It’s a high water year


James Overstreet

It’s going to be a high-water year for anglers, and that could require some adjustments in your fishing approach.

We saw it at Ross Barnett last week, and it’s ongoing through most of the South.

Missouri is flooded out; Texas lakes are high; and even our Midwestern natural lakes are rising. My pond is the highest it’s been in 25 years.

Barring severe droughts, this high water could impact lakes well into the summer.

The floods and high water can cause dreadful harm to communities, but when it’s controlled, it can create good fishing. As these waters rise, the bass move up with the rising water and oftentimes move quickly.

In many cases, the high water leads to muddy water which prompts the fish to stay in front of the silt, like at Ross Barnett where the fish sought the clearer water in the backwater areas.

However, remember that fish don’t do the same thing in every lake. At Toledo Bend a year ago the lake was 2 feet higher than normal so a ton of fish stayed shallow because the forage stayed shallow around the flooded cover and habitat.

On other lakes, I’ve seen them move out to the ledges. Regardless of what the water does, the primary food source dictates what the fish do.

At Ross Barnett, the shad spawn was happening, and the lake was rising. The upper end rose fast, but the shad stayed in the spawning mode, using the edge of any flooded cover close to deep water in the backwaters. So, outside grass was key. Jonathon (VanDam)and I were able to piece together the puzzle when we saw schools of shad utilizing that grass.

My hunch is that if we continue to have high water into summer, you’ll find more fish shallow than you normally do because the higher shallows will retain a lot of forage.

That means frogging and flipping could become big trends this summer. You have to mix in some topwaters, swimbaits, spinnerbaits and bladed jigs as well.

But watch for falling water and monitor the lake level continuously. One inch either way can be huge. I always poke a stick in the bottom near shore before every tournament and look at it each day when I launch.

Most anglers know that falling water will push fish back. That’s true in most situations. I’ve seen Rayburn 12 feet high, but the moment the water fell, bass swam out of the woods and out to the deeper grass line.

On the other hand, at Buggs Island one year, you could still see bass with their backs out of the water despite the lake level dropping.

So there is no set rule, and you have to factor in other matters, like water clarity, presence of forage, current and seasonal pattern.

Nonetheless, high water can provide some exciting fishing opportunities – when you find the bass.

As always, it’s all about the attitude!

Kevin VanDam's column appears weekly on You can also find him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.