Spending time on the James River doesn’t make me an expert. It does give me some insight in how to tackle situations in regards to catching fish. Here in The Ozark’s you might not catch a whopper but you will catch a great view of The Ozark’s from the front of the boat. I have taken folks fishing who have just moved to The Ozark’s and have literally no experience outdoors, that doesn’t make them any less “pumped” about going. They remind me of my kids when they were young and full of excitement about the next day’s trip, so much they couldn’t sleep. On the way down to the river in the truck they were sawing logs the entire way.
They asked a millions questions, always thinking I had the answers. Unfortunately, there are no magical, easy answers when it comes to catching fish. I learned through the years that the experts were a dime a dozen. I like to keep it simple especially when teaching kids. I explained to them that they have to learn the basics of fishing… current, depth, shade and casting.
The James River and it’s feeder creeks are engineered in two ways eddy’s and shoals. However no two are seemingly ever the same. Year in and year out they change, so you have to learn to read the water. Flooding makes the river structure shift, change or disappear so the log you saw last fall might be completely gone the following spring. Most fish like to hold in the shade of a tree in the summer months. In the winter months those fish will stage in deeper holes. These holes will be the deepest, largest bodies of water and tend to have the least amount or most drastic change during colder weather. As the temperatures rise in the spring those bass will move to feed more freely and start looking for places to spawn. The upper and lower ends of the holes can be depended upon for holding these fish as water conditions allow. Once spring has arrived in The Ozark’s and water temps stabilize fish will be consistently found in these holes.
There are more than a few objectives about reading the water and they concern bass behavior, variables of the river or stream and the weather. I am only touching on the basics.
Reading The Breaks
You need to identify a break in the river’s current as it generally is a holding area for fish. Smallmouth and largemouth are ambushers, they usually sit in the current break to conserve energy. Anything that breaks the current be it a log or a bridge pier is a resting place for these ambushers.
This is an absolute must for predators, they want to lurk in darkness and then pounce on the prey. Find the deepest, darkest places on the river and you’ll find dinner. Throw in a current break and you have it made in the shade. An oxygenated area where their food source is being washed into them can be excellent and you can, at times, sit there all day.
Perfect your skills, learn to cast on a dime and remember not to spook the fish. Throw beyond the target area and bring it back to the spot. Let it wash into the hole and hang on.
And perhaps the most important thing you can do is to take a kid fishing. Practice catch and release and teach them to respect the Ozarks outdoors.