"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Fishing Monroe's Early Flood Water for Bass
Copyright © 2001 by Bill Scifres

Pretty soon now--if Hoosier weather runs true to form--the rain will pour, the wind will roar, and Indiana streams and rivers will rise accordingly. As most anglers know, high, muddy water is not real conducive to bass fishing. Yet, the scenario-if played to its end-offer some of the finest fishing for bass, including some hogs. A good example of this will be seen in an experience I had on Monroe Reservoir's Crooked Creek area a few years back. 

Picture, if you will, a man clad in winter clothing with chest-high waders standing in high, muddy water surrounded by trees and brush, a dead elm tree covered with grape vines in the background. That's not a pretty sight for many anglers who like bright sun, clear water and comfortable air temperatures when they fish. But at this time of year, these conditions can bring some of the best bass fishing of the year on large, man-made impoundments that are fed by streams and rivers, especially Monroe Reservoir.

You may also find the same conditions, and fishing that is just as good, on smaller lakes or even farm ponds if they are fed by surface water runoff. 

The things that bring about these conditions are nothing more complicated than the life cycle of the bass (and some other game fish in this part of the country). When fall and winter comes, water temperatures drop. And though bass and other species continue to move about and feed during the cold winter months, their metabolism slows considerably. But eggs--by which bass and other species reproduce in the warm months--develop in months of low activity, and when warmer air/water temperatures of the early spring activate animal life of the food chain, the urge to reproduce puts fish of all species on the prowl for food. The more, the better. 

Bass and other game-fish species feed heavily on aquatic life throughout the year, but runoff from surroundings highlands add another dimension to the spring smorgasbord in the form of terrestrial insects, worms and even small mammals. Although much of this food enters man-made and natural lakes through recognizable tributaries, the entrance of any surface water--no trickle is too small--may attract fish. 

In the absence of incoming runoff, bass and other fish tend to take on the "rooting" tendencies of hogs, especially when rising waters of a standing body of water have inundated brushy, wooded hillsides. In such cases, fish leave the usual confines of the standing water that is their home and forage for food. I once saw bass so thick in an inundated weed field that every cast of a weedless lure (hook protected by a weed guard) would bring a strike and a hookup. Getting them out of the weeds was yet another problem, but they were there and they were feeding ravenously. 

Fishing bass under these conditions is simple. But it requires strong line, sturdy rods and reels with good drag. Equipment must perform well. When you get hooked up with husky bass in such surrounding, you have to land the fish fast or you may lose the game as the fish gets into heavy cover. 

I once caught a bass that would have pushed seven pounds and two that would have been close to four pounds on a flooded bay at Monroe Reservoir. As I fished, thoughts ran through my mind that the two dead elms draped with grape vines and surrounded by blackberry bramble looked familiar. It turned out that I had flushed grouse in the same place a few months earlier.

Maybe it is that episode that makes Monroe my favorite place for fishing flood-water bass, but any of the larger reservoirs and many other man-made or natural lakes have the same potential. I have seen times on many big lake tributaries that normally carry only shallow water, became raging bass fisheries in times of high water. 

For many years when Monroe's flood water closed the gravel road from Robinson Cemetery to the site of the old Browning Bridge (upper end of the Crooked Creek area), I would wear knee boots, carry chest-high waders in a back pack and wade in to the point where Jones Creek, normally dry, enters the reservoir where Browning Bridge once stood. 

Occasionally, I would have to don the waders to get through deep water on the road. Once there I would put on the waders, hide everything but rod and reel, a small box of weedless artificial lures, and a burlap bag (known to some as "the Bayou Bill creel") and walk the steep hillsides until I found water I could wade and fish. 

Caution is the watchword for this kind of fishing, and a wading staff (any straight and strong limb) will be useful in "feeling" the bottom of  flooded fields and hillsides before each step. When fishing, the wading staff is merely pushed into the earth, handy for further use. 

Fishing high-water bass from a boat is much safer and more comfortable, but wind and currents move boats and often cut short the time an angler  has to tease a bass into taking a lure. By wading, an angler can stand in one spot until he is ready to move. 

What lure? My favorite is the Johnson Silver Minnow, a spoon-type lure with single guarded hook. I dress it with 20-tail black and yellow Hawaiian Wiggler skirt (reversed). This lure can be thrown into brush with a good chance of getting it back, often with a bass on it. 

However, many other lures are productive, especially jig-n-pig (jig with pork strip) combinations. And what color: In view of the fact that water will be murky to muddy, you take famous basser Billy Murray's favorite line: "Any color is good so long as it is black." 

We leave you with this thought: If you don't lose some lures in the brush and on bass, you are not fishing correctly. 


All columns are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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