Managing tidal fishery changes

Bass are bass wherever they roam, but tidal fisheries have different rules for key parts of the game. Compared to the reservoirs and natural lakes that dominate the mainstream bass scene, waters ruled by the ocean’s influence can appear daunting, but Elite newcomer Patrick Walters said that needn’t be so.

“There’s nothing confusing about a tidal fishery; it’s as straightforward as it can possibly get,” Walters said. “It’s a 6-hour tide, a 50-minute slack tide and every day, (the schedule) will be about an hour difference. In two weeks, you’ll have the exact same tide that you had, because it flip flops (based on moon cycles).

“At times, tides make it more predictable because I know I’m going to catch them during this hour, but it’s frustrating because I’m not going to be able to catch them for the next five hours. Tidal influence might shuffle the deck for anglers who are unfamiliar with it, but there have been tidal fisheries longer than there have been these natural lakes and reservoirs that we fish.”

Born and raised in Summerville, S.C., about 20 miles inland from Charleston, Walters’ keen understanding of daily ebb and flow delivered a fourth-place finish at the 2019 season opener on Florida’s St. Johns River and a seventh place at South Carolina’s Winyah Bay — both prominent tidal fisheries. Enjoying a fantastic rookie season on the Elite Series, Walters offered a few pointers on productively working in a tidal environment.

The spawn

Bass living in tidal waters instinctively know how to select bedding sites that won’t be drained by a falling tide or deprived of the requisite sunlight during high water. Moreover, Walters said, the fish must be mindful of the water flow that will accelerate multiple times in a day.

“You have to find some slack water,” he stresses. “The fish aren’t going to spawn on the main river; they’re going to find areas where the water slows down, so they can make a bed without the current ripping overtop of them.”

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