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Jim Porter

(AUTHOR'S NOTE: This article concerns submerged channels only within man-made reservoirs. There are numerous other factors which would have to be explored if we also addressed natural waters, and that space is not available here.)

During the Spring and early Summer, the majority of anglers take their bass from shallow cover, such as weeds, stump beds and brush. The remainder of the year they cry the bassin' blues because 'the fish just aren't biting'. It's either too hot, too cold, too bright, too much rain, low water, high water, and on and on.

Having once been newcomers to the sport, we all remember when our bass fishing was generally like that. And, the reason, as stated, is that we didn't know how to fish if it wasn't around the shallow, visible cover.

Now, we are a bit more educated. We have learned about structure and all the wonderful catches it can produce between those Spring flare-ups of fishing. No doubt about it, structure is good stuff; but, it can be even better! All we have to do is determine which structure has the highest probability of producing bass, day in and day out. If you never really gave detailed structure analysis a serious thought, let me ask you this question: Recall all the details of the five best reservoir bass fishing trips you have had, outside of the Spring season and possibly surface schooling bass. I'll bet my best crank plug that four of the five were on structure related in some way to a river or creek channel. No doubt about that. If you weren't directly on the channel edge, you were reasonably close to one.

The point to be made is that, while any off-shore structure may hold some bass at a given time, those which do so on a continual and predictable basis are nearly always directly influenced by a channel of some type. Two very specific reasons account for this. First, we all now understand the relationship of a break-line into deep water and the bass's natural instinct for a quick retreat from danger. Although she spends the vast majority of her time in 8-15 feet of water, Mama Bass likes to have that deep water handy.

The second reason is the current flow within a channel and its far-reaching effects. Whether caused by natural water flow or simply movements induced by the winds, moving water prevents temperature and oxygen level stratifications, reduces temperatures, increases oxygen levels, prevents stagnation and brings food in its wake. All those factors are easily recognizable and point out clearly why a channel has such an influence on the life style of the bass. Of the two major channels we spoke of (the river and the creek), only the creek channel has the capability of providing for the bass on a year-round basis. The river normally has a continual current, which Winter bass strongly avoid. Plus, the more shallow areas adjacent to a main river channel usually are not prime spawning grounds.

The creek channel, on the other hand, provides everything the bass requires, plus it gives her a 'highway' to the shallow spawning areas, food shelves and cover. The current flow, also, is not usually as strong nor as consistent as that of river.

If you are a reasonably experienced angler, the preceding was possibly not required in order to call attention to the dominate role of the creek channel in today's bass fishing. However, many readers are newcomers, less-experienced, or just never really gave the subject much thought. For those individuals, this recognition may allow them to gain years worth of additional knowledge and understanding during a single season.

All creek channels have a common trait-they are never straight! There will be some stretches where the direction has little deviation, but creek channels, by nature, are winding and crooked little devils. Their traces were formed by, and lay in relation to, the surrounding topography. In a majority of cases, one bank is found to be slightly higher in elevation than the other. (This is nearly always true in a sharp channel bend, where the outside bank is higher and, thus, controlling the direction of flow.)

This difference in elevation between sides of the channel edges can be significant, in that the higher side was usually the more hard soil (possibly even rock), had the steeper lip (a desirable bassin' feature), and probably had the main growth of trees (resulting in today's stump beds). These are the exact reasons why the outside of a channel bend is always the more productive. Another is that a bass, given two similar, adjacent structure features, will always chose the one of rock and often will select the higher of the two. Possibly it has to do with dominance and surveillance of the surrounding area.

The reverse is true in the Winter. A cold-bloodied bass will be very stiff and lethargic during the cold months, making feeding difficult. He attempts to remain as stable and motionless as possible, in order to conserve energy. Going along with this, the bass strictly avoids current flow during the colder periods, in that he would have to consume valuable energy to counter it and hold his position. Consequently, the INSIDE of a channel bend, or the lower bank, is less influenced by any current present and that is where he will take up residence. These Winter locations have one other specific requirement, one which is not easily come by. The Winter bass school must have a significant, though not necessarily large, structure feature to use for a reference point. These are not too common on the low side of the channel and, when found (such as a rock pile, isolated hump, or such), are very often one of those fabled 'honey-holes.

Any variety of lures will work on creek channels. The angler must simply apply the common sense approach in selecting the proper one for the depth being fished and considering the speed (a function of cold or warm water conditions) required. As with any other structure approach, always start with a diving crank plug to take the more active fish quickly. Then move to the worm or jig-and-pig. Possibly the most critical issue with approaching the creek channel is the accuracy of lure presentation, hindered because the structure is not visible. Interpreting the sonar device, boat control and the proper use of float marker become critical to keep the lure in the productive zone the maximum amount of time. By far, the better boat control technique is to keep the boat directly over the edge of the break-line. This is the only true reference point which is precise and well defined. Also, when using float markers, never drop them directly on the target to be fished, nor near the intended path of the lure. Floats are for reference only and, if you place them all 20 feet to the East of the channel trace, you have got the structure well marked without fear of spooking the bass nor tangling the lure.

Creek channels provide the key to year-round bassin' success. Understand them and learn the seasonal bass movements and habits related to the channel features and you'll become a more effective angler.


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