Throwback: Solving the Delta Low Tides

Traveling With Andy "Cooch" Cuccia

Low tide is probably the toughest tide to fish for most guys. The one reason is, we all like to chunk our baits up to the bank and work it to the weedlines, heck that's where we ALL have the best results, up in that shallow trough. But when that window of opportunity disappears, what do ya do? It’s simple really, ya gotta know when, where and how to adjust to the fish movements and their activities.

Now there are two real key factors that I relay on to make these adjustments, seasonal patterns and barometric changes. Keeping in mind that the bass is a predator and feeds a lot, except in early spring during the spawn when most strike come out of reaction, ya need to understand their level of activity at that specific time of year.

The Seasons

Summer, in the early stages fish are just coming off the spawn and are spent. They move deep into areas were they are very difficult to catch for a number of weeks. At this time of year, you have just got to pound, pound , pound and hope for the best. In the later summer months of July, August and September, the fish recover from the post spawn doldrums and move into the shallows and become very active.

Fall, the fish now have detected that the temperature is dropping and begin to move into the current and feed heavily, preparing for their winter time of low metabolism. The Delta can be at it’s exciting best during this time of year, just for the shear number of 3 pound fish that can be caught. Fish are everywhere!

Winter time marks another tough period for most anglers. Many fish move very deep and congregate in large numbers chasing the bait fish, shad actually. Some very large concentrations of fish can be found in the middle of sloughs buried in the deeper grass, others in the deep holes of dead end sloughs and marinas.

Spring time, finds the fish moving shallow again for the spawn, they are very active and easy to catch. BIG fish are caught in the Delta from late February to mid May. Fish are located in any area lacking current that provides ample spawning locations. Spring, well it's like you and me, when we head to bed with our favorite partner, they only got one thing in mind and it ain't food. The fish are gonna be very aggressive and will attack anything that disturbs this ritual.

Barometric Factor

During all four seasons, these fish are active and catchable here on the Delta.

The tough part comes, when we get a barometric change. A falling or low pressure generally brings with it overcast skies and cloud cover. During this time the fish will scatter and be very active. Now when we get a rising or climbing pressure change, we tend to see bluebird skies. Fish will then tend to hunker down very tight to cover or structure. Both of these changes tend to have an effect on how a bass is living at that moment. One good, falling pressure and cloud cover tend to give a bass more security in his ability to roam and seek prey, to be an efficient predator. The other not so good, rising pressure and clear skies, seem to make a bass very uncomfortable, doesn’t like his visibility, hence they seek shelter and become inactive.

The Low Tide Factor

Now that we've talked some about how these changes in barometric pressure affects the bass, as well as the bass’ reaction to seasonal patterns, we can now take a look at the puzzling piece. This is the piece to figure out . What do they do when the tide bottoms out and their high water haunts are taken away during either of these situations? How do we catch em?

If we have a falling or steady barometer, with overcast skies, those fish are gonna be very active and roaming. This is when I concentrate on weed clumps, the ones that look like big mushroom clumps, they have little avenues all around them. They exist in very shallow areas with some current all the time. Jigs, spinnerbaits, cranks and buzz baits can be fished through these, very effectively, to draw those aggressive strikes. I also like the outside edge on deep weed lines, jigs and cranks are the ticket here. Barrack loves to blade the shallow tulles islands, big white/chartreuse blades, right on the outside edges, bumping the tulles the whole way. Under this condition the fish will be real aggressive and are roaming, look for areas at low tide that allow them to do this, roam around freely. Look for open pockets and avenues, allowing the bass plenty of space to do this.

One real good example of this is the Sherman Lake area. This area is always good for me on the falling to low tide. Sherman is an area than has a vast growth of tulles with many cuts, channels and miniature sloughs. These tulles grow on soft mud flats. Throughout the years, with the coming and going of the tides, the edges of these tulle flats have been carved out creating breaks and cuts at the base of the tulles. There is a trough that runs here between the tulles and the weeds, creating perfect holding areas for bass at low tides. It is a flippers heaven.

As the tide is falling look for the bass to be at the inside base of the weeds. As the tide ebbs at it’s lowest point, they tend to be just sitting in what openings you can find. Again they may be roaming freely through out these troughs. In areas where you can’t flip these openings, work the outside edges of the grass or tulles with a blade. Very slow retrieve just under the surface. Let that blade create a slight wake on the surface, especially in the summer time.

One of my favorite techniques for low tides, especially in the summer, is throwing poppers. I have two I use, one is a fire tiger by Excell and the other is a white with chartrues back Splash It. These are best tossed on the outside of the weed mats. Especially those that have the yellow and green cheese growin on them. This bite is really good when ya got low water all day long. Use a very slow pop and rest retrieve. The longer it sits, generally the better the fish is that eats it. I will also toss that popper up into the openings between the matts and the rocks or tulles, right on the bank. One thing I do with all my poppers is remove the factory hooks and replace em with Gamakastu. Generally one size bigger than what has been installed by the manufacture.

Now in the late fall and winter times, I specifically key on the grass clumps. I look for areas where there is lots of current and two sloughs create a T or major intersection. Kinda like down around the Victoria canal area. Key on the inside or outside points that are opposite or out of the direct current flow. Look for the clumps of grass in that 6 to 8 foot range. I work that jig, very rapidly down to the grass clumps, and begin to entice them with the Claw Wave! Fish will stack up in these areas. They will move with the bait as the tidal flow changes. Go to the next spot.

Now on the other side is the rising barometer and bluebird skies. Just like that of the TopSix tournament. Everyone else was strugglin, while we fished areas where nobody would even think to fish under these very low tide conditions. Course bigger problem is, ya gotta know what the area is like at low tide and how to get around with no water. That part can only be learned through experience on the water. But what we looked for was very shallow structure, any kind of structure, a pipe, wood, old car, washing machine, sunken boats, it must be solid and isolated. The fish will hunker very tight to these pieces of structure.

You look for small openings in the grass to pitch to, where the grass lies right up next to the structure, it creates a canopy over the bass. The key is presentation, your not gonna catch crank, blade or buzzbait fish very often, you can't quietly present your bait to these fish. Your entry must be precise and quiet, oh, so quiet. And it sometimes takes repeated presentations to get that fish to bite. That second big fish I caught the day of the TopSix, as well as another that I caught in the WON the week before, 6.97, was on the 3rd flip into the same exact whole, both tournaments. Repeated presentations.

Under bluebird days and on a low tide, you have got to slow way down, be thorough and make repeated presentations. You have got to stay off the trolling motor until you have completed dissecting the target area, otherwise you will blow it out with mud and other crap. Doing this will spook and scatter your fish. Remember, on the low tides those fish are there, they have no where to go.

Now in the late fall and winter time, I look for these fish out in the deeper grass beds, under bluebird days. I will generally start in these areas with a Manns BB Shad, in Chrome and Black. This allows me to cover a lot of water. Once I find em though, and have picked off all the real aggressive fish, I will then drag, hop, scoot, crawl, swim and shake a jig until I catch em all. I will then follow this up with a Rodstrainer Blade with a huge #6 Gold Colorado blade. I will slow roll that blade out in the middle of these no current sloughs. Dragging that blade right through the tops of the grass on that low tide, but ya gotta be slow. This will generally get those bigger fish unwilling to take the crank bait or jig.

If all of the above techniques and patterns fail you, I have one sure fire solution. This comes from a highly regarded Delta expert, it is also something I used in the November Pro-Am of 97 with great success. Look for new rock that has been laid on the levee. This new rock will generate a new grouth of zoo plankton and stuff that attracts baitfish and generates a whole new food chain, The bass will be around this kind of stuff. This bank must have sparce tulle clumps and a defined weed line out to about 4-5 foot of water. Get out that 6A or 7A Red Craw Bomber and crank the open trough between the water line and the weeds. The red Speed Trap will work as well, but does not dig into the rocks and grass as well as the Bomber. The Trap will work if the fish want it just ticking the top of the grass, let the fish tell ya what they want. And if they won’t hit the crank toss a white/chartrues blade, especially on the tulles.

Now, if all this fails, get out your white rat or frog and go get a sun tan!