Floods Got You Down? It's Oxbow Time

I just happened to be in South Carolina this weekend during all the rain and flooding. Needless to say, the bass fishermen there are going to be dealing with high-water conditions for a while. I’m certainly no stranger to fishing them; during a tourney in Louisianna several years ago, I drove my boat through about a mile of flooded forest before reaching a secluded old oxbow pond that was not accessible a few days earlier. And I didn’t get there by accident. I found it using Google Earth. You have to be resourceful when the water is raging and dirty if you want to be successful, and sometimes that means getting out of your comfort zone.

floodfence

Most anglers know that during flood conditions, bass will go shallow. But looking for the right kind of shallows blindly can be like looking for a needle in a hay stack. Let’s take your favorite local river during a flood as an example. I bet you try to fish when its high by casting a spinnerbait into the trees flooded with muddy water that have current racing around them. Never works well, does it? I know because I’ve been there and tried that. Rather than fire away all day at nothing, look on Google Earth and hunt for oxbows that sit in the woods around the outside and inside bends of the main flow. If you find some, I can tell that each oxbow has a specific water level that dictates how high the floodwaters must be for an angler to access it by boat from the main river.

Naturally, these levels take time to learn. But one shortcut I can give you gleaned from years of fishing oxbows is that the most productive are usually the ones that you barely squeak through a foot or two of water. It makes sense if you think about it. The shallower the water around the oxbow, the higher the banks were around it at low water. The higher the sides, the longer the oxbow remains clear, because the longer it takes for floodwaters to raise and spill over the top. I’ll be honest: sometimes finding your way into the best oxbows requires a chainsaw, winch, big running start with the gas motor, or a push pole, but the payout can be so worth the effort, especially if you’re the first boat that’s been back there in years.