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How to fish a sand river?


07Rapala

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I've lived in WI or 15 years, but this weekend was my first time fishing the lower Wisconsin River. I fished rivers quite a bit in my youth and I thought I knew what I was doing. But with the shifting sands, I really couldn't get a read for the water. I couldn't really tell where would be shallow and where it would be deep until I cast my lure out there to feel it out. I really couldn't figure out where the fish would be. I tried to fish what looked like current breaks and eddies, but found most of these very shallow once I cast to them. The only fish I caught was in a spot I didn't expect it.

Does anyone have any advice for where to find smallmouth on a sand river?

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I suggest you look for deep cuts, and spots where the river narrows. In a shallow sandy river any kind of deep pocket or deeper run can hold fish. 

 

Also there may be a lot of unproductive water. You may need to 'sift through the sand' to find fishy spots.

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In Michigan we just drift along in a canoe and cast weedless soft plastics to everything and it catches some decent ones, LM too . It’s often so shallow and swift we can’t really stop without getting out 

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Rivers often have sandy runs where they widen and sand bars are developed. Bass tend to locate up tight against the down stream berm where the drops off a few feet. Sometimes a foam develops along these drop offs along sand bars and the water surface is very calm.

Anywhere the River narrows the current increases and bass tend to locate up against aquatic plant growth at the edges. 

Tom

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Yup. I know that river section. Grew up fishing a backwater up there in Blue River. Honestly Im not going to be much help because I mostly stayed in the backwater for the most part. Are you shore fishing, wading or in a boat. I think alot about how crazy that river is and just how much the sand bars move around. Good luck.

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10 hours ago, WRB said:

Rivers often have sandy runs where they widen and sand bars are developed. Bass tend to locate up tight against the down stream berm where the drops off a few feet. Sometimes a foam develops along these drop offs along sand bars and the water surface is very calm.

So I've heard this about drop-offs below sandbars before. Does this mean sandbars that are still submerged (or recently submerged) and water is flowing over them, thus creating a, for lack of a better term, vertical eddy as is found below a dam? Should I look for sandbars that have a downstream edge that is perpendicular to the overall river flow? Seems like many sandbars come to a tapering point downstream. Is it worth fishing where the currents merge or is that shallow?

43 minutes ago, Bdnoble84 said:

Yup. I know that river section. Grew up fishing a backwater up there in Blue River. Honestly Im not going to be much help because I mostly stayed in the backwater for the most part. Are you shore fishing, wading or in a boat. I think alot about how crazy that river is and just how much the sand bars move around. Good luck.

This last trip I was paddling (upstream!) then got out on some sandbars and fished around them. Next trip I'm going to figure out the logistics to paddle downstream a couple miles.

If you have any sections you'd recommend for wading, do share! I'm thinking its about time to get some chest waders.

My father is coming up to visit this weekend and bringing his 16' jon boat, so I'm thinking of trying to convince him to spend one afternoon on the WI River, but I think we'd go upstream closer to the Dells, as I think the deeper water there would be safer to navigate. With his 40hp motor, I think his boat's draft is too deep to navigate the lower Wisconsin effectively.

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Look for the edges! Current breaks, weed lines, back flowing eddies, downstream of lay downs or logs and pocket's that look like good hiding spots for a bass to lie in wait for prey to come by. Deeper pockets will be where the current slows.  Down stream of inside bends, under cut banks.

Good luck!

FM

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16 minutes ago, Fishingmickey said:

Look for the edges! Current breaks, weed lines, back flowing eddies, downstream of lay downs or logs and pocket's that look like good hiding spots for a bass to lie in wait for prey to come by. Deeper pockets will be where the current slows.  Down stream of inside bends, under cut banks.

Good luck!

FM

The Wisconsin doesn't have a lot of vegetation in the main channel, you have to go to the backwaters for that. No under-cut banks either since the sand just collapses, though in places there are vertical rock outcroppings. And I did TRY to fish some lay-downs, not a bite, when I got right up to them they were all in very shallow water (even in areas that were out side bends 🥴). I had a hard-time telling what was a deep pocket and what was 6" of water. Its a tough river to read!

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17 hours ago, MassBass said:

Also there may be a lot of unproductive water. You may need to 'sift through the sand' to find fishy spots.

 

^This!^

 

I lived on the lower Wisconsin for several years and there are more places without fish than with fish. However, it does hold big smallies. I'd try dunking the biggest shiner you can find in deeper water. Drop-offs can produce too, as can wood. 

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24 minutes ago, 07Rapala said:

So I've heard this about drop-offs below sandbars before. Does this mean sandbars that are still submerged (or recently submerged) and water is flowing over them, thus creating a, for lack of a better term, vertical eddy as is found below a dam? Should I look for sandbars that have a downstream edge that is perpendicular to the overall river flow? Seems like many sandbars come to a tapering point downstream. Is it worth fishing where the currents merge or is that shallow?

This last trip I was paddling (upstream!) then got out on some sandbars and fished around them. Next trip I'm going to figure out the logistics to paddle downstream a couple miles.

If you have any sections you'd recommend for wading, do share! I'm thinking its about time to get some chest waders.

My father is coming up to visit this weekend and bringing his 16' jon boat, so I'm thinking of trying to convince him to spend one afternoon on the WI River, but I think we'd go upstream closer to the Dells, as I think the deeper water there would be safer to navigate. With his 40hp motor, I think his boat's draft is too deep to navigate the lower Wisconsin effectively.

I’m not sure wading is a great idea other than if you are hopping a short distance between sandbars. Even then its a good idea to have a walking stick or something like that to check depth. With the way that sand shifts my understanding is that you could be in a foot of water and a few feet later be over your head. 

i think the info you are getting is good. There will be current seams and back eddies to start with. Jerkbaits, tubes, paddletails, and hair jigs would I think be go to’s up there this time of year. One of my favorites up there was always a safety pin spinner with some sort of curly tail. Definitely an overlooked lure.

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I’ve never fished a sand river, but I have fish structureless sections of rivers and creeks where everything looks the same. Whenever I come across these flats, I fish moving baits. Walking baits, crankbaits, and tubes get the job done. The tube in particular is great because you can rip it high off the bottom, which draws attention and brings fish to you. I hardly drag it around; instead, I usually do some variation of a “hop-hop, pause.” It’s a great system for flats since the fish tend to move around a lot when there’s not much structure. Just make sure to make long casts, and lots of them.

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3 hours ago, Buzzbaiter said:

I’ve never fished a sand river, but I have fish structureless sections of rivers and creeks where everything looks the same. Whenever I come across these flats, I fish moving baits. Walking baits, crankbaits, and tubes get the job done. The tube in particular is great because you can rip it high off the bottom, which draws attention and brings fish to you. I hardly drag it around; instead, I usually do some variation of a “hop-hop, pause.” It’s a great system for flats since the fish tend to move around a lot when there’s not much structure. Just make sure to make long casts, and lots of them.

A x Rap in clown or chrome black back would fit well here as well. Cant work it fast enough.

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