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Flat Water or Fast Water

It’s a matter of preference and other considerations as to what bodies of water you kayak or fish. With some distinct differences there are also similarities between lakes and rivers. My opinion is that a really good river fisherman will be excellent at fishing lakes with opposite not necessarily being true. My email (and also a chapter in my books (I’LL BE TENNESSEAN YA’ & 60 SEASONS: A FISHING GUIDE) contains my quote, “There’s magic in moving water”. I’m a self-confessed river rat. Let’s look at both lakes and rivers for the kayaker and angler.

Flat Water or Fast Water


Many lakes are river system bodies of water formed by dams. The dams will decrease the natural current flow. Lakes also can be gigantic and posses many qualities not found in rivers. Depth in lakes can range from a few feet to over a hundred feet in some of the massive highland reservoirs. Water levels are controlled by government agencies and can fluctuate for flood control and other reasons. Water colors are most generally stable in the case of lakes. A maze of contours and bottom features occur frequently in lakes and ledges, humps, points, creek channels can all contribute to fish location. Lakes are also popular for other forms of recreational boating; sail boats, water skiing, wake boats, high powered bass boats, jet skis and other pleasure craft are more likely to be found on lakes.


This category of water ways can vary between slow meandering streams and creeks to massive fast flowing rivers. The draw for rivers (at least for me) is the ever changing conditions and the challenge of figuring out the effect of the current and water levels. Safety is vital in kayaking rivers and any moving water. The degree of difficulty is increased because of the potential for rising water accompanied by swift currents. Knowing how to navigate all situations as well as reentry into your kayak is critical. The payoff for fishing rivers are muscle bound bass, varied food supply important to trophy fish, ever changing environment and the development of “reading rivers” to find fish.


Any lure used on a river will work well on a lake, lightweight baits and large profile baits used in lake fishing may not be as effective in river fishing because of the affect of current on the same artificials. Positioning of fish will also be heavily influenced by these two water categories. Lake fish may relate to bottom contour changes and river fish rely on shoreline cover as well as midstream objects to provide resting and ambush type areas. A line up of lake baits would in my opinion include the basic bait categories, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, jigs and a variety of soft plastics. My river choices are dictated in part by snap proof or les likely to get stuck.

My passion for topwater leads me to buzzbaits and jigs along with Texas rigged plastics. Square billed crankbaits (keep a bunch of them) are deadly around objects in either water type. Fishing holding spots on either body of water are generally choked with are close by submerged wood and aquatic vegetation. In rivers “backwaters” places located just off the main river can be hot spots for all species. The minimization of current, food supply delivered by the flow and cover all add up to multiple patterns and possible schools of fish or a residence for trophy size fish. In river systems and where current is present I may opt to use the same bait, just a different weight as to maintain contact and to neutralize the effect of current flow. A finesse jig or lighter weight (1/8 or ¼ ounce jig) would be replaced by a 3/8ths or ½ ounce model still utilizing the same techniques, colors and casting equipment. Because rivers cab become discolored quickly by rainfall, I do sometimes use larger sizes, brighter colors and possibly even rattling lures more often. Brighter colors do not equate to “glow in the dark” or eye-popping shades, just a step up from neutral colors or even black baits. With visibility decrease the idea is to appeal to the fish’s sense of sound, or vibration or limited sight.


Important because fish become accustomed to available forage, knowing what is specific to the body of water can be an important puzzle piece to lure choice and presentation. Many places have a population of crawfish. Bass and almost everything living below the surface gravitate to crawfish for their high nutritional value. Jigs and soft plastics are some of the best candidates to fool a fish into biting. In considering size it’s a good idea to upsize. If a fish has to expend the same amount of energy to catch a meal, it’s common sense logic that they would choose the larger size IF… properly presented. Sloppy casting, poor presentation and too fast a retrieve are like to repulse a potential “customer”. Also, on the list are baitfish in the form of shad, minnows and some additional species that fall into the category. Bluegill, frogs, snakes, bugs and anything else that can be caught and swallowed will end up being a meal.
With all the options many of us have, limited only by your willingness to travel and launch lakes or rivers, either can be successfully “worked” by the paddler, pedaling person or the kayaker depending on the electric motor to propel them to and from their favorite type of water.

The best place is wherever you find yourself that day.