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Flood Water and The Old Bank Line

Rising water on Table Rock Lake the last 10-15 years has become the norm, making the ability to adjust to the fish more important than ever. When heavy rains inundate the area and the lake rises five feet or more, what are the best ways to find fish? Where do they go? What areas are key to locate more fish? Below are hints to catch fish in flooded vegetation on Table Rock.

The brush or tree line on Table Rock Lake is at roughly 917’ line of elevation. This level is important to know and understand, for when the lake rises a couple of feet above this level, the fish move into the freshly flooded vegetation. Overall, the fish do not change their patterns too much. When the lake rises fast due to local heavy rain, though, the patterns shift, especially if water levels rise five feet in a short period of time. When the water levels rise fast and high fish the following phases for success.

Phase 1: As the lake rises rapidly, go to the back of live creek arms and steeper, larger guts with water pouring into the lake. This water is usually dirty and the fish will be active. Bait fish will stack into that incoming water, and the bass follow. Using A-rigs, spinnerbaits and swimbaits are the best way to catch these fish. When this happens in the spring and the rain is warmer than the current lake water temperature, this shift triggers the fish to feed. As overall lake water temperature warms, the bait fish get active and the bass are catchable. Do not expect to wait days after the major rain event and still catch fish this way; it won’t happen. If it rains overnight, be on the water the next day, during the rain itself or immediately following the rain. The fish will be in the back of the creeks and in the steep guts, positioned near the vegetation that was formerly the bank. In this situation, cast into the inflowing water and hang on. These will be aggressive fish tearing after the bait.

Phase 2: After the water level stabilizes, the fish are fat from gorging on shad. In post-front conditions the fishing can be tough for a couple of days. Trust the bank line. Everyone wants to fish the vegetation immersed in the water, which is a good place to look. But target two areas:  1) Steep or bluff banks that have vegetation or 2) the secondary banks that were being fished before the lake level rose. Steep banks with some level of cover offer anglers an opportunity to flip to fish that are positioned shallower if the water has color or pitch. This style is best with a jig in the upper portions of the major river and creek arms on Table Rock. Most people assume the fish will be positioned on the outside edges of the vegetation; rather, the fish go shallow and position between the vegetation and the bank. Finding these steeper banks is what helps position these fish, making finding the fish easier for the angler. The old bank is the guide to finding the fish.

The second way to catch fish with the lake up during Phase 2 is to be on the outside edge of the former bank line. As the lake stabilized, the fish scattered and can be a challenge to locate. During pre-spawn and post-spawn, look for the gravel flats and use shakey heads, swimbaits, topwater and jigs along gravel points or secondary banks to find the fish. It is important to have the boat positioned far enough from the outside edge of the former bank line so the cast will fall at the edge of that line. If the water is up for long periods of time, this type of situation can last all summer. The fish will position around the former bank line until it gets too warm, when they’ll begin to push deeper. Additionally, in the early summer, use any walk-the-dog bait or shad/fluke type bait. These are great options just after the spawn. If the lake rises to roughly 10’ above normal levels, parallel the outside edge of the vegetation line or the old bank line with a crank bait.

The spring and early summer provide flooded vegetation conditions on the lakes. On Table Rock in particular, the use of the flooded bank line can be an angler’s ally in catching more fish when the water rises quickly.

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