Let’s talk flood conditions. With much of the mid-south receiving record-breaking rainfall in May, a lot of reservoirs are flooded. Lots of guys just throw up their hands. But you can still catch fish when the water is under the back-porches, and one great way is flipping flooded bushes and willows. Most places, like my home lake Table Rock, “bushes” are different from “willows,” though both hold bass, often at different times.

IMG_2225 copyFor example, today we were out on the Rock, and you couldn’t buy a bite on a willow, but they were on the bushes. Bushes are typically short, gnarly, twiggy shrubs, where willows are bigger and have longer leaves and more supple branches– they’re more like trees. When you’re fishing shallow, clear water with thick cover like this, there are some things you can do to up your odds.

First, because the water is so very clear, you want to use a heavy bullet weight, like a ½ oz. Bass Pro XPS tungsten. That seems heavy for shallow fishing, but you don’t want the fish to get a good look at the bait– you want them to think its getting away. If it goes by them fast, they have to decide whether to eat it or not without getting a good look at it. In wood cover like this, I like 20-25 lb. Maxima fluorocarbon line. If it were grass like I’m going to see at Chickamauga next week, then braid would be better, but braid and wood don’t get along real well. For baits, today the ticket was the Lucky Strike Ringmaster, but in general beaver type baits and creatures are good choices. As far as where to throw it, you want to flip that sucker into the thickest part of the bush, right in the middle where the root wad is. That’s where those fish will often be during the day in flood conditions.

Once you start catching them, you can refine from there. There will likely be a pattern– shallow willows will be better, or deep ones. They’ll be on the bushes on points or in the backs of pockets. Pay attention when you catch one. Today they were in the thickest bushes in the backs of pockets, tomorrow they may move to willows on the outside of points. They’ll tend to be on the outsides when the water is falling, inside when it’s rising, but that’s just a starting place.

So go string up that flippin’ stick with some stout fluorocarbon and start experimenting– if they’re on bushes and willows, it won’t take long to figure it out and refine your pattern, and you could be on your way to a winning sack!

Chickamauga Tournament Preview Blog

I’m heading out on Saturday to Tennessee to fish the FLW tour event on Chickamauga. Though it’s been a completely disastrous year, I’m hoping to turn it around this week. Chickamauga is a grassy lake, with big fish in it, so I’ll be spooling up with heavy Maxima braid– 65 lb. It’s the best braid on the market because it’s really supple and uncoated, so it’s quiet going through the guides and casts a doggone mile. Braid is great on grassy lakes because it cuts through so you don’t get the big wads of grass clogging up your line when you catch a fish like with mono or fluoro.

With water temps in the mid 70s, if I’m lucky, I’ll be catching some monsters on a swim-jig and a frog. I’ll be looking for pockets with isolated grass to throw them around. I like Bobby Lane’s Perfect Frog and the Snag Proof Ish’s Phat Frog. For the swim jig I like a Strike King.

If that doesn’t work out, I’ll also be fishing boat docks. I’ll look for strings of them so I can be efficient with my time. Around these, I’ll probably throw the War Eagle Heavy Finesse Jig in a brown color. I’ll use the frog here too, and I’ll skip it under the docks. That can be a tricky thing to do with a baitcaster. Here’s how I do it:
1. Start with a roll cast, let your frog spin around your rod tip until it’s travelling on plane with the water, then let it go. It needs to be pretty close to the water when you let it go, or it won’t skip right.
2. You want the frog to hit the water out in between you and the target you want to go under, and resist the urge to stop it there. Let it hit and if you have it on the right plane, it will keep bouncing just like a flat rock, right back up under there.
3. It’s easy to get a hellacious backlash doing this, and it takes a trained thumb, so you’ll have to practice exactly when to feather the spool as the bait skips across the water, but if you learn to do this right, you can get that frog WAY back there. A frog is a great bait to learn this with, because its light and floats and it likes to skip.

When the tour visited this lake back in 2013, it took over 100 pounds to win, so it can be a really great lake. I placed in the money and it was a pretty good tournament. Hopefully, this year will be even better. After Chickamauga, we go to the Potomac in Maryland where I hope to end the year strong.