Bassmaster Elite Series pro Jacob Powroznik recently won that tour’s Rookie of the Year award after several successful years on the FLW Tour. He’s top finishes across the country make him a threat at any national event, but fishing current and tidal waters are one of his specialties. The Virginia native grew up fishing famed tidal waters like the Potomac and James rivers as well as the Chesapeake Bay - he excels in these conditions.
Where to Start
Figuring out a large river system can be difficult, but Jacob Powroznik first breaks down a river system based on the season. “In general the fish are predictable based on the season. In the spring they are going to be on flats and shallow cover and the summer they will be in the deepest water they can find,” says the Virginia pro. “In the fall it’s all about finding bait and the winter is all about finding warmer water,” adds Powroznik. His simple approach is a good reminder that a basic knowledge of seasonal fish movements plays an important role in helping to determine a game plan on a river system.
Locations and River Tackle
Powroznik narrows his bait selection for river systems based on forage size typically found in rivers. “Generally everything in a river system is a little smaller, the baitfish, crawfish and even the bass. With that in mind, I usually use smaller baits than I would in a lake,” says the Bassmaster Elite Series Rookie of the Year.
The following is a season by season breakdown of Powroznik’s top baits and structure for river bass:
Early in the year, Powroznik relies heavily on a chatterbait and a Livingston Lures Dive Master Jr. for river bass. “The chatterbait is great, especially if the water is a little dirty. I also like the Dive Master Jr. because it has a smaller profile and is perfect for river bass,” says the Elite Series pro.
With spawn on their mind, bass in river systems will be located in backwater areas and locations with less current according to Powroznik, “Shallow wood cover in areas with less current will always be the best places to find them in the spring in rivers.”
Powroznik could probably leave the dock in the summer on a river system with just one rod and a pack of soft plastics. “I use a green pumpkin straight tail worm almost all of the time in the summer and always use it on spinning gear. I’ll either rig it on a shaky head or Texas-rigged with a 1/16oz Elite Tungsten bullet weight,” states Powroznik.
As summer bass look to escape the heat, they will seek out the deepest water they can find. “Usually in river systems, the water isn’t that deep, so ten feet deep might be the deepest part of a river,” says Powroznik.
Like Powroznik indicated, fall is all about baitfish. Because of this, a spinnerbait is his top choice for autumn river bass fishing. “I like to use a slightly downsized spinnerbait in the fall and always use a double willow blade combination,” adds Powroznik. He feels this is the best way to mimic the profile of baitfish and cover water looking for aggressive bass.
The fall is also a time when bass in river systems will be holding tight to structure. “Bass in the fall are on a mission to find baitfish and they will often be around main river structure like rocks and laydowns, just waiting to ambush,” says Powroznik.
“An Alabama-rig is hard to beat during the winter,” begins Powroznik. “It’s the best way to catch fish when the water is cold and the fish are keying on baitfish, whether it is in a lake or a river.” He simplifies his approach since bass are looking for warmer water and heads to the backwaters with less current.
Powroznik is a big fan of tidal fishing due to the aggressiveness of bass as the tide is moving, “If you time it right, you are constantly fishing the perfect tide. I focus on the most obvious stuff and if you are there at the right time you will get bit right away.”
Figuring out the tides is easier said than done, but Powroznik offers a few guidelines he tries to follow. “Generally the fish are going to be the most active on the last two hours of an outgoing and first two hours of an incoming tide. It is different across the country, but with a good tide chart and a little experience, you can really do well following the tides” says the Virginia pro.
He prefers to make a milk run of spots if possible, to always be ahead of the best tide flows. “One thing I like to do if I can is to check out all of my spots beforehand at the lowest possible tide so I can visually see what it looks like under water. If you do that, you can have a good idea of what to hit when you get there so you aren’t wasting time,” says Powroznik. He will often fish each spot for a few casts, focusing on shallow cover, before quickly running down to the next spot to capitalize on the best tide movement.
Positioning is critical in river systems, for both the angler and bass swimming below. Current will always have an effect on bass in river systems; they will either be seeking it out, or doing what they can to avoid it. Anglers must also pay close attention to how they are presenting their baits in rivers and generally anglers fish by casting upstream and letting the bait flow with the current.
Powroznik follows that conventional thinking, but it does not limit him. “The fish will almost always be downstream of current, but you really have to keep an open mind. You have to be willing to do whatever it takes to get the bait in front of that fish, so you might have to come at the cover from different angles or even cast downstream and work it to the cover and in front of the fish,” believes Powroznik.
Photos 1 - 3 B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito
Photo 4 B.A.S.S./Tyler Reed