Sunday, May 08, 2022

Low Water Secrets to Help New Anglers Find Fish

by Derek Benoit August 9th, 2021

What You’ll Learn in This Article

  • The Value of Pictures in Fishing Reconnaissance
  • How to Document Structure with Pictures
  • The Concept of “Spots Within Spots”
  • Applying Presentations to Structure
A great mix of hard and soft structure fishable from a bridge by drifting bait down current, or by casting lures across and quatering upstream from either side. Derek Benoit

New Anglers Find Fish with Good Scouting

New anglers find fish often by accident. Sure, many articles and videos can help, but for those of us shore bound, we need all the help we can get. Assuming you fish relatively small bodies of water, low water periods are a great chance to learn. Additionally, the advent of smart phones means that pictures you take of local waters can be taken with you anywhere and everywhere. Moreover, you can create ongoing folders of pictures by season, month, whatever the case may be, from year to year to understand how local waters change with weather conditions.

Worth Noting Up Front

I had to be very careful about giving away the location of this pond. Important to note is that it’s critically small and easily crowded. Hence, I had to do something to minimize the chance of making its location obvious.

Before we can delve into taking pics of your local creeks, ponds, or lakes, we should first figure out what we’re seeking. Ultimately, we’re looking for structure that will hold fish, is accessible (by boat or shore) and allows for appropriate presentations of lures or bait.

Structure in a Nutshell

Structure can be hard (rocks, rock ledges, rocky points man made structures, etc.) or soft (sandbars and accompanying drop-offs, sand points, etc.). Natural structure is often the result of current flow and its effect upon sediment deposits. This is especially the case in water with variable currents. As a result of this structure, fish have an advantage over prey items that are swept over or past said structure. Typically, bass (especially large mouth) and pan fish will use the quite edges with slower water, adjacent to faster currents. Also, the will stage behind an obstruction that breaks the current and creates eddies behind said obstruction. Food is swept right too the fish, limiting the energy necessary for feeding.

Why Structure is SO Important for New Anglers

This structure determines EVERYTHING in terms the post productive locations within any given body of water, given any water condition and any season. Consequently, if you become familiar the habits of your preferred species by water temperature and season, you can make use of everything from expansive shallow flats, to drop offs, to rocky or rip-rap banks, and especially aquatic vegetation. Specifically, water clarity and depth often help determine where edges of weed forms. While not structure of itself, such is often indicative of such, AND creates additional opportunities for presenting lures or baits.

Pictures as Documentation of Fish Holding Structure

If you view the pictures included carefully, you’ll notice that the faster currents are clearly visible toward the outer bend of each turn in the very obvious channels. Usually on the outside bend of the channels there will be either a steeply eroded bank, or sand bar. Both are noticeable in the following pictures. Again, the fish will typically set up in the lowest current areas adjacent to this structure, allowing them to save energy as food is swept past them, or directly to them.

An obvious deeper, faster current flow adjacent to an outside drop off of a flat. Derek Benoit

a great example of man-made structure affecting water flow and soft structure. Derek Benoit

What you’re looking for in each opportunity to document structure is this: information to determine how those fish you target will most likely use that structure.

New Anglers Find Fish at the Spots within Spots

Spots within spots are individual, unique features that complement soft or hard structural features. They provide additional advantages within already advantageous feeding areas. Thus, they are always worth identifying within flats, junctions between channels, drop offs, and rocky areas. Whatever feeding advantages are provided by the general, larger structural feature, is augmented by the micro spots.

While this pic is meant to show holding features with a general spot, look carefully in the bank at the rear and you’ll see another “spot within a spot:” a transition from a steep chunk rock bank to one with a more gravelly composition. Derek Benoit

Above you can clearly see man-made stones serving as an erosion prevention feature. What you can’t see is the long-gone culvert drain that used to be in the bank on the right side. Such existed prior to major renovations to the body of water occurred many years ago. What is much more obvious is the protection said feature provides for this shallow channel. Current speeds up between a small central island on the left and the shore proper on the right. Below is a close up of individual features within this larger feature. If conditions make the fish aggressive, they will hold up current of both these small features and the island to the left.

“Spots within spots” visible in this picture include both hard and soft structure, plus some natural cover. Can you identify them all? There are several. Derek Benoit

Worth noting that this creates an important, albeit slower secondary channel that sweeps toward the bank downstream from the island. It’s subtle, but it’s there. Also, it creates another fish holding feature on the bank further downstream with a shallow but pronounced contour change as the bank drops off into this “mini channel.” Trust me, shallow or not, fish will hold all along this steep, but relatively shallow bank, especially when there is aquatic vegetation and and natural debris along it.

New Anglers Must Use the Right Presentations

Another “spot within a spot,” this hole is formed by current flowing from between the central island and the bank opposite it. To the right you see a drop off leading to another mini channel, which drains directly to the main channel running to the far side of the island. You can picture the current flowing downstream from the hole, to and along the bank across the flat. Derek Benoit

Even with average height water, the hole in the above picture is better fished with a small swimming or topwater plug. I’ve never tried it, or seen it done, but this would be a perfect location for a floating fly line presentation with a small popping bug or similar topwater fly.

As is clear from these pictures, shoreline plant growth is not well controlled. While that makes fishing difficult at times, it can also provide opportunities. Thus it limits pressure. Also, it forces you to understand the structure’s position relative to yours on shore. Certainly, a boat makes this less of a problem as it is easily positioned as needed.

Nitty Gritty Details of Presentation

Often times it’s best to cast quartering upstream. Allow the lure to sweep across the chosen feature. Hence, your job is imitate a live minnow or other forage species being swept by the current as it flows over or past structure. Attempt to swing the lure on a tight line across any structure to slower waters. Jigs can be either drifted just above or bounced along the bottom Specifically, allow such to wash over, past, and behind any given feature.

Often many fish are caught from the same piece of structure with this method. Critical to this is the size of the structure. Individual object or holes can be fished similarly. The objective here is to sweep the lure over the up current edge the hole. Depth can also be controlled easily in using jigs or tubes with a slip bobber rig.

There are certainly times where making a cast quartering down current is best. Again, this is dependent upon from where you’re able to cast as well as other limiting factors. Consequently, note available casting lanes, like shoreline plants, trees, etc.

Water Depth and Lure Choice

The more shallow the feature you’ve chosen, the more effective swimming plugs or topwaters become. As the water gets deeper, jigs become more a better option. It’s best to keep a selection of swimming plugs and jigs organized by size or swimming depth. Such gives you plenty of options at hand. Also, If you’re taking up fly fishing you can use a similar approach. However, such requires multiple sink rate lines and flies to accomplish such.

If I’m drifting bait, I prefer a slightly different approach. Typically, I prefer to drift such either with a very, very light split shot, or on a slip bobber rig. I cast or pitch the bait or rig down current, allowing it to be free spooled downstream. Critically, I use my fingers to control the rate of line release out. Ultimately, varying the angles of your pitch or cast downstream AND the length of drift allows quick exploration. Specifically, you can probe any number of eddies and features down current. As a result, this is a great way to cover water quickly.

For more information on choosing light fishing tackle for such waters, please check out the following additional articles:

Another great source for species-specific information in fresh water is:

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