By Brandon Card
Growing up in Tennessee, tidal fishing was foreign to me unless I read something about it in Bassmaster magazine. All of my tidal experience has come from competing on the Elite Series and I am learning more every chance I get on one of these fisheries. At the Winyah Bay Elite Series tournament in April, I gained a lot of insight but I still have a lot to learn.
Going into the event I thought it was going to be dominated by the spawn just like the Sabine River was last year. At that event, I was blind casting to fish that I knew were spawning and I thought the Winyah Bay event would be the same based on the water temperature and how things were setting up.
I spent my practice fishing in backwater areas, canals and oxbows looking for spawning fish. What I have learned about spawning fish in tidal water is that they bite better during a high tide. When the water is low, the females will back away from the beds and just leave the males up there when the water gets shallow.
During my practice I caught just enough in the backwaters to keep me doing it. I would catch a fish or two in each backwater and they were good sized, so I kept fishing this way, thinking I was on a good pattern.
Here’s my biggest take-away when practicing in tidal water: I can’t get too stubborn with how the fish should be acting and what they should be doing, and it is best to fish your good areas at different tides just to compare your results at different water levels.
During the tournament, I realized the fish were still in the pre-spawn and I should have been targeting fish during practice when they were feeding instead of trying for spawners. They would bite best on a falling low tide, like I have witnessed in other tidal areas. I figured this out too late and my results reflected this as I finished 87th and caught just seven bass over two days.
The first day I went to my areas, but the weather delay meant a short day which really hurt me. I know we all had the same delay, but it affected my chances of doing well. The second day I had more time. I got away from the spawning mindset and just fished the tides. I was catching them in reeds just as the water got into them. If it was too low, they were dry and if the water was too high they would be spread all over. They had to have just the right amount of water around them to be good.
My tidal experience consists of Winyah, the Sabine, the California Delta and the Chesapeake Bay. I have had some decent events and some horrible ones. Looking back there are some common themes I have discovered that gets the fish active and feeding.
At the California Delta, when the tide is high you’ll find me flipping and punching. When the tide is low, reaction baits seem to do better and this is a great time to throw a frog.
I had a good event fishing docks on the Chesapeake Bay. There had to be just the right amount of water on them, though. If the tide was all the way down, the docks were just too shallow to hold bass. Once the tide rose, the fish would move in just as fast as the water.
I feel like I am learning more about tidal fishing each chance I get and I like fishing these waters. When the tide is right, the fishing can be very good! I can’t wait for my next chance to fish the tides and hope to have learned enough about them to produce a win.