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Highwater Bass Fishing Made Simple

By Meagan Russell
In Fishing with Kenny
May 29th, 2022

article by Kenny Covington

Here in Louisiana, especially in our part of the state, it is not uncommon for our rivers and lakes to be higher than normal this time of year.  Often, due to our springtime rains, the Ouachita River is well above pool stage and our areas lakes can be a few feet high as well.  This gives angler’s a new twist to the question we all like to ask: “Where did the fish go?”  In this month’s BayouLife “Fishing with Kenny” article, let’s see if we can answer the question. 

According to a lot of fishing publications, when the water rises, no matter if it is a lake or river, the fish move to the bank.  This has been a staple for as long as I can remember but through my experience, I am not sure I totally believe it to be true.  I do believe some fish will move shallow, but a lot of fish seem to prefer to move vertically on cover than they do horizontally to the bank. 

A good example is if you are fishing an oxbow with an abundance of cypress trees.  If the fish were positioned on the trees before the water rises, why would they move to another tree just because of an extra two foot of water?  I won a tournament on Lake Providence a few years ago targeting trees that, under normal water levels, had water on them.  The fish didn’t move to the banks, they stayed in stabilized areas that weren’t influenced by rising or falling water. 

I have found over the years a lot of the bass movements in high water scenarios depends largely on the type of fishery.  On a lake like Bayou Bartholomew, with its high banks, as the water rises, the fish often move to the bank and, as the water begins to fall, will quickly move out.  Horizontal cover such as logs, and laydowns are extremely productive due to the fish ability to remain in and around cover without having to move very far. 

The Ouachita River is the model of complexity that comes with fishing high water.  When the river is on a rise, finding an area where you can reach the bank is important.  However, if an angler can locate a stopping point or a type of structure the fish can use as a migration route, such as a flooded roadbed or pipeline, or maybe even an area that has slow current pulling across, it’s quite possible to load the boat in a hurry.   

Here are a few rules I have when fishing high water, while not set in stone, I try to always remember.  First, from April through October, if the water is high, to find fish and to catch fish, I throw a topwater lure.  Second, if I am fishing cypress trees, and there is no current around them, the fish will suspend around the trees instead of relating to the bottom.  Three, any kind of a floating log or laydown tree has potential to hold a fish.  And last, the fish will usually be bunched up in small areas so patience while trying to locate them is very important. 

My choice of lures when fishing high water is as basic as an angler can get.  I have a lot of confidence in these lures and have always been my favorites.

A topwater has always been my first choice and I have had as many as six rods rigged with different styles when I am practicing for a tournament.  My first choice is either a Devil’s Horse or a Crazy Shad, both are effective target lures for brush lines or isolated trees.  My second choice is a Spook which is a great way to cover water and catch a bigger size fish. I always have a buzzbait tied on but for whatever reason, I have better luck on the smaller ¼ or 1/8 versions.  On occasion, especially in thicker cover, a frog can be the best lure in your boat. 

When I am not throwing a topwater lure, I am pitching or flipping a Senko style of soft plastic.  I will rig them two different ways: one will be rigged Texas style with a pegged 1/8th ounce tungsten sinker for fish that are deeper in the cover, and one will be rigged Texas style, weightless for fish that are suspended and won’t commit to the topwater lure. 

Well, it looks like we have run out of time and space for another month, but I hope we were able to share with you some information that will make your next high water fishing trip more productive.  Be careful on the water and most importantly, catch one for me!  See you next month!