Bassmaster Elite pro Bill Lowen from Indiana has become an authority on river fishing. Any time the tournament schedule visits a river system he is a threat to win. His success in moving water is a direct result of his upbringing and it fits right in his comfort zone as an angler. Lowen’s approach to river fishing during the summer is not complicated and like the bass themselves, everything he does relates to current.
A simple approach to river fishing during the summer is often his best plan of attack. “If I was going to fish a river this time of year I would only have two options: fishing directly on the main river or going all the way up to the headwaters of a creek or tributary,” states Lowen. He believes that these two locations are best because they are where the current will be the highest and due to the fact that the current allows for cooler temperatures, higher oxygen and cleaner water. “Another thing I love about river fishing is the ability to fish patterns. If you find them doing one thing on a certain section of the river they will be doing that along the whole river system, it makes it much easier to find the best areas to fish,” acknowledges Lowen.
The Right Amount of Current
River systems across the country all have one major thing in common: current. Bill Lowen believes that there is not a perfect amount of current, as long as the water is moving the fish will be relating to it. “I actually prefer to have as much current as possible because it sets the fish up tighter to structure and they are exactly where they should be. When the current slows down, the fish tend to move around more and then they become less predictable,” adds Lowen. He recalled a recent Elite Series tournament on the Mississippi River in Wisconsin and recalled “I was out on the main river with my trolling motor on 80-90% just to stay in place. This is where I caught all of my fish and I think it made it easier, it almost becomes like shooting fish in a barrel because they are right where they should be at every single current break.”
In the current, bass will gravitate to any break in the current that creates an ambush point for their prey. It could be in the form of laydowns, logs, bridge pilings or rocks. Regardless of what the object is, it must only be big enough to slow down the current. “I’ve even caught bass behind barrels, car tires, washers and dryers and many other things. It really doesn’t matter what as long as it is creating some sort of break from the current,” says Lowen. With this in mind, it becomes much easier for an angler to locate ideal locations for river bass ambush points and prime locations can often be seen with the visible eye while traveling up and down the river, due to the surface boils these current breaks produce.
Bill Lowen prefers to downsize his baits for summer river fishing and he does this for different reasons. “For one, the fish in some rivers are usually smaller. You want to adjust your bait according to the size of the bass in the river system,” states Lowen. With this in mind, he prefers to use lighter weights and smaller sizes for his soft plastics and jigs. He also prefers to match his bait size and color to the baitfish in the river. One of his favorite baits for river fishing is a 5/16 oz Baby Advantage jig made by D&L Custom Tackle. The Elite Series pro likes to match it with a small Tightlines UV Beaver. The secret to his success with this jig has more to do with his approach and line size than the bait itself. “I like to fish this jig on 17lb test Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon. It’s a small jig and that heavier line is key for keeping the bait from moving too fast. You can cast it upstream and it will drift with the current perfectly,” adds Lowen. One other key bait for him is a tube bait. He will match the color to the crawfish in the river and pitch and flip it to all current breaks. Like the rest of his summer river fishing, Bill Lowen keeps his bait selection simple.
The Different Bass Species in Rivers
All three major species of bass have distinct and unique characteristics that we have all come to know, yet in a river system the species lines become blurred and they act more similar. Like everything else relating to river fishing, the movement of water is more important than anything else. “I’ve always noticed that all species of bass set up the same in rivers. The only difference I have seen is that spotted bass will sometimes suspend more than largemouth or smallmouth and can be found behind offshore humps or pilings,” mentions Lowen. Largemouth and smallmouth will act and position in a similar fashion and can be found mixed in together on rivers during the summer.
Non-Tidal vs. Tidal Rivers
When asked about fishing tidal vs. non-tidal river systems, Lowen had a surprising response. “I actually fish them exactly the same and focus on areas that have the most current. I choose places like main river channel swings and areas that will always have current regardless of whether the tide is coming or going, I actually don’t even worry about the tide” added Lowen. Years of trial and error ultimately made him come to a conclusion that bass in rivers are always going to be relating to the current. “The first time I fished a tidal river, I was a little confused and was always trying to run the tide and catch it right. Once I started to fish it like any other river, I realized that there are always places that have current no matter what the tide is doing,” states the Indiana pro.
Summer river fishing can be some of the best around due to the fact that the current and lower water temperatures will keep bass more active. Bill Lowen takes a simple approach and hits the high percentage areas along the river and can cover more water by just looking for the right current breaks.