Monday, February 6th, 2023
Monday, February 6th, 2023

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August channel bassin’ on the Mississippi

Largemouth bass like this one sampled by the Iowa DNR can be found swimming in the Mississippi. (Photo courtesy of Ben Ford/Iowa DNR)

By Jeremiah Haas

Contributing Writer

When low, hot water occurs on the Mississippi River in August, it can be a tough time for bass fishing. Most fisherman are up at first light, fish until about nine o’clock, then head home for something more productive to do. While this scenario may be true for many fishermen, the person who understands the conditions can be successful all day long.

There are two schools of thought when attacking the water.  

The first tactic is to head to the backwaters, find some weeds, and throw a frog, swim jig, or swimbait. If you find some fish, you can slow down and flip or punch plastics to cover the area thoroughly.  While fish can be caught all day, the best times are still typically early in the morning or later in the day.

The second tactic is to head to the channel and find fish out on the main channel borders. This can be especially productive if you have a strong smallmouth bass population in the area, which the Quad Cities area is beginning to see.

Channel bass tend to bite more consistently throughout the day compared to weed fish. Many tournament anglers agonize about making those decisions because the rule of thumb is larger fish are typically caught in the weeds, but weed fish are much more finicky.  

If you are out fishing for fun, you can always take the easy path and fish both. 

Bass tend to concentrate around rock and wood with current along the channel borders. This is true for both largemouth and smallmouth bass.  

It’s bass fishing, but it may sound like you are trying to go walleye fishing because the tactics are very similar.

If you have some die-hard walleye buddies, ask them if they are catching bass while out trolling crankbaits. They may surprise you with stories of some very large fish. If you find a combination of large rock or rip rap, current, and some large wood, then you have found the trifecta of success.

The first places to try are the most obvious, rip rap banks and wingdams. Even without a map, those structures can be seen by studying the surface of the water.  

The Corps of Engineers is nice enough to mark these fishing structures with red and green buoys on the Mississippi River.  

Fish tend to find a favorable current speed and hang there, so if you catch one, do not leave that section of wingdam or rip rap because the fish will concentrate on these structures as long as conditions remain constant.  

Walleye fisherman have been using this tactic for years.  

They will anchor or concentrate on a fifty-foot section of wingdam for an entire day when the fish are there.

The bass may not be actively feeding, but bouncing a crankbait off those rocks will eventually trigger reaction strikes.  Changing angles, working adjacent areas, or changing your bait or bait color can keep the fish biting. 

Bass are competitive; if you get them worked up, you can continue to catch them for quite a while. The active fish tend to be on top or on the front face of the structure, but that is just a loose rule. 

Personally, I love this time of year because I am a crankbait fisherman at heart and always have four or five different types tied on.  

Square bills tend to be my first choice when I am searching for fish. 

Unlike southern reservoirs where your electronics tell you where to fish, the average depth of the river is less than nine feet, and most times five feet or less.  

I have found that the GPS is critical to holding the correct angles to work those rock structures.

You should not limit yourself to just one bait either.  

A Carolina rig, flathead jig, or any other precision bait will work once you have pinpointed the cover to which the fish are holding.  

On occasion, switching to a deep diving ¾-ounce crankbait, throwing it into five feet of water, and nearly grinding the bill off has fired up the school again or gotten that big one to finally commit when all other baits caught the outliers.  If you get hung up, pick up another rod until things slow down, then go retrieve your bait. 

Shallow crankbait fishing is usually easy on your wallet, except you need to change out hooks more frequently.

While most anglers have called it a day and are home mowing the lawn, you can still be catching fish throughout the day if you head to the main channel and try some non-traditional bass areas that big fish inhabit when the water is low and hot on the Illinois of the Mighty Mississippi River.

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