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How To Fish Wingdams

Updated on September 7, 2019
HhaosThorngage profile image

Growing up next to a low head/wingdam has given me nearly 3 decades of fishing experience that I've used around the country.

Knowing how to fish wingdams is a great way to land more fish on your next adventure.
Knowing how to fish wingdams is a great way to land more fish on your next adventure.

What is a Wingdam?

Most often referred to as a wingdam, these obstructions to the current flow follow multiple names; low head dam, wingdam, flow control low head dam, but they all serve the same purpose. To control the amount of water going down stream, usually creating just enough structure so that the flow is impeded enough to stop the down stream waters from rising too fast and to obstruct a particularly strong current. These man-made constructs are found most in urban/sub-urban areas and offer great fishing if you know where to look and what features to use to your advantage.

Current control is a key function of a wingdam and something that we can take advantage of.
Current control is a key function of a wingdam and something that we can take advantage of.

Controlled Current

Current control is a well-known function of the low head dams and learning how to fish wingdams means learning how to use this controlled current to your advange. Often times predatory fish will cruise the current seems looking for forage being washed downstream in the strong mid current or resting in the eddies waiting for their food to simply float by. Where you fish in the current makes a very large difference.

Slack current created just downstream of the wingdam by a small sand bar is a great place to focus your presentation
Slack current created just downstream of the wingdam by a small sand bar is a great place to focus your presentation

Depending on the species being targeted, where you fish and how you fish it has a great impact on how well you will do fishing a wingdam. You will find most of your smaller species rockbass, crappie, bullhead, and various sunfish hiding in the nearest structure. These impediments to current provide shelter from the strong downstream flow and allow these fish to swim at their own pace rather than being washed quickly downstream into less rich waters.


Predatory fish, your walleye, catfish, pike, and bass tend to congregate where food is most likely to present. You have to ask yourself of the feeding habits of the fish you are targeting before you commit to a section of the river to fish. Current seems tends to offer pristine locations for bass, walleye, and musky to congregate in order to quickly attack the baitfish being pushed downstream by the current and return to slightly easier to traverse water where they need not expend as much energy to stay in place. Ambush predator style fish like most species of catfish tend to congregate in eddies and hidden in structure where they can quickly nab a bite and return to their resting habitat.

As always structure is key. Any break to the current adds protection for the fish and ample opportunity to grab your line.
As always structure is key. Any break to the current adds protection for the fish and ample opportunity to grab your line.

How to Wingdams According to Target Species:

When fishing a wingdam I'm usually after a particular species and tend to narrow down as many possibilities as possible. Attempting multiple patterns in a trip to make the most out of my time. Some of my favorites include:

When fishing for catfish I tend to target the slower moving water around the eddies and any slack pools behind structure with either live or cut bait. When not available I have been known to use store-bought baits like liver or hotdog but I prefer to stick to fish, live or whole, for most of my catfishing. Attaching a large(2-4oz) weight to my line to keep my bait pegged to the bottom and await the bite.

A recent catch with a beautiful wingdam backdrop taken on a whole bluegill.
A recent catch with a beautiful wingdam backdrop taken on a whole bluegill.

For bass I tend to focus on rocky structure pitching a tube or jig in and around as much of the large structures as I can. Dark colors seem to do best as the water is often stained from the turmoil nearby and I believe it helps the bass to find the lure.


For walleye I love to use either a Northland Tackle Fireball Jig or a Lindy Live Bait Jig tipped with half a nightcrawler or minnow, both in the 1/4 to 1/2oz range. Pitch the jig into the current at a 45 degree angle upstream and slowly work it back. The current will swing the jig slowly downstream towards shore. In my experience, most of the bites happen as soon as the presentation leaves the main current, with the bites coming hard and fast.

Walleye are one of my all-time favorite wingdam species to catch as they provide some great table fare.
Walleye are one of my all-time favorite wingdam species to catch as they provide some great table fare.
BOOYAH Boo Jig - Black/Blue - 1/2 oz
BOOYAH Boo Jig - Black/Blue - 1/2 oz
Booyah brand jigs are about the best in my opinion. Coming in many sizes, up to 1oz, they are amazingly well suited to all situations and allow me to fish every kind of structure imaginable with any color combination I can think of. My go to for fishing wingdams for small mouth is this very jig. 1/2oz lets it fall fast but allows it to flutter down slowly in the current to nestle between the rocks before coming back up to be eaten.
 

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