The Rise and Fall of the Water Column.
Fluctuating water levels, force a bassí hand to deal with his environment. I believe that the fish react instantly to most water level changes. . Remember, the water beneath the surface is their home. In addition, much like you and me, any changes in those conditions, cause us to take a look around right away to resolve or begin to deal with the change at hand. In the case of a bass, there's not much he can do to change the situation, so he reacts accordingly. Moreover, it's recognizing which of these reactions the fish take, that allow us to better locate and catch them.
Now depending on the time of year, the fish population in some lakes may react differently. Such as fish that live in deep canyon lakes, who tend to reside deeper most of the year, these fish may not be as susceptible to the falling or rising water fluctuations, nor may they be bothered by the change in water color, especially if it's only occurring on the top layer of the water column. Yet for the most part, you can count on these fish doing one of two things, when the water is rising or when the top column becomes stained due to run off or wave action created by wind, current or boat traffic, you can generally expect the fish to move up shallow into a new feeding zone. These new zones have been provided to them via the rising water or under the cover of the stain. Remember, a bass is a predator, he is a very efficient feeder, and loves ta use any advantage he can to conceal himself when feeding on unsuspecting prey.
When this occurs, my choice of baits changes immensely. I now want to present baits to these fish that they can easily locate. Remember, their internal instincts have sent them shallow under these conditions to actively feed. They git turned on and go into a positive feeding mode and are more easily caught at this time. So putting a bait near them that is big, loud in color, and noisy, can be extremely productive. My choice of baits here would be a big medium diving crank bait or double Willow leaf spinnerbait. Chartreuse is my color choice and it must have a noticeable streak of blue or some other dark presence along the back or top of the bait. My second choice is a 6" straight tail worm fished on a Brass-n-glass bead Texas rig. It is under these conditions us Westerner's love ta do the "Shakin" thing, especially in these mud lines and newly submerged cover. And last but not least, a 1/2 oz jig with a 213 Emerald Green or 209 Indigo Yamamoto 5" single tail grub attached. Make sure this jig has rattles in it and that the rubber skirt provides a very big and bulky profile. Pitchin and flippin' this jig in and around this type of cover will draw some of the biggest fish out and the most violent of strikes.
On the flip side of your situation, when the water is falling due to draw down, this is a time when fishing for bass becomes really tough. Those fish can absolutely not go shallow into cover, for it will not be long before they are high and dry. Hence, when this occurs on a lake, most bass will pull away from the bank and a safe distance from the falling water line. In doing this, I've found them ta do a couple of things. Either they drop down to the nearest or second major structural change, this could be a stair stepping ledge, a creek channel, or even the nearest rock pile. In addition, they will pull off to the closest point and suspend out in open water. Out here, they feel more safe and comfortable. Find one of these points, adjacent to a creek channel, with some cover on it, like weeds or brush, you got a honey hole my friend!
More often than not, when this occurs, bass tend to put themselves into a neutral or negative feeding mode. When in this mode, it takes a little bit more of a fineness approach to catch em sometimes. Dropshotting is the new craze. The reason being David, this technique is perfectly matched to put a subtle bait right in front of a suspending, docile bass' nose. One that he just can't seem to refuse most of the time. Whether ya wacky rig a 4" Senko or nose hook yer favorite 3-6" colored worm, this technique is a must in all bass fisherman's arsenal these days. Spooning can be an extremely effective technique on these fish as well. If you got falling water in the fall, like October & November, git your electronics out and go find the bait fish out in the middle of creeks channels. Drop a spoon below em, you'll find the bass.
It is also during this period that I will go to one of my confidence baits, a 3/4 Ton Pick-Up rig. This rig consists of a 3/4oz football head jig attached to a Yamamoto 5" double tail Hula grub. My favorite color is 297 green pumpkin or 194 watermelon seed. These two variations of green work from coast to coast! I just pick that rod up and chuck it to the bank and let it settle. Then I just gently pick it up with a subtle rod movement, let it settle, then pick it up again, let it settle, then pick it up, pick it up, pick it up and hop that bait all the way down to 30' or more till I find the bass. This is totally opposite to the norm that I mentioned above. It is not finesse fishing at all. But in fact a very aggressive, reactionary technique. It allows you to cover the water column very quickly, keep in contact with the bottom and trigger violent strikes from bass that just can't let that crawdad escape. I used this technique on Lake Oroville out here in a BassMaster's in California to finish second place and win a boat. And the majority of the entire field was dropshotting, including the eventual winner Gene Batey from Washington, who edged me by mere ounces. These two techniques are proven fish catchers in lakes with falling water!
Give these a try next time out and you run into those conditions. Then report back to us here at Yamamoto Central and let us know how they worked for you.
Keep A Tight Line!