Starting-Point Tips for High Water Bassin'
Future Forecast: Rain, and more rain. There are a handful of states – Texas and Oklahoma being the two hit hardest – that are getting more than their fair share of rain. So much rain that creeks, rivers ponds and lakes have had about all they can handle. Many lakes in Texas and Oklahoma are getting close to their maximum flood control pools ... some have already surpassed their limit, such as Eufaula Lake near McAlester, Okla.
Obviously, there are areas that have received dangerous amounts of rain, and I certainly don’t want to trivialize that. There are families losing loved ones and personal property due to the flooding events, and my heart pours out to them.
In other areas of country where the rains have been a little above normal, water levels have risen to slightly above normal pool. How does an angler deal with this type of situation? When the water is rising quickly, how does an angler begin to locate bass for a good day on the water, or have a chance at a check in a tournament?
In my experience, I turn to things I’ve learned while working with the pros. People that make a living at casting for bass have had to deal with just about every possible situation on a lake. To make sure they continue to make a living at their “dream job,”, they have to find a way to catch fish, regardless of the situation.
I was recently at a Toyota/Quantum media event on Toledo Bend reservoir. It was the weekend after the Bassmaster Elite Series fished their first event of the 2015 season on the Sabine River. The area had received torrential rains for several days and most of the waterways were flooded outside of their normal banks.
I spent fishing sessions with two anglers that gave me some new perspectives on how to deal with high water conditions.
Bassmaster Classic champion Casey Ashley has a public reputation, fishing wise, for excelling offshore, but his first love is to get into the shallow cover and slug it out.
During our fishing outing, he went to a creek and noticed the high water. He immediately began looking for areas he could get to the bank.
“I think bass want to relate to the bank first during the spawn through the early post spawn,” Ashley said. “I like to try and find a place that I can reach the bank with a flip and target the first piece of cover from where the water reaches the land.”
Bass fishing legend Gary Klein has spent a lifetime in the shallows. The Weatherford, Texas, pro – originally from Oroville, California – learned the flippin’ trade from the man who invented it, Dee Thomas. Klein has learned how to locate fish in every situation, and high water is no different.
Klein said that he tends to look for areas that offer isolated hard cover for bass to relate to when they are coming and going from spawning areas.
“I look for high spots that are usually out of the water,” Klein said. “When the water rises and stays high, then the bass can set up and live, spawn or feed for weeks at a time.”“(In these areas) I present jigs and or heavier Texas rigs to the trunks of the brush, because bass will relate to any piece of hard cover when the water gets high.”
Another thing I learned was what anglers need to do to actually get to the bass. That lesson came from Gene Eisenman, the owner of HydroWave and Amphibia Eyewear and competitor in Bassmaster Opens and FLW Rayovac events. At a recent Rayovac Series event on Sam Rayburn in Texas, Eisenmann told me how they had to reach the fish.
“I had to sit back, look at the trees and see where I could push through,” Eisenmann said. “Then, I would put my trolling motor on high and aim to that spot and push through the trees, so that I could get to where the fish were beyond that tree line.”
In all of these instances, the point is to look at where the fish should be and do what you have to do to get there. Fish tend to relate to hard objects like docks, trees and heavy brush when the water is rising or falling. I’ve covered tournaments where anglers were fishing the picnic tables in flooded campgrounds that were normally several feet from the water’s edge.
When the water is rising, bass will tend to locate at the furthest point back. When the water is falling, they will tend to relocate on outer edges of cover, especially where bushes and trees come to a point.
During these times of high water, make mental note of these pro tips and give yourself a chance for a fun relaxing day on the water, or a chance to cash a big tournament check.
Editor’s Note: When fishing trees and bushes, in high water, pay close attention to the type of tree or bush near where fish are caught. If a pattern starts to surface, you will on the brink of finding the coveted “pattern within a pattern.” Pinpointing this pattern will allow you to quickly and effectively eliminate less productive or dead water.