Basic Ditch Fishing

Mark with a couple of ditch bass

Finding the right bass fishing ditch is defining the differences between a good ditch and a non-productive one. It’s true not all ditches are equal, here are a few pointers that should help you make determinations as to whether or not any given ditch is worth fishing.

Proximity to River, or Source
Generally, the closer to the river the better; however, distance is relative to the overall quality of the ditch. In other words, a ditch with good structure and depth that’s a mile from the river could still be quite productive, as long as there are no gates preventing the migration of fish to their far reaches.

I once fished a ditch that was over 3 miles from the river, but through a series of interconnecting ditches and good depth with no hindrances, the fish were able to migrate greater distances. In this particular case, when the water levels of the river dropped drastically, the section of the connected ditch I was fishing held a great deal of water. It was probably dredged deeper years ago, but now it had become a hidden honey hole, holding a large number of quality fish.

Favorable Elements of Structure
Ditches that have laydowns, gravel, rip rap, cutouts, certain types of aquatic vegetation, culverts, current, and other forms of man-made objects are usually more productive than straight ditches with nothing to break the monotony or flow of them. If the depth varies drastically, and fluctuates throughout, all the better. Ditches with flat, featureless bottoms don’t offer many ambush sites for predators, nor do they offer any hiding places for the forage they eat.

Laydowns provide good cover

Laydowns provide good cover. Laydowns, offer a place for minnows and panfish to hide, they slow the current and disrupt the flow which in turn creates a change in depth on the down current side of the lay down.

Gravel bottoms, and trailing rip rap often attract crawfish, hellgrammites and other forms of forage. On cold days in Spring and Fall, they soak up the sun and warm the surrounding water.

Culverts provide relief from sun

Cutouts offer great ambush locations for predatory fish. Culverts provide relief from the sun. Bridges, road cross-overs and culverts offer a great deal of relief from the sun and in low light conditions provide ambush sites.

Look for overhangs to find bass

Look for overhangs to find bass. Overhanging grass and scrub willows at the water’s edge, create not only great hiding places for predators, but attract numerous insects, and offer a source for shade from the sun.

Duckweed gives bass a hiding place

Duckweed gives bass a hiding place. Duckweed and other forms of floating aquatic vegetation not only provide shade, but they also provide a false sense of security to frogs, snakes and other small animals any of which might be considered great forage for a large bass hiding below.

The intersection of two or more ditches, the point where they intersect causes change in current flow, which in turn stirs up aquatic insects.

Look for turns in the ditch

Look for turns in the ditch. Turns, and/or change in geographical direction of the ditch; these areas may provide alternate sites for fishing depending on the direction of the suns rays.

The mouth of a ditch where it connects to the river or creek or other source.

Man-made objects though they be unnatural, do break the current and consequently create depth changes; attract other forms of aquatic life; offer shade from the sun; and during the colder seasons collect the warmth from the sun and warm the surrounding water.

One of the Simple Secrets
One of the easiest ways to determine which ditches have the best depth and /or structure is to check out a select number of them when they are at their lowest point of the season, usually the “dog days” of Summer. If the ditches you were scouting at this time have inadequate water in them the odds are not likely that they’ll be of much value any other time of the year either, but, if there’s an adequate amount of water still in the ditch at this time of the year, you may have just found yourself a “honey hole”. If the ditch you’re scouting is in proximity to the river, creek or other source it won’t matter if it’s dry now, but what is important is that in the Spring when the river is high there will be water in this ditch and likely a good number of fish seeking refuge from the stronger currents. You’re probably wondering why I brought this example up. When the water is low or non-existent in ditches that do connect directly to a source, it’s time to make notes of depressions, gravel bars, and any other type of structure that will not be obvious in the Spring when the water is high.

Separate the Good from the Bad
I’ve outlined some simple basics as to what makes a good ditch possibility, and on the other side of the coin we have ditches with no fluctuation of water depth, no visible structure whatsoever. These ditches that have perfectly manicured sides and a dead flat bottom can and do occasionally hold good fish, but it’s more of an exception to the rule than the norm.

Mark displays a ditch bass

Mark displays a ditch bass….. Speaking from experience it’s a lot of work determining which ditches are viable and which are not, but the long term benefits are evident. You might even find yourself a secret “honey hole” that no one knows about but yourself!

In my next article, I plan to discuss strategies for fishing ditches…Techniques that raise the odds of success…However, if there are some other subjects relating to shore fishing that you’re interested in reading about you can email me.

Mark Toth

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