Bass in the Bends

The trail that leads to summer bass is full of twists and turns. Luckily, they're easy to find.

Field & Stream Online Editors

When bass drop back to the creek and river channels that lace the bottoms of impoundments, fishing gets tough for those who insist on casting to the bank. Throughout the summer and fall, bass follow inundated streambeds the way humans travel roadways, and a sharp bend in a channel is like a congested intersection. Often you can find bass bumper to bumper in the bends.

Begin your search for bends by studying a detailed contour lake map of the reservoir. The map should reveal the main river channel that ends at the dam and all the tributaries branching from it. On the map, follow each river and creek bed upstream to its source, and highlight any bends you come across.

You may find serpentine channels bisecting shallow flats near the headwaters of creeks. At the other extreme may be bends on the main lake in depths of 20 feet or more. All are worth checking, but any bend that sweeps close to an underwater point or hump should be given high priority, because these structures are akin to burger joints on a busy main drag -- hard to pass up when hungry. Fish both the creek bend and the nearby structure.

Out on the water, follow the map to one of the bends you've marked, and crisscross the bottom while studying a depthfinder. You should have little trouble seeing the distinct dropoff that indicates the channel. One exception would be when looking for a bend in the upper end of a creek arm on an older impoundment. Siltation may have filled in the channel near the mouth of the incoming creek. Look for the channel farther downstream where siltation has yet to take its toll.

If flooded timber stands above the waterline, you can easily see where channels cut through the trees and quickly determine the locations of bends. If the trees have rotted and broken off at or just below the water's surface, however, picking our way through the maze of stumps can be frustrating, to put it mildly. Proceed at idle speed.

Fishing a particular bend for the first time is much easier if you place several marker buoys along its outside edge. This helps you visualize the bend and cast your lures accordingly. If you catch bass in the bend, be sure to jot down landmarks in a notebook before retrieving the buoys.

Crankbaits comb the bottom fast and efficiently and do a nice job during your initial inventory of a bend. The lure should run deep enough to clip the ledge of the channel. If the ledge is too deep to reach with crankbaits, switch to a Carolina-rigged lizard or a Texas-rigged worm.

Position your boat directly over the creek bed, follow the channel, and cast ahead over the lip of the bend. Stumps often embellish the outside edges of bends, and you should be encouraged when you feel them with your lures. Since water once carved deeply into the channel's bank as it swept around the turn, this location also presents an abrupt dropoff. You'll never meet a bass that doesn't like stumps and dropoffs, especially when these features coexist.

This isn't to say you should overlook the inside turn of a river bend, as many anglers do. Inside turns sometimes have stumps and bottom contours that appeal to bass, too.

Be aware that small, subtle bends may not be marked on lake maps. Since few anglers find these spots, they are rarely fished. One way to find unmarked bends is to put your boat over a creek channel where it enters the lake and follow it downstream, fishing as you go. When the channel suddenly seems to vanish and you have trouble relocating it, don't lose your cool. The creek channel probably made a sharp turn and threw you off. In other words, you may be on the verge of finding a bend stacked with bass. a bend stacked with bass.