Last updated on July 4th, 2020
Article by Will Luker
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The Fishing Is Really Good After the Rain!
After an intense downpour in Alabama, the waters get murky, milky, and turbid. These conditions represent a significant challenge for the casual angler, to the point that they often turn anglers away!
However, I’m here to honestly admit that fishing after heavy rain often represents one of my favorite times to probe the depths. With enough experience, and a helpful nudge or two in the right direction, you, too, can capitalize on these churning waters with the utmost efficacy!
Where to Fish After Heavy Rain
The first thing to be learned about a post-rain landscape is how to identify key locations to hone in on. The overflow of stormwater often floods local waters to the point of unrecognizability. Pair that with the dusky color imparted by sediment, and the water looks downright uninhabitable.
However, with every storm comes a rainbow, and the fishing isn’t forgotten in this adage. Upon first approach, do your best to identify any slack water or eddies in the immediate vicinity. These are created by the swell of water flowing above debris and structure, and show up as legitimate “slack” chunks of water.
These hotspots will have lower inflow than most water around, and will oftentimes appear to be swirling, rather than rushing forwards. In a flood, baitfish get disoriented by the massive volume of water being pushed through, resulting in confused food wandering around blindly until they can flee the ever-changing chaos of a torrential stream.
Predators such as largemouth bass know this well, and can often be found directly on the edge of these slack currents, waiting patiently for bait to meander into them entirely by mistake. Use this ingrained tactic when bass fishing after rain to your advantage by presenting your bait upstream, and allowing it to drift naturally into the slack.
Post-Rainstorm Tactics and Baits
This presentation imparts a sense of “natural confusion”, and can coax a reaction strike out of any stagnant fish lying in wait. I find this technique especially effective with flukes, paddle tail swimbaits, and soft plastic worms. All three represent baitfish profiles and can be adjusted to the water to provide as close of a match to natural forage as possible.
Another tactic is to identify choke points. Just as in war games and security, choke points are represented as narrowing of the general way, that forces fish to go through a slimmer area of water than in previous runs of the stream.
Right before a fall or rapid, in between two items of debris or structure, or even spots that the water has risen onto the bank through a narrow channel are fantastic examples. These passageways are often the only way to advance downstream, and fish will act accordingly.
Expect to find baitfish funneled through, and plenty of predators lying in wait on the other side of the channel. Once identified, these points represent a veritable treasure trove of possible action and can make or break an entire fishing trip.
I find that weightless presentations excel here, as they tend to drift naturally through the choke point in a similar fashion to minnows trapped in the current. A small slip sinker will allow you to maintain the bait’s position in the channel with greater accuracy, which helps to keep you in the strike zone as long as possible.
So, now that you’ve read the water, what do you throw? A great bait for these muddy conditions is the old classic – a spinnerbait.
Paired with a medium to a medium-heavy rod, these baits sling far and cover plenty of water. The thump-thump-thump of the blade as it courses through the water provides plenty of vibration and visible flash in order to cut through the low-visibility conditions of a post-rain fishing trip.
I find that using them to probe a hotspot will oftentimes reveal any predators in the area, allowing you to more accurately target them. Another great bait is a lipless crankbait, such as a Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap. The beads within the body of the bait knock around incessantly, again conveying to anything with a lateral line that something is frantically fleeing in the area.
Finally, I find that topwater presentations that push water and make noise are extremely effective here in the deep south, and post-storm conditions are no exception.
I prefer louder prop baits, buzz baits, and soft plastic frogs such as Zoom Horny Toads. The bait of the times currently is a River2Sea Whopper Plopper, and I imagine that it would be equally effective as the previous baits when ran above a choke point at a steady pace.
All in all, just remember that flash, vibration, and volume of water pushed are your three guidelines when the water resembles chocolate milk.
Go Heavy, Go Dark for More Hookups
Finally, how do you ensure consistent hookups during the torrential floods? In such conditions, debris is a constant concern. Whether it’s trash washed down from the general public, limbs snapped by gale-force winds, or rocks toppled loose from their keeps by the flow of water, flooded waterways are lousy with potential snags and disruptions.
I like to combat this by using a thicker, braided line than other applications may call for, as the visibility is low enough that my presentation won’t lose credibility when tied to a thicker terminal line.
Another option is to use heavier baits. Though they catch fewer fish, a weightier lure will allow you to dissect the bed of the stream more effectively and remain in the strike zone as long as you choose. During the rain, this represents an unnatural behavior, so do your best to ensure as natural of a color combo as possible.
During the rain, I tend to use a black/blue jig combination when using this method, as the darker colors provide a clearer silhouette in the murky depths.
Another advantage overlooked by many is a heavier, sturdier rod. The thicker your rod, the better chance you have when it comes time to winch a fish from a snag. Light rods are fun when fishing for smaller fish in clearer water, but they WILL fail you under the pressures of a high-volume stream or river after a good rain.
I like to pair a 7’0″ medium-heavy power rod with the aforementioned braid, as it gives me the most muscle I can have in terms of prying a fish from an underwater hidey-hole.
All in all, with a simple change in tactics and tackle, anyone can overcome the challenge presented by a post-rain fishing trip. Though it can appear daunting on first approach, the turbid flows provide ample opportunity to catch a fish of a lifetime, as reactionary strikes are a vital tool in a predator’s arsenal.
They are ever aware that in such conditions, many smaller fish are unable to cope effectively, which results in a veritable buffet of food flowing past at a consistent rate. If you begin thinking like the top of the food chain, it’s much simpler to wrestle in a formidable foe, regardless of the time of day or conditions present.
Keep these tactics in mind, and it will be a simple matter of time before you impress those you know with a trophy-class catch in a trophy-class flood.
Until next time, tight lines as usual!
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I always thought the opposite was true. Then again, like you said there is a rainbow after each storm so I could see this applying to fishing. The next time I go on a fishing trip and I deal with unexpected rain, I’ll have some tactics I can put to use. Thanks!
That’s really good to know Will. I’m on the Chattahoochee and it gets muddy extremely easily.
I’ve been away from fishing for a while due to my work situation but now that I’m retired I’m ready to begin again. For years I had been under the impression that after heavy rains or flooding you were wasting your time fishing for a day or two. This just blows that idea away and I learned a lot. The baits and colors make perfect sense and now I know what to look for after a rain. Thank you so much.
Not a problem! A lot of people share the same opinion you held. I’ve seen plenty of people straight up cancel plans due to a washout, and I’m glad to count myself among those found at lakeside the next day. Hope you learned a lot, and that you catch a lunker!