Rolling with the tide

RICHMOND, Va. — Quiz skilled tournament anglers about tidal river fishing tactics and the answers vary like the ebb and flow.

Seasoned tidal water experts and relative newcomers to the game volunteered these tips from their strategies at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open presented by Allstate.

Avena’s fast track to success

Third-place finisher Adrian Avena is a former saltwater charter boat captain who transitioned to bass fishing’s pro ranks just five years ago. That gave him a head start, but not without encountering the many nuances of consistently locating tidal bass.

How he straightened the learning curve is getting savvy with electronics.

“Tidal bass relate to current breaks and side scan technology makes bottom structure easier to read,” he said. “Seeing the details in high definition enables me to make more precise presentations when the bass are holding tight to the current breaks.”

Adding to that tip is knowledge of the low tide setting up best for bass fishing on the James River. As with anywhere else the low tide concentrates the fish, thereby eliminating unproductive water at a given location.

Each morning Avena began his day within view of the launch site at Osborne Landing. He did that to be where the most productive water was at the time.

“A lot of guys made long runs to the Chickahominy to get set up ahead of time,” he said. “I found it more productive to be on spot when the fish were already active on the early outgoing tide.”  

Poirer watches the wind

Frank Poirier, a seasoned local expert, finished 6th on the river he calls home. The Virginian offered this drill-down tidbit about how wind can affect a tidal bite.

On Day 1 a strong west wind counteracted with the low tide occurring on the Chickahominy River, where most of the 192 pros fished. That created what Poirier called an “early” low tide.

“It sped up the effects of the tide by pushing more water out of the river quicker than normal,” he said. “So there really wasn’t a defined low tide at all there during our fishing hours.”

The opposite pattern occurred on Day 3 when the wind switched to the east, pushing water into the river on the high tide.

“That proves how solely relying on times for the low or high tide is not everything you need for success,” he said. “The wind can work with or against you.”

The lesson learned, he added, is considering wind direction in a tidal strategy.

Palaniuk’s clear water search

Bassmaster Elite Series pro Brandon Palaniuk finished 11th place by intentionally searching for the clearest water available.

“On tidal river systems of that size there is limited time to eliminate water,” said the pro from Idaho. “Clear water supports a healthy ecosystem and on a tidal fishery that’s where you’ll find the bass.”

Palaniuk’s clear water search typically leads to shorelines with abundant aquatic vegetation. The filtration effects of the grass keep water in the surrounding areas clean and clear.

Duckett stays deep

Boyd Duckett discovered by default how to make the most of his limited experience and time on tidal fisheries.

“I read early on about running the tide, being at the right place at the right time,” observed the Alabama pro. “What I discovered is that I didn’t know where to run to.”

He added, “Doing that successfully means you must also know specific, known areas where tidal bass stage, like current breaks. That’s not easy to do unless you know the river inside and out.”

Instead of wasting valuable time searching for spots the former Bassmaster Classic champion simply avoids fishing shorelines. That makes sense when a given spot is on dry land during low tide.

“There are fish to be caught in deep water so I search for offshore structure in the river channel,” he said. “Once I find enough cover that gives me a pattern.”

Duckett searches for areas where he can apply multiple fishing techniques and patterns. Doing so gives him more options in the same location when one pattern is failing.

Iaconelli’s unsolved mysteries

Tidal fishing expert Michael Iaconelli encountered a familiar tidal bass fishing nuance that remains a mystery to the New Jersey pro.

Any given tidal strategy can fail even when the tide charts line up with where the fish should be at a given time.

“Theoretically it doesn’t make sense when everything is in place, you get there and the fish aren’t around,” he said. “In tidal bass fishing having as many factors under control is huge, but it’s not always possible.”

The reasons can be far reaching and definitely beyond making any adjustments.

“It could be a weather event 300 miles out in the Atlantic, a rainstorm 100 miles up the coast or any other unknowns that occur far out in the ocean,” he added.