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Rogers: High waters can make it tough to find fish

Published: Friday, June 27, 2014 8:45 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 9:50 a.m. CDT

I thought it might be appropriate this week to talk about how to find and catch fish during high water or flood-type conditions. It can be challenging to locate fish when water is out of its banks and when you do locate them, how can you make them bite? Good question.

In my past experiences, I have fished two tournaments – both in the Ozarks – where flood conditions were not only present, but extreme. The first time was on Beaver Lake in northwest Arkansas. When we arrived for practice the water was high and it never stopped raining during the entire event.

You might be wondering what I mean by the term “high water.” Let’s put it this way, I was fishing around picnic tables and gas grills. Yeah, it was high. I need to say that this was a man-made reservoir that was designed for flood control. Even though the water was high, it was safe. Very different from a river during flood conditions, which is extremely dangerous.

I didn’t fare too well during that event or the other Ozark event where I had to fish floodwaters. I did learn however some very valuable lessons from the anglers who did win those events and am anxious to apply those lessons the next time I have to deal with those types of conditions.

Anglers need to understand that when the lake level rises, the surface area can increase exponentially. What does this mean? For most of us, that means a lot more water to cover. The fish like to spread out and move into newly flooded areas when the water is on the rise. They become harder to locate just because there are so many new places for the fish to hide.

The easiest way to overcome this is to fish where the water can’t spread. Look for the steepest banks that you can find and stick to them. Both of the tournaments I mentioned earlier had first-place finishers that fished completely vertical bluff banks. The fish they were targeting could go up or down, but not out.

The anglers put the odds in their favor and were successful because of it. Both of the winners used jigs and let them bounce down the steep banks. The fish couldn’t help themselves as the lure bounded from rock to rock looking like an easy meal.

While the rest of the field frantically fished trying locate one bite here and one there, these guys fished confidently knowing where the fish were. It was an important lesson that I have not forgotten.

How does this translate to our local lakes? We don’t live in the highland reservoirs of the Ozarks where steep rock walls are abundant. We do however, even on our lakes, have plenty of places where the bottom drops quickly. If you are fishing one of our many strip pits, then you too will have multiple places where the bottom contour transforms almost to a straight vertical wall.

These are the places I would concentrate during high-water conditions. This same ideology applies to just about every species of fish that I can think of. The only real concern you have is targeting what depth to concentrate on.

I would start with lures, like a jig, that can be easily bounced down the steep bank. Pay close attention to where you get your bites and then you may be able to use a variety of presentations.

A drop-shot rig would be extremely effective as well as a slip bobber with a hair jig. A deep diving crankbait also can be really efficient and put fish in the boat along a steep bank. Especially if you can twist the line-tie just a bit so the lure keeps pounding into the vertical wall. It is an excellent way to draw out reactions strikes.

Be confident during high water conditions on your favorite lake. Remember to put the odds in your favor by locating places where the fish only move up and down, not out. Good luck.

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