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Across our nation’s large, commercial navigable waterways there
is a common piece of structure that is a fish holding magnet, that
structure is a wing dam.
Wing dams are finger like structures made up of rock that are
placed nearly perpendicular along a rivers bank.
Their purpose is to stabilize channels and to keep water levels
stable in the main channel for barge traffic. Many are visible by
looking for a disturbance in the water that runs from the shore
towards the center of the main river.
Most wing dams were built in the 1930s and '40s by the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers in effort to keep the channel deeper for barge
traffic, and increase water velocity in the main river when the water
level is low.
These rock structures that are important pieces to shipping on
river ways are also magnets for holding largemouth and smallmouth
bass. Since a river may
have wing dam after wing dam, it is important to know what to look for
and how to effectively target the bass holding on them.
My favorite time of year to target bass on wing dams is during
the summer and early fall when the flow on rivers is typically low and
bass are looking for food and a source of current.
When you find a wing dam, identifying the key areas to it is a
must. Items to consider
include, is the wing dam out of the water for the most part, besides
the tip or is their a large majority of the rock still underneath the
When I first pull up to a wing dam and am not sure where the bass
are located, I like to get a feel of not only what mood the bass are
in, but also what the bottom content and make up is.
Two lures that allow me to do this are a topwater plug, such as
a Storm Chug Bug or Rebel Pop-R. These
are great lures to see if the bass are aggressive and feeding.
To get an idea of what the bottom is like and how deep the wing dam
is below the water a Carolina-rigged plastic bait does wonders.
The size of your weight will depend on how much current is
coming over the dam. Plastic
baits such as the Gambler Bacon Rind, Flapp’N Shad and lizards all
work well, it is just takes some experimenting to see what the bass
want to eat.
If you have determined that the bass are feeding, they will
position themselves near the tip of the wing dam, since this is where
the current is pushing bait fish and insects.
Another area where the bass will hold in the current is if
there is a hole or break in the rock that forms a chute where the
water is funneled through, this is again a prime spot to fish for
actively feeding bass. Throwing
a fluke or senko style bait into these current laden areas and letting
it float through naturally is a great way to mimic an injured minnow
that a hungry bass won’t pass up.
If the bass are just holding adjacent to the wing dam, they could
either be tight to the rock or holding out in front of it in open
water. Above or below the
wing dam depends on how much current is present and how deep the water
is. I personally have done
well below the wing dam, throwing a crank bait or Yo-Zuri Rattlin’
Vibe parallel to the rocks.
A Texas-rigged tube in a crawfish imitating color is a good bait to
use when the fish are tight to the rock and want a lure dropped right
in front of them. A ¼ oz
weight and an Eagle Claw HP tube hook allows the bait to not only
float natural through the current, but also give you a strong hook to
get a big bass hooked.
Sometimes bass will also be holding in the deep hole that is
present behind the wing dam, the depth of this hole will vary from 5
to as deep as 15 or 20 feet. These
holes are great spots for deep diving crank baits or jerk baits if the
bass are suspended.
As you are fishing a wing dam, it is important to pay attention to
the finer details, such as the rate of current, presence of baitfish,
additional cover that is present and relationship of the wing dam and
it’s location on the river channel.
By paying attention to these details you can put together a
fine tuned pattern that will allow you to make your way up and down
the main river channel catching a lot of bass and in many instances
some quality fish as well!!