Follow the current

About the author

Stephen Headrick

Stephen Headrick

Stephen Headrick is better known to the bass fishing world as the Smallmouth Guru. He lives in Celina, Tenn., and is the owner of Punisher Lures.

There’s a lot written about current in lakes and manmade reservoirs. It’s something that we all know is important. But how many of us really understand it? I suspect not very many.

Here’s what I’ve learned over the years. I’m not claiming to be an expert or anything like that. My ideas are just that — my ideas. Still, maybe thinking about the things I’m going to say will help. It’s at least a place to start.

Mostly, the current created by electric generation will follow the main lake channel. That’s pretty much a given. You can find the channel with a map or with your electronics and go from there. In my experience the sharpest turns will produce the best. I always start by fishing the outside of the bend. If that doesn’t produce, I never leave without fishing the inside of the bend.

The current created by creeks and other types of tributaries is a little different. It’s at its best right after a rain. This kind of current isn’t hard to find. All you have to do is look for moving water. Often times, though, it’ll last long after you can’t see it. The water underneath will move along the same path even when you can’t see it moving on top.

There’s something else that happens. Most creeks and other types of inflows make a bowl-shaped depression right where the water enters the lake. As the water leaves that bowl it often creates an eddy on both sides of the flow.

This eddy may not be real strong. It’s not always something that you can see. In fact, what you’ll usually see is a collection of nasty looking leaves and twigs. Sometimes they bunch up in a curved pattern. They don’t look like they’re moving at all. But they are, and the smallmouth know that.

The better fish frequently set up on one side or the other of the eddy. In my experience the outside edge — that’s the one farthest away from the water flow — is the best. For some reason smallmouth seem to be drawn that way. Nevertheless, fish both sides. You never know for sure.

Why smallmouth bass position themselves that way is a mystery to me. It seems like there are better ambush points around, and the current isn’t strong enough to wash anything their way. I may not understand the why of what they do, but I do know for sure that they do it. It has to be working for them one way or another.

What bait you should use to make them bite depends upon where you’re fishing. This is a match the hatch situation. You should always be fishing with something that looks — color, size and action — like what they’ve been eating.

If you’re in doubt, go with a natural looking, shad-like plastic. It’s hard to go wrong with a standard size Zoom Fluke. It’s late in the year. Make sure that if you use something other than a Fluke it has some size to it. I’d say 3 or 4 inches is a good place to start.

Current is more than rushing water. Learn to see and appreciate its subtleties, and you’ll probably catch more brown bass this fall.

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