Lakes, rivers and reservoirs. So plentiful. So full of fish. But so different.
Which of these 3 bodies of water would you say is most susceptible to change due to rain, snowmelt or other environmental factors?
It’s debatable – but one thing is for sure – reservoirs are a very unique animal.
Natural lakes go through a series of changes throughout the year. They warm, they cool, they freeze, then depending on the water clarity (which may change based on algae blooms, wind etc.) different kinds of vegetation will grow or die, or be replaced with other aquatic species altogether. The changes are constant, but also consistent and usually not dramatic. This is important to understand, because unlike lakes, large reservoirs are more prone to swift and substantial changes to water level, temperature, and overall turbidity.
(Streams and rivers go through changes as well, which we have covered extensively in this series of articles: Learn How to Fish Rivers & Streams.)
Largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass, like the natural lakes in which they live, go through a series of yearly changes as the seasons come and go. In spring, they move shallow to spawn before seeking out areas where they can feed consistently, and effectively. Then they eat, eat and eat – and finally move to wintering areas as the water cools.
The anglers that take the most fish are the ones that have learned to recognize the cues on their body of water that suggest prespawn, spawn, postspawn, warm water and cooling periods – and then take the time to learn what habitat bass will use during these times.
Dynamic Changes in Reservoirs
So what causes the dramatic reservoir changes that have an impact on the fish and their habitat? One factor is watersheds.
A watershed is a large area or ridge of land that separates waters flowing to different rivers, reservoirs or basins. The land drains things like streams, rainfall and melting slow into a common outlet.
This incoming water can have a significant impact on water level, turbidity (the level of suspended matter in the water, affecting clarity) and temperature. All three of these can have an impact on the behavior of bass!
Local weather conditions and cloud cover, wind – all of these things can have an impact on fish behavior, but the dynamic nature of reservoirs can completely demolish reliable seasonal patterns.
So… how do you find the fish?
We’ll focus on finding largemouth bass in this and the next several articles. Like I mentioned in Fishing New Kinds of Water – change is on the horizon. The Lake of 5’s awaits, and while I can’t wait to catch a Kentucky (spotted bass) or a 5 pound smallmouth out of this giant reservoir – I’m going to focus on what I know best, first.
Some anglers swear there are always a handful of bass up shallow – and that may be true… but that isn’t always where most of the bass will be. So let’s establish some simple rules that we can follow to fine-tune our approach based on the changes in temperature, water level and clarity. We’ll tie these in with the different seasons (spring, summer, fall) and phases (prespawn and beyond) to work up a rough outline to make sure we can get started with confidence under any conditions.
If you have questions or suggestions on ways that we can all improve, I would be most appreciative if you’d email me and share them. We have a lot to learn…
I can’t think of a better time to get started than right now.
NEXT SECTION: The Prespawn Period (55°F to 65°F)