We have had more rain this summer than I can ever remember. Water levels on Central Florida lakes are higher than I have ever seen them. The vegetation growth is abundant in most lakes. These factors can push the bass literally anywhere. When the conditions get like this, I like to push back to find the bite.
There is cover everywhere. When the water gets high like it is now, bass have the luxury to hide in the offshore vegetation or they can be in the shallow areas where they have not seen water in a while.
Especially in the early hours of the day, I try to push back toward the shorelines as far as I can get and then make long casts. I’ll actually throw the lure up on the shoreline so I can retrieve it across certain areas where I think a bass might be laid up. You can’t do that with every lure, but anything weedless can be fished this way.
When water levels get high, the baitfish will often push back into those weedy shallows as well. Naturally, the bass will follow their food supply. Where the bait goes, the bass must follow. In my last tournament, I had strikes deeper back in cover than I’ve had in a long time.
In these conditions, a popping frog or some sort of hollow-bodied floating bait can become your best friend in bass fishing. These lures are completely weedless, and the frog is probably the most natural bait in this type of water. You also may be shocked to see just how shallow those bass can get early in the day. The first two hours of daylight are a great time to concentrate on pushing back into this new water and exploring those areas.
The frog gives you the chance to do that because it doesn’t get hung up on anything. If the frog doesn’t work, I would switch up to a fluke. That darting action in shallow water is a great replica of those small baitfish that zip around in the tighter cover.
I’ll throw this nugget of wisdom at you: Always use heavy braided line in these conditions. When water levels get higher, it will cover up hang-ups that you may not be aware of. If you get a bite and set the hook, the fish often lead you through and around things that will break your line. For that reason alone, you need to use a braided line.
The other advantage to fishing a frog on braided line is that the line itself floats. This keeps the action of the frog much more realistic. Mono line sinks and changes the point of action from level with the nose of the frog to below it. This will have an negative impact on how your bait reacts.
I have a tournament coming up in a week. I have two different floating baits tied on and I’m ready to exploit this tactic. Fortunately, I have located a small tributary that (thanks to the already high water, plus rains from Hurricane Dorian) will create a good flow. I expect to see the bass pushed back up into the entry of this small tributary. If I’m right, I can ignore the tough conditions on the lake and focus on a small area of concentrated fish where I can get some bites.
I have noticed throughout this summer that bass are harder to catch when the water is high. They’re not as easy to locate because they simply have more places to hide. But if you can get out early and try fishing in the way-back areas, you may find success.
That’s what I hope to do. I’ve been targeting grasslines that look awesome, and in normal conditions would probably be the right places to catch bass. So far, though, I have struggled to find fish. Now it’s time to push back. I’d be willing to bet the rent check that you’ll be able to find a few bass when some of your other areas aren’t producing.
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.