"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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High-Water Bass Fishing
Copyright © 2005 by Bill Scifres

Any kind of bass fishing tends to flip my cork, but late-winter and early-spring high-water fishing is very close to the top of my list of favorites. 

This kind of fishing seldom is fast-action stuff, nor is it conducive to being comfortable. But if one is dressed for the occasion, and the bass offer occasional action, it can translate into an exciting day.

When the reservoirs are far above normal levels, bass come out into the inundated brush along shore lines to feed as their inner time clocks tell them spring is nigh.

The angler who wades the shallow, brush and weed-infested water--or scrambles along the shore--can flip weedless lures into the heavy cover to find action. Floating such waters also will produce good results at times, but I prefer wading (with hip boots or chest-high waders) because this method, though a bit dangerous, eliminates the necessity of fighting wind drift of a boat.

I like a black, Johnson spoon with 20-tail black/yellow Hawaiian Wiggler skirt (reversed), but any lure may take bass. I like black and yellow because it seems to me that they are more visible in murky/muddy water which prevails in high-water conditions.

Although all of Indiana’s flood-control reservoirs are above pool stage now, conditions are not ideal for this kind of fishing because these waters are being drawn down to make room for more rainwater.

Bass range into inundated areas of brush and weeds because such areas offers food, a necessity when water temperatures rise and the urge to spawn grows stronger. But just as bass tend to follow the water line when reservoirs are rising, they also retreat when water levels are falling. 

As noted above, wading under high-water conditions can be dangerous. Thus, it is wise to use a strong wading staff to check the bottom before every step.

Just as Monroe Reservoir has been my favorite bass-fishing hole for many years, it also is my favorite for high-water bass fishing. And my favorite spot is the Jones Branch bay south and west of the site of the old Browning Bridge (it has been down for many years).

This large area of flooded hillsides is accessible by motoring in with a small boat from the Crooked Creek ramp (south of Belmont off Ind. 46) or by parking a car and walking in from Robinson Cemetery to the south.

For several years after Browning Bridge collapsed it was possible to drive in on the Elkinsville Road  from Robinson Cemetery, but Rex Watters, fish and wildlife manager at Monroe, says the road now is impassible even with four-wheel drive. But even if the road still were passable, it would be covered by water when fishing conditions are right. Thus, to follow the old road in is next to a three-mile hike.

I almost always opted for the walk with knee boots and chest waders in a backpack. If water on the roadbed was too deep for knee boots, I made a quick change to the waders or took to the hills.

Once at the site of the old bridge, I would don my waders and (with spinning gear (strong line) and an assortment of artificial lures, fish brush and weeds along the shoreline.

On the late-winter day that I discovered this kind of bassing, I was wading shallow water along a wooded hillside when I approached a pair of dead elm trees covered with a curtain of grapevines. I couldn’t remember why, but the place looked very familiar. The place looked terribly bassy, too, so I was fishing it hard.

My efforts were rewarded with a lunker that must have weighed close to seven pounds and two bass of 14 to 16 inches.

Later my faulty cerebellum would tell me the familiarity of the brace of vine-covered elms stemmed from the fact that I had flushed a pair of grouse there in the previous fall.

Click on thumbnail image for enlarged view.

bass.jpg (22970 bytes) Bayou Bill hefts a husky largemouth from the murky water of Monroe Reservoir.


LEGISLATIVE WATCH--House Joint Resolution (HJR) No. 4, the so-called right to fish and hunt measure, passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 83-15 on January 25, 2005. It now is under consideration by the Senate. To be effective, Rep. John Ulmer’s resolution would have to pass two sessions of the Indiana General Assembly and be ratified by state voters.

All columns, essays, and photos 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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