Sure, they know that current often provides one of the best opportunities to catch fish, especially in the summer months. But at the same time, these anglers, accustomed to fishing standing timber, points or humps, now have another factor to consider when targeting largemouths.
Simply put, while current can bring about some of the best fishing to be had, it's just as often seen as a bane to anglers not used to it.
In fact, a few years ago, storied BASS angler Larry Nixon walked into the press room following the first day of the Bassmasters Classic, and with exasperation written all over his face said, "Anytime you find me fishing current, you know I'm out of my element."
This from no less than one of the most accomplished anglers to ever walk the earth.
Other anglers, however, like New Jersey's Pete Gluszek, welcome current. A touring pro on the BASS circuit, he grew up fishing tidal waterways in his native state, and in his travels throughout the country, he has used that knowledge to help him pattern fish on tidal waterways and river systems that have current as a feature of hydroelectric power generation.
So while other anglers look at current and shake their collective heads in dismay, Gluszek actively seeks current, knowing that's where he'll find the most active fish.
"Current leads a bass to feed since it creates easy ambush points for the predator by bringing baitfish downstream," he said. "Fishing current can be almost magical."
This month, current will be especially key in Louisiana and other Southeastern states. In May, the surface water temperature will likely climb into the mid-80s, and when this happens the fish will be far more lethargic than they had been in months previous during the daylight hours.
To further complicate matters, the fish will be fresh from the daunting task of the spawn, and in many cases won't be interested in feeding aggressively. That is, unless there is current present.
With the introduction of current, everything changes. The fish are likely to be far more aggressive, willing to chase fast-moving baits. Additionally, they will actually be far easier to pattern given that the current will put them in predictable spots for ambushing prey, said Gluszek.
The primary location for the aggressive bite, he said, is the eddies formed when water goes over or around an object, forming a circular or swirling torrent, which can disorient prey fish. The largemouths sit just on the outside of these eddies, said Gluszek, where they annihilate any passing forage.
In situations such as this, he presents the creatures with a wide range of baits, depending on the lake or river and the conditions. For example, on a reservoir with current formed by hydroelectric generation, he may start out by throwing a crankbait or spinnerbait, deflecting it off cover in deep water. Then he moves to a Carolina-rigged soft plastic when those baits fail to draw a strike.
The key, he said, is having something that gets down to the fish, then being able to deflect it off wood or rock cover.
"I'm going to try to get those aggressive bites with a power bait first," he said. "If I can't get an aggressive bite, I'll go to a worm or jig."
But before he can catch them, the seasoned veteran and former BASS angler of the year has to find them. Depending on the type of water he's fishing and the overall conditions, it's often not that difficult.
On tidal waters such as Caernarvon or Bayou Black, Gluszek looks for the fish to be more shallow and bank-oriented since a strong, persistent tide typically has the effect of causing fish to stay closer to the shoreline, he said. Here again, however, he looks for the eddies or current breaks, usually finding them in the form of a grass line or point.
In areas such as Delacroix, milfoil lines the edges of the shoreline. Aside from providing cover for finger mullet, crabs and shad, this grass also affords largemouths the opportunity to hide in anticipation of ambushing their prey.
Knowing this, Gluszek cruises the edges of the grass looking for some irregularity, be it a ridge of grass that rises a little higher than the other areas, or a hole in the grass, which would allow fish the to hide from prey. These ridges or indentations, he said, form underwater eddies, and are ideal for when current is present.
Once he finds such a spot, Gluszek situates his Ranger downstream from the cover, then presents his bait so that it approaches the grass from the upstream side. The largemouth positioned here will be expecting the current to bring the meal to them, he said.
Often he'll start out by throwing a crankbait to the spots, but he's just as likely to present a spinnerbait there as well. The way in which the bait is presented is key, he said,
Aside from positioning his boat on the downstream side of the cover while bringing his bait from the upstream side, Gluszek said he also wants to position his boat at a 45-degree angle to the shore. This, he said, allows him to make precise casts and keeps the bait in the strike zone longer. What's more, he also keeps a close eye on just where the fish are located, an observation that allows him to look for similarly situated fish in the area.
"In grass whenever I catch a fish, I drop a marker buoy," he said. "A lot of times, you can't see what the fish are keying in on."
According to Gluszek, the current provided by both incoming and outgoing tides serves to activate fish. Therefore, one isn't necessarily an advantage over the other. One difference, he said, is in the way fish tend to position themselves.
During an incoming tide, he looks for the current to situate the fish on top of the grass, closer to shore. This is an ideal time to cast a Rebel Pop-R or Heddon Zara Spook, since both are excellent at drawing fish from cover. In contrast, he looks for the fish to be on the outside edges of the grass during an outgoing tide. At these locations, he uses crankbaits and spinnerbaits to catch fish.
On this day, however, Gluszek pulls up to a grass-lined point in the Delacroix area and begins to cast a 10-inch Yum Ribbontail worm along the shoreline. The area is loaded with shells, and the outgoing tide is quickly receding, pulling the water from the edge of the grass and sweeping small fish and other debris over the point.
This, as it turns out, is just where Gluszek wants to be. He said that, for as good as grass can be during this time of the year, a grass edge near a point can be even better.
As he describes it, when the tide goes out, it sweeps over the grass, washing baitfish out of the cover and over the point, forming a dynamite location for a largemouth just lying in wait for an easy meal.
"When you have current sweeping over a grass bed (then) going over a point, it can promote a feeding frenzy," said Gluszek.
But if fishing tidal current is good, fishing reservoirs or riverine systems such as those found throughout the state can be even better.
Riverine and Reservoir Systems
In rivers, including those found in the central and northern portions of the state, Gluszek likes to cut the body of water in half. He knows from experience that the fish in the lower half of the reservoir or river, where the current is stronger, will situate themselves off long points. At the other end of the system, the fish are more likely, though, to be shallower, where they'll be near current breaks provided by blowdowns, stumps or other wood cover.
Each area requires a different approach.
On the lower end of the lake, where the current is heavier, Gluszek again starts out by looking for an eddy formed by a current break. In most cases, this takes the shape of a point. This structure provides an ideal location for ambush predators like largemouths, which use the locations as cover.
But when current is present, points take on added significance. Like the grass along the shoreline, these points form underwater eddies that disorient prey. Yet unlike the eddies formed by the grass, the current break caused by the point won't be visible, he said.
Therefore, Gluszek relies heavily on his Garmin electronic graph. As he approaches the point, he looks for the presence of baitfish or any signs of cover, both of which would cause largemouths to congregate here.
"Although you can't see the eddy here, there's definitely one down there," he said. "Just like that eddy formed by the grass point, the same thing's taking place down 10 to 15 feet deep."
His next move is to pick up his Warrior crankbait rod and tie on a crankbait. The goal with this bait is to impact the bottom on the point, and, if there is cover present, to hit it as well. He uses a technique called triangulation, which entails working the area from every angle. Often, even with active fish, there's a spot on the structure or cover that they will respond to better when a bait or lure is presented there.
"I use this technique a lot because it allows me to cast repeatedly to hit a piece of cover," he said. "I'm trying to make repetitive casts to hit that cover."
A spinnerbait can be used as well, since it can be more easily manipulated at varying depths and bounced off the cover. But the area won't be thoroughly worked until a Carolina-rig has been dragged through the area. These rigs really shine in the summer months, when fish are deep and might not respond to spinnerbaits and crankbaits.
When current is present, though, the set-up shines even more. The Carolina-rig provides a large, noisy sinker to bounce of the cover and structure, and it also presents the bait in a more natural manner. Current-oriented bass love these rigs.
"The Carolina-rig is great at efficiently covering water," Gluszek said.
Lure selection can vary widely, but some of the best in this situation are creature baits such as the Yum Wooly Hawg Tail and Gene Larew HooDaddy. When a more subtle presentation is called for, a Yum 6-inch lizard, Mann's Dragin Finesse Worm or other soft-plastic lure on a wide gap offset hook is hard to beat.
There is no shortage of ways to catch these fish on the points once they've been located, said Gluszek. For him, current plus points, plus baitfish and cover, equals aggressive largemouths.
"I really try to zero-in on the level of the baitfish," he said. "That's going to tell me how deep to fish."
At the other end of the river or lake, Gluszek's approach, while different, is no less methodical.
On just about any body of water, the upper end of the lake is where the bulk of the standing timber, stumps, laydowns and rock are likely to be found. Knowing this, these pieces of cover play prominently into the angler's attack of the area.
Again, he looks for the eddies formed by this cover.
"Even here, the eddies are critical," he said. "The fish are always moving in and out of the current to feed and rest, feed and rest."
Just as he does down the lake, Gluszek again throws spinnerbaits and crankbaits to the edges of the area, hoping for an aggressive bite.
He'll also throw a Mann's Stone Jig. Other baits to consider in these areas are the ever-popular soft-plastic stickbaits. These baits, which include the Yamamoto Senko, Yum Dinger and Wave Fishing Tiki-Stick, have a unique falling action that is great at drawing strikes from actively foraging fish.
Another bait that shouldn't be ignored here is a jerkbait. Normally associated with springtime angling, these baits, which mimic dying shad, are ideal for working in and around eddies, especially since their erratic action is similar to that of a disoriented shad.
Gluszek, who is about as bright and engaging an angler as there is on the tour, said that another trick anglers can use when fishing in current is to keep an eye out for breeze slicks. These areas, formed where the wind presses against the water creating a smooth spot, or slick, provides anglers with a great clue as to just where the eddy formed by the current is located, he said. Similar to the sweet spot of the point, the outside edges of these slicks are, in many instances, where the most active fish are located.
"The key to fishing in current is being able to read the eddies and understand where the fish are positioned," Gluszek said. "There's always a multitude of approaches."