UPCOMING EVENT: T-H Marine BFL - 2019 - Potomac River

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

4 Keys to tailrace success

4 Keys to tailrace success
Many dams attract local fishermen as well as tournament anglers.

If you ask Walmart FLW Tour pro Jonathan Newton where the best tailraces are in the country, he’ll tell you the tailraces of lakes Pickwick and Wilson. If you look at the tournament schedule for June, you’ll see that the fifth 2014 FLW Tour event and the Walmart BFL All-American will be held at Pickwick and Wilson, respectively. Both are hosted by the Florence/Lauderdale Tourism Bureau.

You don’t need a crystal ball to predict where plenty of anglers in both events will be heading.
It’s no secret that dams hold fish pretty much year round, both on the lake side and in the tailrace below. That especially holds true in summer. With the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers consistently pulling water through the dams, baitfish get pulled together on the lake side before being flushed through to the tailrace. It’s hardly a fun ride, as baitfish are often injured or disoriented, but that makes them easy meals for schools of bass waiting below.

Tailrace fishing is not your average offshore fishing, though. Combine strong currents, bass-holding spots that require pinpoint casting accuracy, endless snags and roaming fish, and there is no shortage of challenges to fishing the tailwaters. Yet, anglers such as Newton and fellow Pickwick local Randy Haynes continue to fish them time and again because the extra effort can be well worth it.

Here are their four keys to achieving tailrace success in the summer months.

1. Current and timing
The Wilson Dam is a popular fishing location all year long. Tournament anglers can find schools of bass grouped up in the tailwaters of the dam during the summer months.
When it comes to tailraces, everything revolves around the current.

“The more they [damkeepers] are pulling water, the better the bite,” says Haynes.

“It’s really a timing deal,” adds Newton. “The fish will position differently depending on the flow. If you time it wrong and are not on the right area when they start pulling water, you’ll miss the bite.”

Each tailrace is different. You’ll need to study them from the water to figure out how changes in current impact fish position and behavior, in order to find the best locations at low- and high-flow times. There are usually little windows, such as the moment water begins being pulled or periods when the current fluctuates, that will trigger fish activity. To maximize productivity during ideal current flows, an angler definitely wants to know the generation schedule for the dam for the given day.

It’s also helpful to know if they’re only generating on one side of the dam. If they’re only pulling water through the left side of the dam, for instance, then that’s where the bass are going to congregate to feed.

One last area to keep in mind is where the current “switches back” against the shore or face of the dam. This large eddy forms in most tailraces where the water swirls back upstream. It’s more pronounced in tailraces where the channel narrows just downstream of the dam, and the flow is “squeezed down” into a more narrow area.

That area of swirling, relaxed current will disorient baitfish and provide a feeding area for bass.


2. Rocks and slack
The Nickajack Dam is a popular spot for local fishermen with a convenient boat ramp nearby. Anglers spend most of their time in the swift water of the dam's outflow.
Even with schools of disoriented baitfish being flushed by them, bass are not about to just sit out in the open and fight the current to eat them.

Instead, they’ll seek out rock piles and large boulders, which create eddies. These bubbles of slack water on the backsides of the structures allow bass to lazily wait, while the current brings the baitfish to them. When a meal washes by, a bass simply has to dart out, eat it and swim back to the calm eddy to wait for the next floundering feast.

Large boulders and bottom depressions that create eddies can be located from above with electronics. However, anglers can often see the eddies right on the surface of the water, indicated by swirling currents or seams between currents of different speeds. The visual indicators are nice because mastery of electronics is not always necessary for location. However, just because an angler can see the eddies doesn’t mean it’s always easy to fish them.


3. Drift or camp
There are two techniques – on good days – for fishing tailraces. If the current is light, an angler can camp on a particular rock pile in hopes a school of bass moves up on it. Just make sure your trolling motor batteries are charged, then go to work.

Most days, though, it’s all about lining up drifts that allow an angler to cast to multiple eddies as the current pushes the boat downstream.

“When the current is really going, you might only get one or two casts at an eddy before you’re past it,” says Newton.


4. Pinpoint power fishing
With such little time to potentially get a lure into the eddy, this is no time to be dragging jigs. Instead, Haynes and Newton opt for lures that can be fished quickly and accurately, namely swimbaits, crankbaits and heavy spinnerbaits.
All three lures will get down to the structure creating the eddy, yet they can also be retrieved quickly. Even still, an angler has to plan his casts so that the current pulls the lure into the eddy at some point during the cast. Otherwise, a bass is less likely to dart out to grab it, especially if the current is really flowing.

Usually, casting just upstream of the target, and at an upstream angle across the structure, will allow the lure to sweep into the strike zone by the time it gets down near the rocks. The length of cast can have an effect, since the current will pull against the extra line and can move the lure a considerable distance. So in heavy flows, it might be necessary to drift by closer to the target.

“There’s a lot to consider and take into account,” says Haynes. “It’s hard to fish tailraces, even for me and I’ve been doing it a long time. If you don’t understand it, you’re missing casts or getting hung up 90 percent of the time. Some guys really take the time to understand it, and those guys catch a lot of fish.”


Final tip: Slack-water structures
Kerry Milner made the Chickamauga Dam famous when he won the 2013 Walmart BFL All-American off of the riprap point near the dam's tailwaters.
Not every productive tailrace structure is a natural eddy-forming feature out “in the flow.” Often, larger man-made structures create expansive slack-water areas, and the seam that forms where that slack water meets moving water is a productive fishing spot in nearly any level of current.

Arkansas pro Kerry Milner fished just such a current seam to win the 2013 Walmart Bass Fishing League All-American on Lake Nickajack. A long, narrow concrete and riprap break wall extending out from the dam created a slack-water area where boats passing through from Lake Chickamauga above could exit the lock without fighting the heavy flows. He parked his boat on the slack-water side, where control was easy, and cast out into the current.

Similar structures exist on most major reservoir systems that support barge traffic. Other man-made features include large cylindrical barge tie-offs, dividers between the main flow and smaller diversion canals, or even spoil piles where construction rubble was piled up underwater.

Tags: sean-ostruszka  pre-tournament  2014-06-05-pickwick-lake 

Top 10 Patterns From Table Rock

Top 10 Patterns From Table Rock

Fishing at Table Rock during the Costa FLW Series Central Division event, presented by Power-Pole, was pretty remarkable, at least until it wasn’t. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Table Rock

Top 10 Baits from Table Rock

It really didn’t matter what pros threw at Table Rock. The fish were probably going to eat it. Yet, despite a banner practice, things certainly got tougher throughout the Costa FLW Series Central Division event, which was presented by Power-Pole. Thus, pros needed to continually adapt to the conditions with their offerings.Here’s a look at the lures that helped the top 10 anglers.  READ MORE »

Table Rock Midday Update – Day 3

Table Rock Midday Update – Day 3

With just one keeper from his three primary pockets, leader Jake Morris might have left the door open on the final day of the Costa FLW Series Central Division tournament at Table Rock Lake. His frog pattern might be fizzling out due to clear water and changing conditions. READ MORE »

Co-Angler Parsons Wins for Brother 

Co-Angler Parsons Wins for Brother 

Co-angler Scott Parsons won the Costa FLW Series Central Division event at Table Rock Lake with a combination of smallmouth and largemouth bass. He dedicated the win to his late brother, Dustin, who died of cancer in 2016. READ MORE »

Olliverson Triumphs on Table Rock

Olliverson Triumphs on Table Rock

Missouri pro Eric Olliverson came back from fourth place on the final day to unseat Jake Morris and company and win the Costa FLW Series Central Division event presented by Power-Pole on Table Rock Lake. Olliverson’s 16-pound, 8-ounce bag on the final day gave him 46-3 for the tournament and the win by just 5 ounces over Dakota Ebare. READ MORE »

Table Rock Midday Update – Day 2

Table Rock Midday Update – Day 2

Fishing pressure and a cold front have shut down the bite at Table Rock Lake for stop No. 2 of the Costa FLW Series Central Division season. The lake's largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass are not coming easy. READ MORE »

Top 5 Patterns from Table Rock – Day 2

Top 5 Patterns from Table Rock – Day 2

A few spawning bass are making their way to the scale in the top pros' bags, but most of the consistent action has come flipping or fishing topwater for largemouths, smallmouths and spotted bass at Table Rock. READ MORE »

Morris Still Rocking Table Rock

Morris Still Rocking Table Rock

Jake Morris of McKee, Ky., continues to lead the Costa FLW Series Central Division event at Table Rock Lake. Morris, who won the season opener at Kentucky Lake, has a two-day total of 32 pounds, 7 ounces. READ MORE »

Table Rock Midday Update – Day 1

Table Rock Midday Update – Day 1

Catching fish is hardly the problem right now at stop No. 2 of the Costa FLW Series Central Division at Table Rock Lake. It seemed like every pro our on-the-water crew pulled up on today, be it on the lower end or up the rivers, was setting the hook with reckless abandon. Unfortunately, the quality has been extremely lacking. READ MORE »

Everything on the Table at Table Rock

Everything on the Table at Table Rock

Stop No. 2 of the Costa FLW Series Central Division, which is presented by Power-Pole and hosted by Explore Branson, is primed to be an all-out show. It seems like the lake’s entire population of bass is rushing to the bank to spawn, with all three species willing to eat a vast array of offerings. The only question: Will Mother Nature play nice? READ MORE »

Top 5 Patterns from Table Rock – Day 1

Top 5 Patterns from Table Rock – Day 1

The vast majority of the field was able to scrounge up limits between 10 and 13 pounds, but getting over the 13-pound mark has been a challenge at the Costa FLW Series Central Division event, which is presented by Power-Pole and hosted by Explore Branson. READ MORE »

Morris Starts Fast on Table Rock

Morris Starts Fast on Table Rock

Coming off a win in the Costa FLW Series Central Division opener on Kentucky Lake, Jake Morris started great in the second stop of the season as well. Weighing 17 pounds, 4 ounces on day one, Morris leads a tightly packed field in the Table Rock event, which is presented by Power-Pole and hosted by Explore Brandon. READ MORE »

Spawn in Full Bloom on Table Rock

Spawn in Full Bloom on Table Rock

Stop No. 2 of the Costa FLW Series Central Division should shape up to be quite the catchfest. Coming off of the division opener on Kentucky Lake, where pros were challenged with tough fishing, this week’s event, which is presented by Power-Pole and hosted by Explore Branson, should be stellar in terms of both numbers and quality of fish.  READ MORE »

Going Shallow with Lawyer

Going Shallow with Lawyer

Heading into the sixth stop of the year on Chickamauga, which is presented by Evinrude, Lawyer says he’s looking to go easy and make sure he’s on the road to Hot Springs this August for his third shot at a Cup title. With that in mind, I was happy to hop aboard and see the shallow side of Chickamauga. READ MORE »

FLW Live Schedule for Chickamauga

FLW Live Schedule for Chickamauga

FLW Live is back for 2019 FLW Tour stop No. 6 on the big-fish waters of Lake Chickamauga. The event, which is presented by Evinrude and hosted by Fish Dayton and the Rhea Economic & Tourism Council, runs Thursday, May 2 through Sunday, May 5. READ MORE »

Get to Know Lake Chickamauga

Get to Know Lake Chickamauga

The 2019 FLW Tour event at Lake Chickamauga, which is presented by Evinrude, is hitting the lake before the primary offshore migration has occurred, which means that some ledge fishing will take place, but a whole mess of other patterns should play as well. Here’s a look at where the anglers will be competing this week. READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Santee Cooper

Top 10 Patterns from Santee Cooper

Santee Cooper is full of 30-pound stringers. It’s also been known as a lake that will humble an angler quick. Bradford Beavers had experienced that before, having twice before weighed in 30-plus-pound stringers in tournaments on his home lake only to bomb the next day. Well, third time was the charm. After weighing in 31-02 on day one of the Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division event presented by Power-Pole, he managed to back it up on day two by fishing both lakes for his first signature victory. Of course, he had to hold off some hard charges from some veteran locals to do it. Here’s how they and the other top pros managed to carve out their own patterns and stay consistent on Santee. READ MORE »

By the Numbers: Lake Chickamauga

By the Numbers: Lake Chickamauga

The FLW Tour’s sixth stop of the season is Lake Chickamauga in east Tennessee. One of the gems of the South for hunting monster bass, the Lake of the Giants promises big fish – and lots of them – and perhaps the best chance of seeing the century mark broken this season. READ MORE »

Hunting Offshore With Setzer

Hunting Offshore With Setzer

If Braxton Setzer wins the FLW Tour’s sixth stop of the season fishing offshore, he has a faulty trolling motor to thank for it. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Santee Cooper

Top 10 Baits from Santee Cooper

There were three predominant patterns at Santee Cooper: Pitching wacky rigs to cypress trees, sight-fishing and the shad spawn. Yet, they weren’t the only patterns, as a couple locals managed to do plenty of damage with some locals-only offshore patterns at the Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division season finale presented by Power-Pole. READ MORE »