Watching the river’s current flow is the key to river fishing for bass on nearly any system in the country.
Most anglers hone their skills on lakes, so it might take some retraining when they have to fish for river bass. The most important lesson in adapting to river fishing is discerning the differences between a lake and river.
It’s easier to find bass on a river than it is on a big lake, because the current and the river level dictate where the fish are. The current’s intensity determines which areas of the river you should fish. If the current on the main river is too strong, concentrate on backwater areas where the flow is reduced. But try to avoid dead-water areas where there is no current.
When fishing backwaters, look for something different along the bank that will attract bass. Prime examples include sparse rocks lying along a mud bank, a water fall or a partially submerged drain pipe. These areas usually hold concentrations of bass.
If the current on the river is weak, try the main channel, because baitfish will move into the river followed by schooling bass.
River and lake bass do about the same thing when water levels rise and fall. When rivers and lakes are on the rise, bass move to the shallows and spread out in newly flooded cover, which makes them difficult to find. Falling water levels on both rivers and lakes make it easier to locate bass because the fish congregate more along structure (points, ledges, flats) near the deepest water available.
The type of cover to fish for river bass depends on the season. In the spring, you should target stumps and timber in the backwaters and search for clear water because bass spawn in the clearest water available. Key on aquatic vegetation in the summer and rocks or dock pilings in the fall. Other cover that holds river bass include wing dikes on the main channel and riprap banks in marina harbors.
Whether you fish backwaters or the main river, keep running your lures less than 5 feet deep, especially on the large river systems where the water is usually turbid. When fishing backwaters, if your trolling motor isn’t churning bottom, you might be fishing too deep. Even on the main river where the channel runs to depths of 40 feet, bass will suspend around pilings 1 to 2 feet deep.
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