Live now : Bass Fishing League 2016 Detroit River

Flooded with bass

FLW Tour pro Dave Lefebre said he believes it's time to explore immediately after heavy rains fall.

Catching a lunker largemouth is a rite of passage among bass anglers, and spring marks the best time to catch the bass of a lifetime. Spring can also be the very bane of bass anglers' existence if heavy rains raise the water level of their favorite lakes or reservoirs.

When spring rains inundate your favorite lake, it can mean trees, stumps, picnic tables and shrubs are now underwater until the high water recedes. Some anglers curse rising water, but largemouths react accordingly, and having the know-how to hoodwink them can load the boat in short order. From flipping and pitching jigs to chunking crankbaits and spinnerbaits, there are approaches to help improve your chance for success when the water is high.

"High water in the spring is one of my favorite situations," said Kellogg's pro Dave Lefebre of Erie, Pa.

Immediately after heavy rains fall, Lefebre believes it's time to explore.

"Bass are unsure of exactly what's going on because of the fresh water and the rapid color change," Lefebre said. "This period is normally the muddiest.

"I look for back-water ponds, beaver dams, cuts and bays that back up against the main-river flow, like when I won the Mississippi River EverStart Series tournament in 2002. I also look around for weeds or grass. The grass acts like a mud filter and usually causes a slightly clearer area somewhere in, or around it."

In this narrow window of the "fresh flood," Lefebre said it's hard to beat swimming a jig or lizard in the newly flooded grass or bushes.

"I like to throw the bait right up on the bank and pull it into the water," he said. "A lot of times they'll smash the bait as soon as it touches the water, or you'll see a wake coming from several feet away."

FLW Tour pro Dave Lefebre makes color adjustments to a bait while fishing high water. When it comes to swimming jigs around heavy cover, Lefebre makes long casts and pumps the rod as he reels the bait just under the surface, using a homemade model between 1/8 and 3/8 ounce, with as little of a weedguard as possible. He stays basic with colors: black, white, brown and green skirts, with contrasting trailers.

When lakes are high and stable, Lefebre contends this is the best scenario and the most common in springtime.

"During this time, I'm normally focused on flipping and pitching jigs, tubes and creature baits," Lefebre said. "I still have the swimming baits rigged for the in-between targets, but I'm focused more on getting something into the cover."

Lefebre's two main flipping baits are a Stanley jig, ranging from 7/16 to 3/4 ounce and a Mizmo tube with a rattle. He favors natural colors that match the water, because most fishermen aren't thinking this way. He highlights the tips of tubes and jig trailers with chartreuse, red or orange, using a dye marker.

Lefebre thinks receding floodwater is the toughest condition for most anglers. When the water starts to fall, the bass feel threatened and begin heading away from the bank, he said.

"One inch is all it takes for the fish to react," he said. "The biggest problem is that sometimes we don't realize it's starting to happen, and we want to do what we were doing yesterday. It's very important to have marks everywhere so you can tell exactly what the water level is doing everywhere you plan to fish."

Although the falling-water bite can be tough, bass are very predictable once the fallout is detected.

"They move to the outside edges of the weeds, bushes or trees and even into open water in the middle of bays or pockets," Lefebre said. "When you find this, you usually find a load of fish in a hurry.

"That was the case at Old Hickory in March last year when I won the FLW Tour event. The high water was steadily falling during the final two days of the event, and the bank fish all pulled out into the middle of a bay with some scattered milfoil. I caught several key fish by fan-casting crankbaits and ripping them off the grass. The water was still high and the flipping cover looked great, but it was coming down a couple of inches a day, and it really affected the fish."

Like Lefebre, fellow FLW Tour pro John Crews of Salem, Va., has scored big during high-water conditions. According to Crews, the higher the water, the more likely he is to fish near a dam.

FLW Tour pro Dave Lefebre surveys his baits to find the best choice for high water."The lower end of a lake is less affected by high water, such that it won't be red mud," he said. "Fish that are used to clear water and then have a slight stain from the high water can bite like crazy. The upper reaches of the lake are more volatile because the water can fluctuate fast and the clarity can change drastically from day to day."

Seasoned bass addicts know that when bass are in prespawn mode and the water comes up, a spinnerbait is tough to beat.

If the water is high and you strike out in the flooded cover, recommends this last-ditch effort.

"Fish the lake like it isn't flooded. Cast crankbaits or a Carolina rig to points where fish would've been prior to the high water," he said. "Sometimes they don't leave their homes and won't move up to the new flooded cover."

If you find yourself befuddled by rising water during the spring on your favorite lake, try these pros' tactics for surefire success, regardless of where you live. Astute anglers don't throw in the towel; they change tactics to score on springtime largemouths. Bring on the rain!

High-water tactics

High water resulting from heavy spring rains creates frustration for many bass anglers who don't know how to catch largemouth bass under these "adverse" conditions; but for savvy anglers, it is during these conditions that you can sack up a big bag of fat, springtime largemouths.

"Anytime you have water that floods a hardwood tree - oak, sweet gum, hickory, etc. - the water will wick up the base, making it appear that the water is falling; but in actuality, the water could be steady," says pro John Crews. "You have to pay attention to what the water level is doing during springtime high-water situations."

A better way to tell, he said, is to look at small branches and leaves, because you can see the fresh residue on the leaves and branches, which clearly shows what the water level is doing.

Kellogg's pro Dave Lefebre of Erie, Pa., cut his teeth fishing in the North on natural lakes, but has made the transition to Southern and Midwestern impoundments. He said the difference in fish behavior between a flooded natural lake and a big, Southern impoundment is minimal.

"It's simple: In the spring when the water is high, some bass are coming shallow," he said. "The only meaningful difference is the current on the bigger Southern reservoirs and the way fish position to objects, but everything else is similar."

Lefebre favors logjams to find high-water bass. He'll rest his Ranger against the outside logs and pitch a jig or tube into the openings. He's caught fish 50 feet or more back into a logjam.

"That's one thing about flooded lakes: You have to have that `no fear' attitude and not be afraid to put the bait into some gnarly places," Lefebre said. "If you don't get the bite, you won't catch the fish anyway; I'd rather get bit and take my chances getting the fish into the boat."

Tags: marc-mcglade  magazine-features 


FLW Podcast 128 - Mark Rose



1000 Islands Day 3 Midday Update



1000 Islands Midday Update Day 2

Day two of the Costa FLW Series Northern Division event presented by Mercury at 1000 Islands got started on a slightly different note this morning when FLW’s tournament directors declared Lake Ontario off limits due to hazardous conditions. The change threw a few of the top pros off their primary plans, but regardless the 137-boat field will be cut down to the top 10 after today, so adjustments need to be made in order to qualify to fish the weekend. READ MORE »


FLW Podcast 126 - ICAST



2017 Walmart FLW Tour Schedule

In what has become an annual tradition at FLW, the 2017 Walmart FLW Tour schedule was announced at a press conference and industry gathering held Thursday on the show floor at ICAST in Orlando, Fla. READ MORE »


Si Se Puede ... Yes We Can

Mexico’s Lake Zimapan is different in many ways from the lakes to the north such as Florida’s Lake Okeechobee and California’s Clear Lake, but one element it has in common with those famous fisheries is big bass. READ MORE »


5 Rookie Lessons Learned

People have asked me what my first year on the Walmart FLW Tour was like. Well, it was like running headfirst into a hurricane for a few months. I came out the other side a little battered, bruised and smelling like fish. READ MORE »


FLW Podcast 125 - Scott Martin



Review: Lew’s Custom Speed Stick Lite

Recently I had the opportunity to try one model in particular – the 7-foot, 4-inch Magnum Pitchin’ rod. After fishing with it several times, I’ve concluded that it performs as advertised, is sensitive and lightweight, and is well worth the money. READ MORE »


Reunited, and it Feels so Good

This year I really had a reunion with finesse fishing. Most of my better tournaments came from fishing some type of finesse presentation. Finesse tactics seemed to always give me a certain confidence about the day. While finesse tactics are nothing new to the game of bass fishing, this year I regained the confidence and joy of catching bass on smaller offerings. READ MORE »


2016 ICAST Preview

The doors to ICAST don’t open until next week, when everyone gets out on the showroom floor in Orlando, Fla., but there are already plenty of snippets of information available. FLW’s media crew will be there in full force to bring you coverage of the hottest new products, as well as the annual New Product Showcase awards. For now, take a gander at some of the early birds. READ MORE »


FLW Canada Kicks Off at Tri-Lakes

Among these Canadian all-stars was the eventual winning team of Chris Vandermeer of Peterborough and Jeff Slute of Millbrook. Capitalizing on a strong day one shallow-water smallmouth pattern, the duo took advantage of the slick-calm conditions using a silver-hued topwater popping plug to agitate the lake’s bronzebacks into attack. READ MORE »


FLW Tour Pro Cooksey Recovering After Accident

Walmart FLW Tour sophomore Dalton Cooksey of New Concord, Ky., is recovering at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee following a single-car accident that took place Wednesday afternoon. READ MORE »


FLW Podcast 124 - Jeremy Lawyer



Stetson Blaylock’s Recipe for a Wacky Rig

From March until the end of the fishing season I’m going to have a wacky rig on deck. It’s a really effective way to fish anytime the fishing is tough, or if the fish are up cruising banks. Anytime fish are about 5 feet deep or less, I can catch them on the wacky rig. READ MORE »


Morgan Claims third FLW Tour Angler of the Year Title

MINNEAPOLIS – Livingston Lures pro Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tennessee, added to his incredible fishing resume by winning his third Walmart FLW Tour Angler of the Year title Saturday at the FLW Tour's final 2016 regular-season event on Lake Champlain.... READ MORE »


Three Things by DD: Kentucky Lake

Kentucky Lake did not go the way I intended. I was pumped and ready to rock out a top-20 finish. I had great expectations of myself, but nothing seemed to come together. Practice was dicey, but I thought for sure I could put something together to make the cut. That was until day one came, and the whole vibe of my day instantly went from eager to agitated. READ MORE »


How to Catch Smallmouths with Hair Jigs

The “right” hair jig for smallmouths is a small 1/16- to 1/8-ounce marabou jig with a round or mushroom-shaped head. The jig is similar to marabou jigs used by crappie fishermen, but bass models will often have a larger, stronger hook and possibly a longer or thicker skirt. Naturally, anglers have their favorites, and there are subtle differences in jigs that make some better than others. READ MORE »


Two Exciting Events to Look Forward To

We are in the last stretch of the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour. Awaiting us is the Lake Champlain tournament in just a few days. A couple of things will be settled there: the pro field for the Forrest Wood Cup and the Angler of the Year. READ MORE »


Tagging Along with Sprague in Kentucky

Through the first four events of the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour season, Jeff Sprague finished inside the top 20 every time and challenged for the win at Beaver Lake. After stop No. 4 on Pickwick, Sprague took over the lead in the Angler of the Year race. This is the story of his first tournament as the AOY leader – stop No. 5 on Kentucky Lake. Currently, Sprague is preparing for the finale on Lake Champlain. He’s in second place in the AOY standings. READ MORE »