It is the most popular questions from pro’s and weekend anglers alike when faced with tidal rivers. What are tides… how does it affect the fish… and how do I fish it?

First I’ll put on a teacher’s hat and explain what tide is, what causes tidal movement, and some other definitions…. So bear with me

Terms and Definitions
Tide = the rise and fall of water
Tidal range = the difference between high and low tide
Spring Tide = when the sun and moon align causing a higher high tide and lower low tide.
Neap Tide = lowest tidal range, lower high and higher low
Slack tide = when there is no movement of the water

What causes tide?
The tide is caused by the gravitational pull from the sun and moon

What can impact the tide?
Moon phases – a full or new moon will have a “Spring Tide” affect
Wind direction and velocity – pending the direction and velocity it may cause a higher or lower tide, or even keep the tide from moving much at all

Normal Conditions
Here in the mid-atlantic, we normally have a 6 hour flow of water.
6 hours of flood or incoming tide and 6 hours of ebb or outgoing water.. with about 20 minutes of Slack in between.
The tidal range is normally around 3 to 3 ½ foot….. meaning the difference between high and low tide.

Tide Predictions
You can obtain the predictions for the tides through several means. My favorites are:
2) your local paper

Okay…. Enough of the science lesson and let’s talk fishing and how we approach tidal water.

There are two approaches to fishing tidal water:
A) stay in an area throughout the tidal movement or
B) run the tide.
I will go in depth of each philosophy… but first; in either approach, there are 3 critical concepts of each.

1) Timing: there will be an undeniable best period of tide when the fish are most aggressive. This time frame may be different for different areas, but you need to be at your best spot(s) when this “magic time” occurs
2) Boat Positioning: place your boat down current of the area you are fishing… for better boat control and lure presentation
3) Lure Presentation: cast up current of the object or area, work your lure with the tide, in the direction the tide is moving

A) The Sit and Wait Approach:

This approach should be taken in 1 of 2 circumstances.
1) you have only found fish in one particular area and do not have confidence anywhere else or…
2) you have found the mother load of biggun’s and are willing to wait them out until they bite.
In either case, the object of this approach is to milk every bite you can out of the area until the tide gets right for the fish to become active and feed aggressively. This approach will also prevent you from leaving your fish early and someone else coming in and whacking them after you are gone.
WORD of CAUTION: with this approach you are living and dying in this area, keep very attune to the situations you have had success there and be aware of any changes that may have or will occur that may alter the “magic time”… i.e.. wind, weather, and water conditions.
I have found that due to fishing pressure on the rivers and gas prices being higher, that more and more anglers are taking this approach.

B) Run the Tide

For those of you like myself, that have the patience of a 2 year old, this approach is for you. However; I must say this is probably the more risky of the two approaches…. Timing is everything…. I repeat… your timing is EVERYTHING!!!! If you are off on your timing, meaning if you get ahead or behind the tide you want to fish, you can be in BIG TROUBLE. But, if you nail your timing down to your spots up and down the river it is ohhh so sweet and can catch fish all day long without the dreaded waiting on the fish time.
So here’s the skinny on how to prepare to run:
-you must have several small areas or spots up and down the river, areas you can fish for 20 – 30 minutes. Generally you start “the run” down river….. hit the first spot, then move several miles up the river , hit the second spot for 20 minutes or so, then move several more miles upriver, hit spot number 3…. and keep repeating. I hope you get the picture….. you are not in one particular area for a long period of time, and then you follow that same tide all the way up the river.
The key to fishing this approach is to figure out what tide the fish are most aggressive and have selected spots in each area of the river that you have the utmost confidence in…… and then run them all with the best tide.

So there you have the two approaches. Personally, I have done both and have seen both success and failure from each. A side note on the run and gun…. If you stumble upon the mother load while running, you can switch to the sit and wait mode….. Normally the other way doesn’t work…. Meaning if you sit and wait and then try to run and gun your timing tends to be a little off.

Bait Selection

Keep it simple……. The main forage of these tidal bass is: crayfish, bream, and perch.

My top 5 baits of choice for tidal water bassin’.

1) Jig (BOOYAH Baby Boo) – ¼ oz – mimics both crawfish & bream/perch. Color: depends on water clarity
2) YUM Dinger – either the 4 or 5 inch… works in grass & wood all year long. Color: cant go wrong with Green Pumpkin
3) Downsized BOOYHA Spinnerbait 1/4oz double willow. Color: char/wht or Firetiger
4) Rattletrap – ¼ & ½ oz. Color: Gold, Firetiger
5) Finesse worm or 4 inch ringworm texas rigged. Color: Junebug, Green Pumpkin, Blue Fleck

Hope you learned a little and contact me if you have any questions or would like to tangle with some of these tidal water bass.

Capt. Eddie Griggs