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
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
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.