(Editor's note: The following is the latest installment in a series of fishing tips presented by The Bass University. Check back each Friday for a new tip.)
When Bill Lowen finally earned his first Elite Series victory at Pickwick Lake, it was the culmination of a long time on tour combined with lessons he’d learned on his home waters. Every year on the Ohio River he’d seen flooded, muddy conditions, so while others may have been thrown for a loop, he felt like he was right in his element. Over the years, as he’s traveled coast to coast, the veteran pro has developed a simple system for approaching such conditions.
He calls himself a “nuts and bolts fisherman,” so the first thing he does is analyze the waterway he’ll be fishing. Is it a lake, a lake/river system, or a true river system? After that he divides the floods themselves into two types.
The first he calls “The Flush,” which is when there hasn’t been a lot of localized rainfall. The water is coming from a different system, often 50 or 100 miles away. “To me, the flush is the easiest flood type to fish because we have more options,” he explained. That’s because there’s typically more clean water, less absolutely trashed water.
The bass in this scenario will set up on current breaks. As the water rises, they’ll go with it. If it falls, they’ll go with it. “It’s almost like a tidal water,” he said. He said his favorite area in these conditions is the main river when the water first starts coming in. That’s when the bass feed up. After that, he’ll hit pockets off of the main river, trying to find some sort of “stopper” or “hard line” behind the cover that he’s fishing so that the bass cannot get way up into the woods. That’s why at Pickwick he caught his fish off of rocks, laydowns, bluffs and docks.
Lowen calls the second – and “worst” – type of flooded conditions the “Blowout.” It’s when there’s heavy flooding from within the system, with all of the mud and detritus that entails. “It’s going to look like a bomb went off,” he said, adding that it’s a “recipe for disaster.”
New mud is the worst, and makes the bite the toughest, he added. Once it’s been in the system for three or four days, the bass have no choice but to feed, but it takes some time for them to get used to it. In blowout conditions Lowen looks for pockets or bays that are protected from the flow. They’ll generally have less of the trash piled up, and while the water may be dirty or even muddy, it won’t be quite as awful as the less protected areas. The best of these bays typically do not have a feeder creek (or multiple feeder creeks) coming into them.
During this scenario, he’ll often look for drains. While they carry the mud out the soonest, eventually they’re not running mud, but rather clear water. Follow them to where they dead-end and you can catch the motherlode of bass seeking clean water and fresh food.
One other place that Lowen often looks this time of year is marinas, which tend to have lots of vertical cover like rocks, docks and seawalls. He said that even in difficult conditions, the bass still want to move to spawning areas, and in many places they’ll spawn on odd structures like gear cases and trim tabs, aware that they won’t be negatively impacted by fluctuating water.
If you want to learn more about river rat Lowen’s strategies for cold, muddy, rising water, including the baits and colors that he relies upon to outfish the competition, check out his full video, available only by subscribing to The Bass University TV.