Low water presents an advantage for fish and fishermen.
It’s late-August and summer vacation is coming to a fast close. Whenever this time of year comes around I think about being 14 and totally unencumbered. It was an unspoken tradition, between my uncle and me, on that last night of summer, we’d head to the local reservoir in my town and hike to the back cove where we knew we had a really good shot at some fantastic fishing.
Water supplies tend to run low in the late summer, usage peaks with pools to fill and lawns to water and, as a direct result, the water levels in many reservoirs plummet. When the water levels drop, the fish are forced into smaller spaces, spilling off into the deepest holes where they become easier to target and feed more competitively. Who wouldn’t want to fish in these conditions?
Back then I was on foot, wearing an old pair of sneakers, squishing through the mud and sloshing my way through shallow wades. There was an island in that back cove with roadbeds connecting it to the shore. These were probably logging roads put in when the land was being cleared for the reservoir. In the springtime, they were under 5-feet of water, but in the late summer we could cross one of them without getting our shorts wet.
The other road was deeper, descending into what appeared to be the deepest section of the pond. If we happened to fish there with a hard southwest or west wind we would clean house casting onto that deeper roadbed with unweighted soft plastics; 7-inch Power Worms and 4-1/2 inch Slug-Go’s being our favorites. At the time, I hadn’t yet drawn any connections between wind and fishing success. But I distinctly remember watching the light current build out of the cove to the west, moving just fast enough to swing our lures across the bar and into the deeper water to the north. I thought it was an anomaly, some little bit of magic that only existed on this one spot. When we’d arrive on the island and I’d see that wind pushing across, I’d try to nonchalantly make my way over there first, like I wasn’t running over there to reap the rewards of an advantage I was keeping secret. The fishing on that bar was often so good that we had to share it.
In the years since, I have experienced this phenomenon in many flooded waters. A reservoir I fish today is crisscrossed by dozens of stone walls that begin in the woods, disappear into the water and reappear several-hundred yards away on the opposite shore. Some of these walls are better than others, but the best ones really put out when the wind blows from a cove out into the main body of the lake.
A few years ago I was walking the shore there, the water was very low, I came up on one of the walls that separates a long deep cove from the main body. I reared back to cast but stopped myself. I was on the shallow side and only the first 20 feet of my retrieve would be over the deeper water. I trudged through the muck, all the way around to the other side and stood 20 feet back from the water, right at the base of the old stone wall. I cast an 8-inch wake bait upwind, the jointed wooden lure splashing down 20 feet upwind of the wall. I reeled just fast enough to swim the bait. As the big swimmer swung with the wind and crossed the wall, it disappeared in a flash of white. That 5-1/2 pounder was not my last fish of the day touring the many walls there, but it was the biggest.
The ‘why’ behind this is pretty simple. And if you do any saltwater fishing you can make sense of it by thinking of the wind-driven current as tidal current. Sustained winds move water, and they move bait. Bass, as a genus, will utilize obstructions for their ambush advantage. Add current to a long obstacle and you have an easy feeding scenario that these competitive fish are sure to take advantage of. If you don’t have roadbeds, stone walls or bars to work with, even long shallow points or groups of logs or rocks can provide the same advantages.
Whether you’re soaking old sneakers, wading in your G3’s or sneaking up on the fish in your kayak or boat, lower water means concentrated fish and that alone gives the angler a distinct advantage. But if you learn to use the wind in your favor, you’ll be dangerous with rod and reel in your hand.