Breaking down backwater

Shortly after entering a modest backwater off the upper Mississippi River, Drew Cook blew right past what appeared to be a sweet little pocket of matted grass, pads and duckweed, only to run another 20 yards and stop on a similar-looking spot.

Since deciding to stop second-guessing professional anglers, my life has become much happier. Nevertheless, that hasn’t quelled my inquisitive nature, so I asked, “Why?”

Cooks’ analysis defined the kind of discernment that hastens efficiency and helps anglers maximize backwater potential.

“The way the current washes through, I feel like this pocket will get the best (exposure),” he said. “You can see by the way the channel bends through here. It will hit one point, then the next and the pockets that are right next to the flow get the most baitfish, and they stay the most oxygenated.”

Solid perspective to launch a discussion of backwater potential. From shallow sloughs winding off the Upper Mississippi River, to weed-choked Louisiana bayous, to various ditches and small creeks reaching off the main runs. These second-fiddle fisheries deserve their moment in the spotlight.

A backwater is a backwater no matter where you're fishing, but a handful of principles determine the opportunity level.