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Bass fishing in current can be very fruitful but it poses unique challenges. While moving water can certainly position bass in predictable locations, effectively presenting your bait involves a lot of trial and error and continuous experimentation.

This past weekend I fished a tournament on my home lake that forced me to “fish the moment” and venture outside of my comfort zone. Georgia Power usually generates current overnight, but the recent heavy rainfall had the floodgates wide-open for much of the day. With a wad of fish located on a river ledge and no backup plan, I had no choice but to learn to effectively fish heavy current in a matter of hours.

I didn’t break any world records Saturday, but my partner and I had a very strong showing. After the tournament, I made this list of simple, yet very helpful lessons I’ve learned about fishing strong current in hopes it would help you as well.

Avoid round jigheads

vmc rugby jig and buckeye spot remover for bass
For whatever reason, when many anglers fish with weighted soft plastic rigs, only two possibilities are often considered—a bullet-shaped Texas rig weight or a round jighead. I’ve quickly learned that these two styles, while effective in other situations, are not ideal when you’re faced with heavy current.

I started the day with a round 1/4-ounce jighead and had nothing but problems. After making a long cast up-current, I’d have about six seconds to present my worm before the current washed it to the back of my boat. No matter the casting angle or the speed at which I worked the jighead, I couldn’t keep my bait in the strike zone long enough—until I made an important realization.

When the current is ripping and you’re trying to target deep fish, avoid using round jigheads. Regardless of its weight, a round jighead is prone to tumbling with the current. On every cast I could feel my shaky head rolling across rocks, which was not only unnatural, but also resulted in a bunch of hang-ups.

Instead, consider using a football-shaped head or some sort of head with a flat surface. I switched to a VMC Rugby Jig and Buckeye Pro Model Spot Remover and noticed an immediate improvement. These head shapes were very stable in the current and stayed in place much better than my previous round jighead. They didn’t roll or tumble and allowed me to take my time while carefully presenting my offering to the wary, post-frontal bass.

If you’re used to fishing with regular round-shaped shaky heads, this combination may look a bit strange, but try to remember—you’re not going to catch fish if you can’t keep your bait where they live.

Keep your rod tip low

We’re always taught to keep our rod tips on the high-side when working a jig or weighted soft plastic, but a high rod tip can cause multiple issues in areas with current.

When your rod tip is high, you’re putting more line between your rod tip and the water. This leads to a major problem that results in a significant decrease in sensitivity—line bow. When the current bows your line to the side, your ability to detect bites will be greatly hindered. Throughout the winter months, even the biggest bass may not crush your bait so maintaining the ability to feel even the softest, most subtle bite is an absolute must.

A low rod tip will also help you keep contact with the bottom. You’ll be able to feel very small but important transitions in bottom composition whether it’s a shell bed, a change in rock size or a fallen tree that has been washed against a steep bank. If the current is especially heavy, don’t be afraid to put your rod tip right above the water’s surface. It may look like you’re dragging a Carolina rig but you’ll have a much better feel of what’s going on down there.

Focus on the down-current side of cover and structure

current moving buoy

Current eddies aren’t always easy to see, making it important to visualize the current’s effect on cover and structure.

Current eddies aren’t always as obvious as one would think. It’s tempting to think of them as huge, slick areas of water, but they’re often very subtle and difficult to see from the surface.

When you’re breaking down an area with current, try not to overcomplicate things. Bass are opportunistic feeders and make a concerted effort to use as little energy as possible when feeding—just like one of us sitting close to a restaurant buffet.

For this reason, they will often position themselves on the down-current side of a piece of cover such as a tree, stump or rock pile and face into the current. This allows them to hang out and relax in slack water, waiting for an easy meal to pass by.

So if you’re looking at a piece of cover and the current is coming from the left—make a few casts to the right side of the cover and vice-versa. It’s not overly complicated, but it’s one of those aspects of bass fishing that we’re all guilty of overlooking periodically.

Cast into the current

This past weekend I was concentrating my efforts on a 30-foot deep river ledge that was absolutely loaded with bass. If I were to cast perpendicularly to it, my bait would barely touch the bottom before the current got ahold of it. Whenever I made a cast down-current, I had a hard time controlling my boat speed and I’d wind up on top of it. Once I started casting up-current, I started catching a bunch of fish.

Like we just discussed, casting into the current makes a lot of sense because of a bass’ preference to position itself facing into the current. But it’s also very important to consider your boat positioning and control.

When you point the nose of your boat into the current and cast directly ahead, you’re able to control your boat very easily. By keeping a steady foot on your trolling motor, you can make small adjustments and avoid being washed backwards by the current. Whenever you turn your boat perpendicular to or away from the current, you give the current a lot more “boat” to hit, resulting in constant readjustments and poor casting angles.

By pointing my boat into the current, keeping my MotorGuide on a constant 6-speed setting and making casts up-river, I was able to precisely target small intricacies on the river ledge and present my bait naturally.

Check out this video of Jonathan Newton catching a big smallmouth in a tailrace area.

Stay in constant contact with your line

keep your finger on your spinning reel line to increase sensitivity while bass fishing
This not only applies to current fishing, but all types of finesse fishing with spinning gear. Throughout my guiding career, teaching new anglers how to detect bites is, by far, the most difficult aspect. If you’re relying solely on your rod tip to detect bites, you won’t catch as many fish. It sounds harsh, but it’s the truth—especially when you throw a bunch of current in the mix.

There’s a really simple way to feel more bites, however. Keep the index finger of your rod-hand—whichever hand you hold the rod with—on your tight fishing line any time you’re not reeling. This gives you direct contact with your bait without the rod tip absorbing any energy from the initial bite. Whether you’re battling current, wind or both, you’ll be amazed how much this increases your sensitivity.

Expect hang-ups, but stay calm

We all have that fishing buddy who absolutely loses their mind whenever they get hung. Fishing tackle gets expensive, so I can certainly understand the frustration.

Unfortunately, hang-ups are inevitable when you’re bass fishing in current. Even with the right jighead, rod angle, casting angle and presentation, you can fully expect some snags. Instead of losing your cool, cinching down your drag and trying to break your line, relax—you can probably get it back.

Most of your current-oriented hang-ups are due to the bait washing into small crevices such as rock cracks or splits in wood cover. When this happens, don’t start snatching. Simply go up-current from your bait, keep steady tension and more times than not, you’ll get your gear back. As long as your hook doesn’t penetrate into the cover, you should be good to go.

The next time you bass fish in current, keep these tips in mind. They’re very easy to execute and if you can slow down, think things through and develop a deliberate approach, you’ll be able to use the current to your advantage this year.

Do you have any other tips for fishing current? My lakes don’t allow me to do it very often, so I’m sure I left some things out!

13 thoughts on “How to Catch More Bass in Strong Current

  1. My one remark would go against your final statement. “My lakes don’t allow me to do it very often, so I’m sure I left some things out! ”
    Ummm, why do you only fish lakes? Bass are found in rivers all over the country. When you deliberately bypass rivers, you’re missing out on a lot of good fishing!

    • Because I work well over 70 hours/week producing content for this website and I live 3 minutes from my lake’s boat ramp. I also guide fishing trips and lakes provide a much larger market for my business than a river ever would. I never said anything about deliberately bypassing rivers, either– I love to fish a river but time is hard to come by.

  2. good article I myself don’t get to fish current very often either but it’s good to read and learn for when the opportunity presents its self I will be ready.

  3. I fish a power plant lake here in North Dakota and I can certainly second the point about having less snags and better bottom contact by casting directly up current. On this lake, the “hot spot” is the discharge canal from fall through early spring. The canal itself is filled with large rocks that are just a nightmare for snags. Most days in the winter, it’s too cold to fish out of the boat so we just fish from the shore, making a cast directly up current pretty much impossible. But when I’m able to bring the boat and make a more precise cast, the number of hang ups greatly decreases.

    On a side note, I’ve found that fishing a swimbait on a lead head jig has been a good presentation that also stays a lot more snag free. After I’ve picked the spot apart with a jig, I’ll pick up that swimbait and normally catch a couple of bigger fish.

    Great Article!

    P.S. I’ve asked before but I always thought it would be a great read to see an article that covered fishing lakes like we have in the North that don’t have shad-type bait. In my state, perch are the main forage base in most of the smallie lakes. I though it would be great to see an anglers take on the seasonal migrations of other types of baitfish other than shad.

    • Great advice, Steve. Glad you enjoyed the article!

      I may have an opportunity to head north this year to do some fishing and I’ll definitely put something together regarding various forage bases. I think that’s a great idea.

      • Just curious but what states up north are you looking at? I’m sure North Dakota is a bit out of your way but we do have some phenomenal largemouth and smallmouth fishing that is largely untapped.

    • I actually have a few opportunities coming up this year that will allow me to fish some great heavy current situations. After I get out there I’ll be sure to either add to the article or write a brand new one. Thanks!

    • Nope… it’s a football head. And while it is rounded, not square, it isn’t round, like a typical round ball jig.

  4. hey Walker,

    ive seen videos on youtube of bass anglers tossing tubes (the fish thinks its a small bait fish that cant handle the current) into the current and landing fair sized smallies as the tube floats with the current. With tubes tumbling down the current the predators are usually waiting at the other end for the easy pickings. I wont lie, with the exposed tube hook you will snag but its quite affective in the long run.

    After reading this piece i really considering using some of the suggested tackle you spoke of Walker when dealing with the current i deal with. Also, im with Steve when it comes to Perch in his Northern lakes being the main source of Largies and Smallies instead of shad in the lakes in Southern BC Canada.

  5. Great article. I love current fishing . I fish a lot of rivers and when I get to a lake I search for current and muddy waters. Would love to see some river fishing articles:)

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