimate Prime Times Software on my computer and interviewed him, it’s time for me to finally learn how to utilize “all” the Prime Times tools. I can’t wait for the 2020 season to begin. You see, Taylor’s Astro Tables are good, but only a little better than other basic moon tables out there. What I now know, wish I would have taken Taylor’s advice years ago, is that his Wall Calendar and Ultmate Software incorporate another force of Mother Nature that may be even more important than the moon!

Now let’s go straight to the “guru” himself, Rick Taylor, and learn why his Prime Times products take predicting when to go fishing or hunting to a scientific level far beyond any other tables.

Bill: I guess most people feel the moon is the key factor in predicting when to go. So, is this accurate or not?

Rick: There seems to be a misconception of the Moon’s role in when fish and game become active. Part of the problem stems from the moon table itself, which, quite frankly, may not be as accurate, complete, or honest as it could be. Whether by accident of design, it can imply that the moon is the end-all-be-all when to go. Just calling the moon’s overhead position “major” strongly suggests it is to be considered the best time to go that day, regardless of what other influences may exist.

Bill: What are those other influences you just mentioned?

Rick: Some are more difficult to predict, like the fish’s current state of health, appetite, or mindset. Others like weather or high water, can’t be predicted by the calendar, but can be factored in when the time comes.

Bill: In reading your book, you talk about another factor that may be even more important than the moon and what I alluded to as possibly the more important force of Mother Nature when predicting when to go?

Prime Times for Fishing:  How to Know When to Go

Rick: Yes, there’s one other element that is not only just as predictable as the moon, it often has more to do with when fish and game become active than anything. Yet, despite this importance, you won’t find it receiving any more than lip service in any moon table. Some of the more experienced anglers have been keying on major solar periods since before Patton was a private. You’ve learned that one of the best times to go bass fishing in July, for example, is during that dawn period, when the overheated shallows are at their coolest and the fish are being stimulated by darkness suddenly turning into light. During cold months you know that the high-noon to dusk period is often the best because now the chilly shallows are at their warmest of the day. There is just no denying that dawn starts the bio-engine of most life on earth each day, and dusk shuts it down. Even in the case of nocturnal creatures, these two events provide the primary starting and stopping points.

Bill: About five years ago you strongly suggested that I pay more attention to your Wall Calendar, which factors in the all-important solar influence. What else can you tell me?

Rick: There’s the high-noon period, when the sun is at its most direct position overhead. Besides being a half-way point between dawn and dusk, it’s also when the sun’s light and heat energy suddenly penetrate very deeply into the 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 to do the same thing. Experienced anglers have that this high-noon period is often a good time to fish deeper, and this may be why. 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 midnight also a viable period. Leaving the sun out of the mix is like listening to the Super Bowl on the radio. Something is missing. Still, these solar patterns have their up and downs too. For no apparent reason the fish suddenly stop biting at the prescribed times and out comes our moon table.

Bill: I remember you telling me it’s kind of a tug-of-war between the sun and moon. Can you elaborate?

Rick: On the one side we have the sun urging fish and game to follow the 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 minute later each day, sending down enough mysterious energy to coax many species off their solar routines into a more erratic one. Hard to say if the fish are confused, but a lot of people are.

Bill: Again, after reading your book, it seems good things happen when the sun and moon are close when doing their thing. Can you explain?

Rick: There are times when the sun and moon sing together in almost perfect harmony to produce potentially strong fish-feeding, game moving periods. Not everyone knows about these, and even fewer look at them. You would need a moon table, because the lunar element in the equation is never constant from day to day. On the other hand, these exceptional periods are not highlighted in any moon table, because such a forecaster would have to chart the key solar cycles, as well Yes, some tables use terms like “solunar” implying they do incorporate the sun, but in truth I feel my Prime Times are the only ones that actually do.

Bill: OK Rick, if your Prime Times System is so good, why haven’t those other tables followed?

Rick: Anyone can produce a basic moon table in just a few hours, but doing a true solar-lunar forecaster is very complicated and time consuming. I spend over three months and about 700 hours making just my 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 a good graphics program. I’ve developed a couple computer programs I developed with secret formulas, which allows me to tweak the data I get each year from the U.S. Naval Observatory. This takes about a month and each years software takes two months to update.

Bill: I’ve been using your less detailed Astro Times for almost 20 years. Good, but not as good as your other products. I should have listened when you pushed me to understand the Wall Calendar better. Can you fill me in some more?

Rick: Yes, my Lunar Times that runs in several publications on a monthly basis is just a little better than those basic moon tables. I offer it on my web site,, and to any other site that wishes to carry it, which there are hundreds. Like all the other lesser forecasters, I want to introduce people to the moon’s influence on fish and game. And, after having some success, like you, they may also realize a few million other folks are using the same table and will consider moving up to either the Prime Times Wall Calendar or the Ultimate Prime Times software. This seems to work as I’ve never paid for advertising with Prime Times success spreading mostly by word-of-mouth. My web site gets well over one million hits per year.

Bill: What else can you share?

Rick: I want people to keep the solar-lunar influence in perspective, it’s a factor, but hardly the only factor. I cringe when a customer says they only go when Prime Times says it’s a good time. Unless they are using my software, I think they are missing some good bites. And, you must consider the weather, water conditions, seasonal patterns…just to name a few.

Bill: Any guarantees?

Rick: I only guarantee my forecasts. I tell people to give my wall calendar an honest try for one full year and even better to use my software that adjusts for your current weather and water conditions, plus specific quarry. I ask that you trust the information implicitly. If the forecast is good and you are not doing well, try blaming something else, like not being in the right place. Maybe your quarry recently had a good meal and is now sleeping it off. Maybe someone else got there 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 various solar and lunar energies influencing the earth at any given moment. And tis energy is not diminished one iota by cloud cover, water clarity, storms…anything. Unlike many other factors, this one is very predictable. If you use Prime Times faithfully and act accordingly, you will enjoy better success.

I certainly agree with Taylor’s last sentence, and like me, thousands of others are testament to better success using Rick Taylor’s Prime Times products. Not only is Prime Times the leader in these kind of activity tables, they are the only products offered in both hard copy and with the fun-to-use, highly effective software for windows. Having now read Rick’s book, I am going to become even a better smallie angler in 2020 as I spend more time with the Wall Calendar and the Ultimate Software.

Adding the information from Prime Times products will help you become a more productive angler. Check the products out at or call and you’ll very likely talk to Rick Taylor himself. For the price of a day or two of gas for your boat you can get the package deal with all four products I mention. Not much to make you a much better angler or hunter!