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When the Water Drops | Print |  Email
Written by John Murray   
Friday, 04 March 2011 17:08

A lot of people have asked me why I chose to fish the Top 150 circuit this year. When B.A.S.S. was purchased by ESPN, it changed the whole potential for tournament bass angling. If the professional side of this sport is to progress to a higher level, it will happen now, and I felt I needed to be a part of it.

In September, the U.S. Open was held on Lake Mead. From the spring to right now, Lake Mead has lost between 30 and 40 feet of water. Falling water can mean one of two things. It can make fishing extremely tough, limiting the amount of cover in the water, or it can make fishing pretty good. If there is some remaining shoreline brush, for example, the fish become concentrated on the structure, which means better fishing.

Falling water isn't necessarily a bad or a good thing. At Lake Mead, the falling water has made it tougher, but by all means it hasn't destroyed the lake. With the water down from the previous few years, the areas people fish have changed in a big way.

I have seen Lake Mead much more shallow than now, but these levels are approaching the levels of the early 90s, which means that in the short term fishing will be good, but long term, it won't be so good until levels come up a bit. We actually needed this water drop because Lake Mead depends heavily on shoreline cover and with the higher water levels over the past few years, shoreline growth had almost disappeared. It takes a good draw-down to allow the salt cedars and other shoreline vegetation to grow up thick, to prepare for a time when the water rises again.

Hopefully, the powers that be will allow the lake to come up once or twice a year to take advantage of the new growth and to help with the spawn. The problem with how they draw water down is that they drop the water in the spring and let it come up in the summer. Many times that hurts the spawn. I wish they would allow the water to come up in the spring and then draw it off later in the year. Lake Powell generally does that, but Lake Mead does the opposite.

During the U.S. Open, I went for a deep-water bite on spots that haven't really been fished for years. It was a structure bite that I felt was a good decision in the beginning.

However, because of some cooling trends and other factors, going deep was a mistake later in the tournament. Many of the fish decided to come shallow. Part of doing well in the Open is to commit to a single strategy or pattern. You can't go back and forth all day long trying different methods. That just won't work. I committed to the deep bite and I died on that deep bite.

When I say I fished a deep bite, most of my fish came from 35 to 45 feet of water. I used Westy Worms and dropshot worms and found that to be the most consistent. As the mornings became cooler, the worse the deep bite became, until the last day, I struggled to even get a bite.

When fishing falling water, you must stick to forage baits. In Lake Mead right now, it is definitely a shad bite. There are a lot of shad in the lake. The topwater baits, flukes, and the like were really the baits to use. Other times I've seen it when the crawdads were predominant. As the water falls, the crawdads come right out of the mud on the shore, and the fish are literally right on the banks waiting for the crawdads to move. At times on Lake Powell, the only way you'll catch a bass is to be right on the shore with your cast. Zipper worms, crawdad cranks, and jigs work very well in this situation.

A rule of thumb to follow with regards to forage is to look at the shoreline. If you have a lot of sand, and grass, there should be shad in the area. If there is clay, and rocky stuff, or mud, it will be a crawdad bite. Low water levels are here to stay for a while, I believe. Even now, if you look at the shoreline, within two or three feet of the water line the new growth is coming. Remember that when a lake drops 40 or 50 feet, that doesn't mean levels have to rise 40 feet to utilize the new growth. Many times, an increase of as little as 10 feet will cover some great vegetation that will hold good fish.

Lake Mead is a lake of cycles. This current low-water time is just part of an on-going development in its history. Right now, there are more shad in Mead than I have ever seen. But, there are a lot of stripers that will take care of them in short order. Then the cycle will start over again. Hopefully, over the next few years, Colorado will get some wet winters and they will be forced to store extra water in Mead. If that happens we will have some good spawns and the fishery will continue to improve.

Take the time right now to get to know the new lake Mead. It's exciting to go out and explore parts of the lake that used to be under 50 feet of water, and are now in 10 feet. Some parts of the lake haven't been fished for a decade. Don't think you know Lake Mead. It's a brand new lake, one that will produce for you, if you learn it again. Good luck!


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