Bass Fishing In the Current
Locating and landing bass in current can test the skills of even the most experienced angler. Of course wherever you happen to pull up your boat and drop a line in, there will be some level of current, providing there is wind present. The current I am referring to, however, is heavy river or stream current. Thus, this article is entitled "River Bass Fishing Tips." Coming from the perspective of an experienced angler, fishing ponds and lakes almost exclusively for the beginning years of my angling life; landing bass, or any fish for that matter in current is a whole new realm of fishing. River bass are of a different breed than those that are found in lakes and ponds, they are often thinner from battling current, which also lends to them putting up a more intense fight. Well, we wouldn't want to get bored would we? Now, let us dive into the realm of bass fishing in current.
As with bass fishing anywhere, the first tip that I will give you, or anyone with a brain in their head will give you is this, "Locate the fish." This seems like an obvious first step, but of course it is crucial to our fishing success, because If we are not locating fish... well we may as well stay home and cast in our swimming pools and sip margaritas. So we know that Largemouth as well as Smallmouth bass like to find structure that they can relate to. This can be a tree down in the water, a really big rock, or any part of their environment that is unique to the rest. In rivers this holds true as well but with a twist. In lakes and ponds bass can easily locate structure and hold to it without any problems. In a river or stream, however current comes in to play, and that nice big rock out in the middle becomes a swirling whirlpool of current that would cause more energy exertion that it could possibly be worth. So, this being said, largemouth and smallmouth bass alike, want to stay the hell out of the current!
So that leaves us with a pretty simple answer to the question "Where can I find bass in a river?" Search for weaknesses in the river's current and fish them, find current breaks. An example of a current break is a huge rock up against the shoreline, the water will flow around the rock creating a sort of still pocket of water right behind it. Hanging in this pocket will keep bass out of the current, as well as give them a good view of what is floating by so they can ambush a tasty dinner. This is much like a largemouth bass hanging on the edge of a weedline, ready to ambush when the time is right. Apart from current breaks search for backwaters. Backwaters are the holy grail of river bass fishing, and the best thing about them is that you can just fish them using the tactics that you are familiar with for pond and lake fishing.
A backwater is a section of a river that is out of the main current, forming a sort of small lake, or arm reaching away from the river. The picture at the beginning of this article is one of my favorite backwaters to fish. The third and final river location that I have a lot of luck with, is when a stream or river flows into another stream or river. The two currents collide creating an area where they cancel each other out and make another great spot for bass to hold and ambush any prey that may swim or float by.
For the three locations mentioned above a few prominent techniques can be used to pull largemouth and smallmouth bass out of the current. First we must understand how a bass will normally feed in a river or stream environment. This involves what it will feed on, and where its prey will most likely be.
First off we know that bass feed primarily on insects, bait fish, and crayfish in rivers and streams. So, like the smart anglers that we all are, we will chose a lure that will mimic one of these. Use a small crank bait to mimic a minnow swimming in the current, a jig to play the part of a crayfish, and if you are a fly fisherman tie on the fly that best matches the hatch for that time of year. With this we must also understand how these food sources also act in current. An insect, well... can't exactly swim, so you fly fishermen, let your fly float past the spots we talked about above. Minnows, and crayfish, much like the bass, will be battling the current, and will be found in places with less current pressure. Crayfish dart around the bottom in short bursts 6"-12" in length with pauses.
When a crayfish sees a bass approaching it will put its claws up in defense and swim backwards more quickly, so we must mimic this movement with our jig. Also, rigging a trailer that will give the profile of two claws is always a good addition. I find the Gary Yamamoto Hula Grub to fit the bill quite well. When fishing a crank bait in the current, know that a bass will rarely strike a lure that you are swimming against the current. This is because this is an unnatural occurrence. You will never see a little minnow in the middle battling the full force of the current, so don't make your lure do it! When using crankbaits fish cross-current patterns, this will leave the bait in the strike zone long enough for the bass to strike, and give a more realistic presentation.
Well, now that you know where to locate largemouth and smallmouth bass in rivers and streams, and how to lure them out, get out there and do it! The most wonderful thing about bass fishing in a river is the diversity of species you will find in a river. Here in New England you could be bass fishing on the Connecticut river and just happen to pull out a 40" pike, you just never know. While bass fishing on the Connecticut river, using exclusively bass tackle I have pulled in a handful of rock bass, roanoke bass, walleye, perch, rainbow trout, and salmon. Its always a pleasant surprise to get something for free that you weren't expecting. Take these river bass fishing tips with you next time your out on the water.
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