When you’re bass fishing, one thing is certain: If there is any moving water on the lake, that is a good thing and needs to be investigated. Whether it’s a lock system producing current or something as simple as a drain funneling water from neighborhood ditches to the lake, these places will hold bass.
I remember one instance where we were fishing on the Kissimmee chain of lakes. I was in one of the canals that connect the lakes together and I saw a drain pipe about six inches above the water’s surface. A modest flow was coming out out from a field or runoff area on the opposite side of the canal wall.
I made a cast with a Texas rigged worm and hooked up immediately. Over the next 30 minutes, I caught a limit of bass without moving. It goes to show you that no matter how small the water movement may be, it can and often will hold bass.
On the main lakes near heavy water flow, look to see if you can find a ledge for the fish to hide around or vegetation they can park behind. Places like this provide great cover and ambush spots for feeding bass. When the water moves, that is like ringing the dinner bell. They know that food will be coming to them and they won’t have to go and find it themselves. Bass will take an easy meal any time they can get one.
Once you find the ideal spots, there are two keys to actually catching fish. First, you need a bait that will catch them in that moving water. The cover where they are ambushing their prey will play a large role in what you can use.
If you’re using a plastic worm, you need to pay special attention to the size of your weight. I always opt for a plastic worm in the eight to 10 inch size with a weight that makes the bait look real. The faster the water moves, the heavier the weight is that I use. This keeps the bait from simply drifting down with the current at or near the surface.
It’s also important to make sure that you keep it pegged close to the bait. If the weight can slide on the line, your bait will disassociate from the weight and you may not feel the strike right away. That will cause you to miss a lot of fish.
When fishing a ledge, I skip the worm and go to a big crankbait. Find one you can get down close to the bottom without dragging it through the mud. The right depth is key. You’ll get your bites when the bait comes over the ledge, where the bass can sit out of the stronger current. They expect to see food going over their heads, not plowing down on top of them.
The second big issue is boat positioning. Being able to cast up into the current so you can bring your bait back down with the water flow is huge. If you can’t get your bait to the bass or it’s not moving with the current, it won’t matter what you are casting out there. The boat has to be positioned so your presentation stays in front of the ambush sites as long as possible.
Keep in mind, when the water is moving, your bait will be coming back at you in a short amount of time. You need to make really long casts and get that bait down to the bass as quick as you can. If you can put your Power-Pole down to help hold you in place, great. You can hold yourself in place with your trolling motor. If you don’t have either on your boat, go old-school: Simply ease an anchor into the water (quietly!) and let that keep you in place.
This is the time of year where most systems that can flow will be doing so. Tropical weather systems can bring a lot of rain very quickly, and managers want to avoid water levels getting too high. So they dump water from the lakes into the river systems, to remove some of that water prior to the rains or hurricanes getting there.
As I write this, they are moving water out of the Kissimmee chain of lakes and Lake Okeechobee. Hurricanes are forming in the Atlantic — not necessarily a threat to Florida at this time, but if they turn closer to us, we could get a soaking. Okeechobee water managers release lake water on a somewhat regular basis in times of a drought to supply the farming water for crops down around the south edges of the lake.
Moving water can produce a lot of bass, and often some giants too. Once you understand the nuances of catching them during these conditions, you will have found a pattern you can rely on every time it occurs.
Greg Bartz is a tournament bass fisherman based in Lakeland. Greg fishes lakes throughout Florida’s Heartland and enjoys RV travel around the Southeast with his wife and tournament partner, Missy. Contact him at Greg.Bartz@SummitHoldings.com.