I can’t count the number of times I have prepped my fishing gear, packed the camera, and set the alarm for an early start – only to wake the following morning to that familiar sound of rain bucketing down on my roof! This pattern has plagued me for the last month and a half, so finally I thought enough was enough, I’m going fishing anyway! What I was confronted with when I reached my usual Bass haunt was gallons upon gallons of heavily flowing chocolate coloured water! It didn’t look even remotely fishable! With a little patience, perseverance, and a bit of good luck – I finally worked out that not all is lost. You can still get amongst some Bass in flood waters!
Location, Location, Location
Flood water Bass fishing requires abandoning your traditional plans for fishing creeks and rivers, and instead, thinking outside of the box. A good tactic is to find a body of water (eg. a small creek or tributary) that was created by the river when it initially flooded and breached its banks. These small areas, now fed from the larger waterway, are a perfect location to find yourself some prime newly developed fishy real estate.
Heavy flow in these newly created water bodies is common due to the large volumes of water being pushed from the main river, and can pose a bit of a challenge when fishing. Bass generally reside in calm and deep-water pockets. To find these, look for edges and sharp corners as you make your way along the creek. These edges create deep eddies which are segregated from the main flow. Large rocks and log jams will also affect the normal flow of water and provide shelter for tired fish so casting around these are well worth the effort. If there has been a massive continual downpour lasting more than a couple of days, then its best to let it settle for a day or two before fishing. Not only will the area be safer and more fishable, but the fish will be ravenous! To further increase your chances of success – also keep an eye on the barometer. Barometric pressure has been really varied over the past summer due to the La Nina weather patterns, but if you can time a good weather window with a barometric pressure of over 1000hpa – then the bite will be on!
When you’re fishing flood waters you need to be careful. It is not advisable that you embark on a flood water fishing trip solo. Always make sure someone knows exactly where you are going, and what time you will be back. These areas can be unpredictable, and there is often little to no mobile phone reception. Be careful when wading or crossing rivers, especially in heavy flow… It doesn’t take much for you to get swept away and it only takes a small knock to the head on a rock to be in a lot of trouble. It’s not uncommon for the flow of a river to change rapidly, so something that’s quite safe could turn into a whirlpool of danger in minutes. As waters start to subside, the newly formed log jams will also be uncovered and can often lay between you and your fishing spot. These log jams have been formed by the surging water so be very careful when climbing over them. Spiders and snakes will be thick as they too try to escape the floodwaters, so keep your wits about you when moving through the bush to your next pool. My most hated encounters in the bush in this soggy climate are Ticks and Leeches. When the bush is wet these guys are everywhere! Make sure you keep a close eye on any part of your body that is exposed, especially your legs. Leeches are easily spotted and removed with a bit of force if you find them quick enough, but it’s the Ticks that bury themselves in those warm and sheltered areas (eg. Groin or armpit) that can become more dangerous… they often go unnoticed for longer, are buried deeper into the skin, and are therefore harder to find. Ticks are generally smaller than a pill and can really knock you around if not removed immediately. You can find yourself in hospital if the tick is left in for long enough. After every session, I give myself a thorough check from head to toe. Even when removed, parts of the tick can still be lodged in the skin so keep an eye on it and see your doctor if you have any persistent issues.
When you’re fishing heavily coffee coloured water that is full of debris and rubbish, your lure choice really becomes critical to achieve good results. As we know from fishing surface lures in the pitch black of night, Bass have no issue finding their target as long as it’s putting out enough noise to be picked up on their lateral line. My favourite lures for prospecting flood waters are small spinnerbaits, fizzers and vibration baits. Small deep diving hard bodies with large rattle chambers are also perfect to throw when looking for flood water Bass. Brightly coloured lures may or may not help you entice a few more fish, they will at least allow you to keep track of where your cast lands to start your retrieve through the heavy structure and fallen foliage. When throwing spinnerbaits in dirty water, I like to use gold blades and will add skirt rattle chambers for that extra little kick of noise. At times you are covering a fair bit of water so maximising your sound output should allow a few fish to zone in on your offering. Another benefit of throwing spinnerbaits is that they are also less prone to snagging. Flood waters contain a lot more alive plant life that hasn’t degraded from being underwater – so a poor lure choice can prove quite expensive! With the water so tainted, you can also get away with using heavier leader material without the risk of spooking fish. I normally bump my leader up to around 15 pound. This allows you to retrieve your lure out of heavier cover when snagged whilst also giving you a bit more of a chance against that 50cm beast on the end of the line.
One thing I can’t stress enough is that casting accuracy is everything when fishing tight creeks. If you aren’t putting that lure tight up against the bank or right in amongst those tree branches, your chances of a strike are severely diminished. This becomes even more so important when fishing flood waters as fish will be sticking to cover as much as possible. One technique I have learnt to use is “the drifter”. The idea here is to cast your lure up river and use the flow to your advantage. Cast your lure ahead of the snag so it will drift down the river, and into that perfect strike zone. This enables you to get your lure into areas that are impossible to cast into, and the fish won’t be spooked by the heavy splash of a lure cast directly into the strike zone. Once you’re in the zone, don’t be startled if your lure is engulfed on the first twitch of your retrieve! This technique works best for floating lures and it is definitely my favourite method for fishing hard bodies in these heavy structured waters. I also like to slow my retrieve down, just fast enough so that the lures natural action is working. Fish will take a little longer to hone in on your lure in dirty water, so add a few long pauses into your retrieve when fishing flood waters.
So if you have been stuck indoors during this wet summer, all is not lost and with the help of this article, you should be out finding your own slice of flood Bass real estate. Good luck out there and stay safe.