A Rising Tide

Last couple of weekends ago I had as much fun as a person can while fishing. I was at a 200-acre creek bottom in Chariton County. A previous owner enrolled the land in the Wetland Reserve Program. He received a one-time payment from the federal government in return for permanent restrictions against row-cropping or structural developments on the land. Now it’s a wetland area.

A water-filled ditch runs along one side of the property. It is deep enough for fish to survive the winter, and it is full of largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill sunfish and bullheads. Normally, this provides good fishing, but last weekend I could hardly buy a bite in the deep water.

A big rain the previous week had caused the ditch to overflow into the surrounding marsh, so I tossed the buzz bait I was using in among the flooded weeds. WHAM! A chunky largemouth nailed it. I turned my back on the ditch and started fishing in one or two feet of water.

It was like fishing for northern pike. Fish after fish clobbered the lure with vicious abandon. I caught so many bass I had to replace the rubber skirt on the lure twice. For days afterwards, my left thumb was raw from grabbing the rough lower lips of fish to unhook them. One of the most surprising things was that the best fishing action took place just before and after noon. Normally, I expect the best fishing of the day at dawn and dusk.

If you don’t know what buzz bait is, look at the accompanying photos. It’s like a bass spinner bait or a huge beetle spin with a propeller instead of a blade. As you retrieve the lure, the propeller draws it to the surface, where it creates lots of flash and noise. For some reason, buzz baits don’t get hung up in weeds. It’s a classic late-summer bass lure.

You might give this a try if you own WRP land or are friendly with someone who does. You could find a fishing bonanza right after a big rain, or when the wetland pools begin to fill up in the fall. The same conditions can exist briefly around the edges of lakes after big rains.