Go With the Flow

Moving water can turn dog days into "hawg" days.

Field & Stream Online Editors

In the heat of summer, legendary bass angler Bill Dance doesn't sit in the air conditioning waiting for the mercury to drop. "River-run reservoirs and the tailraces below dams offer tremendous summer bass fishing," he says. "But anglers tend to overlook them because they don't like to deal with current." He knows that's a big mistake.

"In the summer, moving water is routinely 5 to 10 degrees cooler than slack water. And while slack-water lakes stratify in hot weather and may have large areas that are dangerously low in dissolved oxygen, moving water has plenty of it, and the tumbling action of the current distributes that oxygen evenly from top to bottom. Baitfish are also especially abundant. Time and again, I've caught monster bass-both largemouths and smallmouths-from moving water in hot weather."

The feeding binges of these riverine bass often coincide with current generation from upstream dams, Dance notes. "At Pickwick Lake, Alabama, where I tape many of my TV shows, I've seen the bass bite turn on and off like a switch, depending on current. So it pays to figure out when dams in your area will be generating current by calling the local authority or checking their website-and make sure you're on the water when it's moving."

Dance's No. 1 hotspot in these conditions is a creek-channel dropoff. "Bass will suspend over the channel in deep water during periods of no flow, then they'll slide up onto the adjacent ledge to feed when current is running."

To find and fish these structures, you'll need a good depthfinder, a set of marker buoys, and a powerful trolling motor. "I idle across the structure with my outboard, dropping buoys along the channel ledge as I go," Dance says. "Then I fish the structure with my trolling motor pointed into the current."

Because moving water is often murky, Dance uses high-visibility lures. His favorites choices include deep-diving fat crankbaits in chartreuse or bone white, 1/2- to 1-ounce spinnerbaits in white or black, and 1/2-ounce jigs with plump pork trailers in black and blue. "Many river fishermen like small, compact baits in current, but I'd rather have a heavy lure that the bass can see and I can stay in contact with," he says. "I fish all of them on a 7-foot, medium-heavy baitcasting rod with a high-speed (6:1) reel and 14-pound mono."

Finally, Dance points out, don't think you have to fish deep just because it's summertime. "I may have to get my lures 15 to 20 feet down in a slack-water lake at this time of year, but in moving water, the bass are usually only half that deep, which makes for some exciting summer fishing."