Plenty of grumbling and excuses are heard when serious bass anglers start talking about catching “dog days” bass. Complicated-sounding terms are heard like: ledge fishing, locating structures with electronics, thermoclines, night fishing, and deep water sanctuaries. Such tactics and the various hardships associated with finding bass in the mainlake portions of most large reservoirs is not necessary.
All of Georgia’s major man-made impoundments possess at least one larger tributary or headwaters area where current flow is evident and a different set of bass fishing methods can be successfully applied. This part of a reservoir normally includes the upper reaches of any tributary flowing into the lake. For example, a huge impoundment like Clarks Hill near Augusta has the Savannah River, both the Georgia and South Carolina Little Rivers, as well as the Broad River. On a smaller reservoir like West Point Lake, one would have to consider the Chattahoochee River as its only headwater tributary. Our own Lake Lanier has two distinct feeder rivers: the Chattahoochee and the smaller Chestatee.
Fishing these upper sections of a reservoir requires an angler to employ tactics and techniques that are used on free-flowing rivers and streams. Therefore, current, channel location, and visible structures are keys to finding bass.
One should concentrate most efforts on those banks against which the current flows, and look for any type of cover that breaks the path of the moving water. Bass in flowing water will generally be found around cover that provides relief from fighting the current, and puts them in a position to dart out after food being washed downstream by the moving water. Obvious places are freshly fallen trees, rock outcrops, and old logs. Other hotspots can be underwater ledges created by channel bends, an underwater intersection of the river, and feeder creeks coming into the river.
It is always best to fish downstream to upstream if the current flow is such that your trolling motor will permit. In this manner, the bait will always be moving in the direction of the current flow and look more natural to the bass. If it is necessary to float downstream while fishing, always cast across the current and allow the lure to work itself downstream on the retrieve.
The shallower depths of most tributaries that feed reservoirs permits the use of a variety of lures. Plastic worms or weedless jigs are great for heavy cover, but crankbaits, topwater lures, buzzbaits, and spinnerbaits can be very productive.
Since the cooler, flowing waters make the bass more active during the warmer months, lures can normally be worked at a faster pace than in a lake. Also, bass must make instant decisions when trying to grab a meal flowing by them so quickly. These predators are not usually as concentrated as in mainlake structures, but the combination of current, many visible structures, and numerous usable lures can prove to be very effective.
Always work as far up the headwaters stream as the boat will safely maneuver, or go to www.georgiafishing.com and hire a guide with a boat that can get you there. Cover lots of water and fish as much visible cover as possible. The ability to make very accurate casts, however, is essential to being successful in a river environment with moving water.
Headwaters bassin’ offers an exciting alternative during the “dog days” of summer. Such an adventure is certainly not for everyone, but it can be extremely productive and rewarding!