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Basic Bass Fishing Strategies for Tidal Waterways

Updated on October 26, 2012


Tides for Fishing
Tides for Fishing

Bass Fishing Tidal Basics

Fishing a tidal waterway for largemouth bass can be an exciting adventure as well as the most boring day out on the water if you are in the wrong areas at the wrong times. Due to the tide the water may move in areas very quickly horizontally if you are in a main channel area causing lots of current which can position the fish into defined areas. In other areas further away from the tidal influences you may just notice a casual rising and falling of the tide represented in the water moving up the bank anywhere from 6 inches to several feet. The most frustrating part about learning how to fish a tidal waterway is when you catch fish in a specific location on one weekend come back the next week and all of the trees and brush you were flipping to catch a nice sack of fish are now high and dry.

This changing of the environment every day with the rise and fall of the tides gives these fisheries a mystic not found in other lakes or traditional river fishing scenarios. When you can figure out how to catch tidal influenced bass you can have an awesome time out fishing your favorite tidal riverways by targeting high percentage locations throughout the waterway to increase your chances of catching fish. It is not uncommon when learning to fish a tidal waterway to catch 25 bass one day and zero the next. This is just an another environmental characteristic you must put into the equation when trying to figure out how to catch fish. Most fisherman have spent years on lakes and understand the influences that the season, current weather, moon phase and other basics can adjust the attitudes and positioning of fish, however the tide sometimes can make all of what you know about fishing seem not important at all. Due to the regularity of the tides occurring every day fish plan there routines around these high and low switches of water to conserve energy and feed at the optimal times of the day and tide to be successful. Learning these subtleties will help you catch more fish from a tidal influenced body of water.

Fishing on one side of a point may be best during the high to low tide while fishing on the opposite may be best on the low to high tide, depending on which way the water is moving. Learning to focus on the current and the direction it is flowing can help you position where you cast your bait for the next big bite. I like to always keep my bait moving in the same direction of the tide especially in areas where the current is noticeable. Just like trout position themselves to face the current in a stream a largemouth bass will position itself towards the current to see any approaching food that may be swept in front of it's eyes.

Low Tide Fishing Basics

Fishing during a low tide can be tough for some anglers that like to beat the bank and focus only on visible structure and cover in the water.  As the water falls the fish often will prepare ahead of time and begin their migration into water that is a little deeper as to avoid being left in less than desire able locations or out to dry. Largemouth bass often use the transition from high to low tide to feed aggressively by positioning themselves to take advantage of any baitfish that have moved in very shallow and are retreating to the deeper water.

A standard technique as the low tide is going full steam and getting closer to bottoming out, is moving your boat out to the deeper weedlines that exist in rivers and bays of tidal influenced waters.  These are great location to use baits such as spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and flipping baits and fish along the weed lines.  Make sure to put your bait in as many target zones as possible, which is any location that the weeds tend form an irregular point or change from one type of vegetation to another.

High Tide Fishing Basics

The high tide can be a fun time to fish, many fish will get up tight to the bank, under overhanging trees and buried in the thick shoreline vegetation. Using baits like frogs, spooks, and buzzbaits can be excellent search baits especially in the summer times to fish large grass beds that form in the shallow flats. The fish often get buried up in the grass and these lures allow an angler to easily present a bait in the holes that form in the grass and tempt big fish to come up through the grass and eat a bait. When fishing tight to shore in a high tide, having a tungsten flipping weight tied on to your rod and reel will allow you to probe the matted vegetation that now has enough water under it to support fish. I often prefer to fish matted vegetation only when it has at least 3 feet of water undeneath it, and this is best if it has 3 feet during low tide and moves up to 4 - 6 feet during the high tide. There is a greater chance this will be a location a fish will call its home and you can punch a bait into the grass and see if someone is home.

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    • daybreak profile image

      daybreak 6 years ago from Atlantic Coast of North America

      This article does a great job of explaining tidal water bass behavior.

      As an avid tidal water angler, I can testify that the information presented here is an excellent primer for catching tidal bass.


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