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Falling-Water Fishing…When Fish Aren’t Shallow-Minded

Posted: December 5th, 2012 by Bill Dance

On many of the reservoirs in my region, the Southeast, our larger reservoirs are drawn down to “winter pool.” So places fished in spring and summer are left in that famed “high-and-dry” status. Of course, it makes for an excellent time for folks to venture out and create manmade fishing habitat like brush piles and stake beds which they can return to and fish when the water rises. Some fishing clubs and organizations even get together on larger reservoirs and annually distribute/recycle the year’s used Christmas trees as fishing habitat.

All this falling-water talk reminds me of a question fellow fishermen often ask, and that’s: What is the best tactic to fishing rapidly-falling water in manmade reservoirs?

My answer often follows this (fishing) line of thought: You are going to have to make a move from where you were fishing prior to when the water started falling. This is because the fish certainly will — move that is.

Falling water is a signal to the fish to move off the banks and into deeper water. A slow fall may put them back to the first shelf, or drop-off. However, if the water level drops quickly, the fish have a tendency to move even deeper than normal until a stabilizing condition is reached.

The bottom line? You are most likely to have to pull back and fish deep, with baits that can get down to the bass’s level. Of course, there’s a wide variety of lures that can do that? Use your favorite.

Overall, the big fall means you are more apt to be hunting than fishing. You will have to move to follow/find the fish, and it can be tough, because the fish are in somewhat of a panic mode.

As is always the case, however, there is an exception to the tough-bite on falling water rule. This exception takes place on riverbed lakes (for example, the riverbed lakes of the Mississippi River, near my home), where fish usually strike better on falling water.

Exception aside, when the water falls you have to know where deep water is in your favorite lake. This is where a good contour map and/or quality electronics all come into play.

Finding the depth the fish are holding will also help you determine what lure is best for catching them.

It is easy enough to learn the general pattern for the manmade reservoir near you. Once you know the ground rules, simply apply them to help you find the fish.

But one more thing, you might also want to note that open water fish (those that spend much, if not all of their lives in deeper water) are less affected by sudden falls in water level. (They are also less affected by weather changes.) So it also pays to know how to fish for bass away from the banks, in the wide open spaces — for those times when conditions send the shallow fish deep.

As always, catch one for me!

Bill Dance



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