How to beat yo-yoing water levels

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Kevin VanDam

Kevin VanDam

In the world of professional bass fishing, Kevin VanDam is at the pinnacle and arguably the best in the world.

This spring season has been one of yo-yoing water levels, a factor that’s been most challenging for touring pros.

Under normal circumstances, we all know that bass move up with the rising water and drop back with falling water.

But lately we’ve faced constantly changing conditions that include radical rises and falls along with fast current one day, slow current the next, or even changing current throughout the day.

That makes for a tricky situation during the spawn especially when most of the fish during our tournaments have been in the postspawn mode.

The first key is to know what phase of the spawn that the fish are in. That dictates how fast or how much bass will move with changing water conditions.

For example, early in the prespawn and during the spawn, bass move fast; they come up quick with rising water and will stay there with falling water until their backs are dry. That’s especially true of bedding fish.

However, we’ve fished the tail end of the spawn during our last two events, and the fish reacted differently. If they were shallow and the water dropped as little as 2 inches, they totally vacated the area.

What do you do?

Cover water quickly, fishing fast while constantly analyzing what is going on. When you get a bite, determine how the fish was positioned, what it was relating to (depth, specific structure, and cover), current flow, how close the fish was to a creek channel or far it was from deep water.

A lot of times it’s difficult to get that first bite because the fish may move deeper or shallower throughout the day. If you aren’t making that precise cast you might as well miss them by a mile.

I prefer reactionary bites because they enable me to trigger a strike from a neutral fish and still cover water. I’ll use square bill crankbaits, stickbaits, spinnerbaits and poppers – baits that have erratic action and you can work quickly.

In dirty water, the fish will hang tighter to cover and near the bank. That’s when I like baits that have more vibration and displace water; like spinnerbaits, crankbaits and bladed swim jigs, such as the Strike King Pure Poison.

Clear water is a bit more challenging, but the bass will move farther to get a bait, so I use erratic lures that I can fish higher in the water column, such as topwaters and jerkbaits that can pull fish away from their cover.

It’s easy to get frustrated while trying to figure out bass under these conditions, but keep with it. Hit main lake points, secondary points and sides of pockets and systematically determine exactly what the fish are setting up on. Take notice of the types of banks and how they’re relating to the creeks and then look for more of that after you catch a fish or two.

It can change day to day; that’s what we encountered the last three tournaments and why my overall performances yo-yoed – with the water - from day to day. Some days you figure it out quickly and run a pattern while other days it takes longer to put it together.

So, don’t give up. Keep moving, looking and experimenting and eventually you will run into them.

Remember, it’s all about the attitude.

Kevin VanDam's column appears weekly on Bassmaster.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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