River Scouting – Online

When not fishing, I enjoy scouring Google Maps, Google Earth, Bing, and other sites in order to find out of the way areas to scout and hopefully find productive water.  When looking at a river on any online mapping program, I look for key features within the river. These features will produce various black bass species throughout the year.  

Some of the features I look for when on the scouting include:

  1. Pushwater
  2. Ledges
  3. Pools
  4. Isolated Structure
  5. “V’s”
  6. Dams and Spillways

Pushwater – Pushwater can be very productive most of the year.  Typically pushwater will be relatively slower and deeper as it approaches a shoal.  Many times this pushwater will hold isolated structure along with bottom contours that will attract forage and bass.  Topwater, swimbaits, and crankbaits are my favorite ways to fish these areas.  On my home river, these areas are quite big and search baits that can cover a vast area quickly are a must.   Spring through fall will have fish very active in these areas as forage are active as well. As winter approaches I will find fish in the slowest water as tail-outs from shoals begin forming pushwater. Once winter has settled in, fish will congregate in the slowest water in the area.

Ledges – As pushwater approaches a ledge it speeds up and spills over forming foam lines and pools.  Water pouring over the ledge stirs up aquatic species such as crayfish and hellgramites.  Many times I will find hungry bass “nosed” up to the ledge.  If the cast of your jig doesn’t flow naturally over the ledge and in front of the fish, it’s not getting bit.  It is important to cover as much area along the face of the ledge as you can as fish can be anywhere on it.  One of my favorite ways to fish ledges is to get above the ledge and cast a crankbait out below the ledge where I can parallel the ledge all the way back to my kayak.  Because I am above the ledge and paralleling it below the ledge, my crankbait will be grinding into the face of the ledge all the way back to the kayak.

Pools – Once water has spilled over the ledge it will often form a relatively deep pool.  The edges of pools often have foam lines which are visual indicators of the natural “conveyor belt” of food floating by.  Many of the fish caught will be related to the foam lines and bubbles that are created by the shoal above.  It is kind of like the “bedroom next to the kitchen” scenario.  Slow or still water where a fish can expend little energy in the pool is right next to flowing water with a food source floating by.  When fishing pools I will first start well below the pool and fish the foam bubble lines with a light jig and grub combo.  I fish the foam line first because aggressive fish will be close by.  Next I will situate my kayak above the pool.  Most times, pools will have an eddy type flow where the current turns and flows up-river.  Fishing the bottom of the pool back to the top can be very rewarding as fish can be roaming the pool.  I like to approach this scenario with a Ned Rig or light jig and trailer combo. Be stealthy around pools as experience has taught me that it can be a finesse game.

Isolated Structure – Isolated structure such as boulders, logs, and even depressions in the river bed will attract bass.  These are ambush spots and any piece of structure has the potential to hold a nice fish.  Try to fish the structure strategically, making casts that will make your lure seem as much like an easy ambush victim as possible.  Bass don’t just hang around structure – they use it to conceal themselves.  Make casts that will make it easy for a bass in hiding to ambush.  This includes fishing the shade lines and current seams associated with the given piece of structure.

“V’s” – Funnels that are produced by a broken ledge form visual indicators that I call “V’s”.  These “V’s” are visible on top of the water and effectively hold aggressive fish.  Pushwater approaches ledges and if there is a break in the ledge it will form a funnel.  These funnels create a prime ambush spot for hungry bass.  Bass can be found below the V or on any side above the V.  Crankbaits and jigs are my favorite way to fish the V.  Again, the ledges create a sort of conveyor belt that funnels prey right to the bass.  If a bass is “chasing” they can be found anywhere in the general area of the V.  However, if bass are not in a chasing mood, they can be found in the slow water or pool below the V – again, the “bedroom next to the kitchen” scenario.  Don’t be surprised when you begin to notice an abundance of “V’s” throughout any given shoal complex – and don’t be afraid to fish them all.

Another more prominent feature I look for, and possibly my favorite and most productive feature, is the presence of a spillway or dam.

Dams and spillways are a haven for river bass.  When fishing these areas it is important to understand water flow, clarity, and if possible release schedules.  In high, muddy water conditions, bass can be found at spillways and dams in the natural eddys, pools, and slack current that these areas can provide.  A savvy angler can utilize apps such as “River Data” to obtain  data on flow, water level, and temperature before heading to the river.  A knowledgeable and experienced angler will even know specific flow and water levels that will have these big bass fired up before pulling out of the driveway.

While the dam itself may be one big honeyhole, you must understand that fishing a dam is spot on spot fishing.  You may find an unsuspecting run that holds the motherload while the main run may not produce at all.   Remember that dams and spillways typically hold large amounts of bait.  Just a small flicker can key you into a congregation of hungry river bass.  Also remember that all the other features mentioned above will most likely also be found in the dam or spillway area making this feature a year round home for river bass.

When searching Google Earth or while on the river, look for these features.  If you can find all of these features in a small area, you have found an area that will hold fish year round.  From there you just have to figure out how to catch them!

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