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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Reading Bassmaster magazine reminded me that breaks can be or mean different thing to fisherman, especially bass fisherman. The article was quoting Mark Davis when guiding on Jim's lake Oauchita and Mark was describing a slight breakline on a big flat that has held schools of bass for years and years.
Breaks can be temperature changes in the water column, current changes to the water flow, color changes and countour changes to the lakes bottom or structure.
To understand lake bottom breaklines you need to define the lakes classification or the terrain where the lake is located. Most of the heartland of the bass kingdom has reservoirs that are created by dams located at the narrow part of a major river valley. Reservoirs surrounded by hills are called hill land, by mountains are called highland, in the rolling midwest flatland, along the coastal plains lowland and out west in the deep colorado river drainage, canyon reservoirs.
So I was thinking that Ouachita was a big highland reservoir with a power genration type dam. Breaks on Ouachita should be well definned abrupt changes in the bottom contour of several feet, not 18 inches as Mark was describing. The fact that a highland reservoir is surrounded by mountains and has a main river channel, several creek or stream arms, it still was once a valley with large flat areas. The bass Mark was targeting had located on a breakline in the middle of a large flat area and that small depth change had small isolated cover that the rest of the flat didn't have, drawing the baitfish and bass to that area. Mark found this breakline by watching bass feeding out in the middle of nowhere.
Breaks are not always big changes in contour, they can be changes in soil types, humps, ditches, creek beds or big changes like river channel ridges, ledges that drop off several feet. Lets not forget the other breaks like temperature and current, oh yes coffee and lunch breaks don't count.
Tom
 

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Excellent Tom! Thank you :thumbup01:

I remember when i got my first depthfinder when I was about 15. I made a mount out of playwood and a couple c clamps and attached it to my canoe. From that point on I was obsessed with finding breaks, mostly ditches, drop offs and creek channels, in the waters of CT and PA. I found a bunch of them and I caught a ton more fish than I was use to. My friends use to get so annoyed at me, saying I was embarassing them, as I rode in circles and zig zags in the middle of the lakes and ponds and people looked on. I use to always tell them that once we started putting good bass in the boat their embarassment would be forgotten. I was right.
Since moving down here, in the ponds and lakes I have been fishing the past several years, finding breaks like the kind I found in CT are not as common because the lakes Ive been fishing have been large shallow bodies of water where I am lucky if I find a drop off with a 15 degree incline. Fortunately now that I have my new boat I will be able to fish other lakes inthe northern and western part of SC that my lil boat wasnt safe in and once again be able to get back to locating and taking advantage of breaks. :thumbup01:
 

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Before Ouachita was created the river valley was mostly farm land, corn fields (on flats) and pasture (slopes). Fences were put up around pastures, still present, and most of those were tree-lined, offering shade for cattle. Trees were left on rocky soil where neither corn nor grass grew well enough to manage, along roads, and around home sites. Most creeks were left to hold trees, as well as areas too wet to farm, especially around the river bed. Erosion was unchecked partly because of the expense of preventing it on rolling hill slopes. Ravines were common, cutting through fields, creating "man-made" ditches and eventually permanent creeks. Lots of creeks got diverted from that, splitting them into multiple arms. A little knowledge of the pre-impoundment terrain helps locate productive bass holes.

I believe Mark was referring mostly to LMBs on the minor slopes next to flats. They prefer having deep water close to daytime feeding flats, adapting well to those gentle steps (breaks) that together made up a larger stepped corn field. Where there's a ravine cutting through those steps (breaks) you'll find most of the bass. In most instances the slopes get ever deeper toward the river channel, but sometimes the "washboard" steps led to a ridge paralleling the river, stepping back up to another flat (corn field) farther out in the lake. Where there's some scattered clumps of standing trees underwater the fishing is even better. Any humps out past those steps sweeten the pickings even more. Bass congregate around those humps that were often mostly rock outcrops that were not used for anything except maybe storing hay above the flood plain, or maybe a few goats were kept. The slow sloped humps with submerged vegetation around them down to 25 feet depth, and dotted with stumps, are prize "holes", sometimes right next to the river channel or in major creek tributaries. Where a rock outcrop turned a creek to make an "S" or "Z" course is a worthwhile target area. "L" turns are more frequent structures also used by bass, the ones with less than 20 degrees of slope being better than steep sloped "Ls", "Ss" or "Zs". It's probably because baitfish instinctively avoid places they can easily be pinned against a slope. Mainlake points with steep slopes are an exception, baitfish guided against them by currents (water flow, wind) while following plankton that depend on current to move around on a fishery.

The steeper slopes, especially those with more than a 20 degree incline, up to 60 degrees, attract spotted bass and smallies, and if populated with standing timber hold crappie and mature bream except when spawning. Stripers use those slopes, too, if close to the river channel. They mostly target large schools of shad that pass through, while LMBs target resident baitfish shallower. Of course schools of LMBs target the same baitfish schools in open water close to migration channels, too, but seem to have adapted to opportunistic feeding behind and below stripers.

Jim
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Jim, excellent description of the pre flooded river valley, I was thinking of doing something like that driving into work today. When I was researching lake Isabella and found a series photographs taken from an airplane of the area that became the lake bed. This is a much smaller lake than the ones in Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama area, and still had the same features, plus a town. The farms always have a property line of some sort, either man made fences of a creek bed with a dirt road going around the perimeter. The farm house was usually on a hill and had trees planted for shad and wind breaks. Some sort of orchard was along or near the river bank and creeks. Culverts with simple corrugated pipes used to bridge ditches or drainage creeks running under the perimeter dirt road. Rocks that the farmer found in the cultivated field were used to line the road and fill in the culverts or just pushed up on a knoll that wasn't cultivated. All this becomes isolated structure and breaks. As the lake is drawn down and refilled the soft field soil tends to errode, leaving clay or soil where some bushes or tree roots held in place. The aquatic weeds tend to get a foot hold in the soft soil where the original rooted plants held soil forming the weed bed edges.
If you can find a topo map of the lake it may show the original farm property lines as dotted dirt roads and creeks as blue or some color dash line. Check out every intersection shown where roads and creeks cross or building sites. The trees may be gone however the stumps of fruit and hardwood trees last a very long time. Culverts have rock used for fill and they never errode, but can fill in with silt. Slopes are break lines and metering the break line with watchful eye for dips indicate small ravines or ditches. Target all these places and don't forget those humps as they may have been the farm house location with tree stumps, walls, BBQ, wells etc., etc. The flats may look like nothing, however through Jim's description, flats have breaks and structure that the uneducated eye may miss.
This is one reason I love to fish outside away from the shoreline. It can be fun to watch you sonar paint a picture of the lake bottom and exciting when you see structure with arcs indicating a school of big bass and no boat in sight. Use your GPS to mark the sites or toss out a marker buoy, your day is about to become very interesting.
Tom
 

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Lake Ouachita had the towns of Avery and Cedar Glades that were flooded. Marshall Robbins, my wife Jan's dad, was raised in the Glades and helped operate the river ferry that moved cattle back & forth, his dad the postman on horseback for many years, in his latter years drawing a carriage due to increased mail order goods. An uncle had a farm the government bought up, now under water. In addition to old photos I've viewed and am trying to acquire aerial photos of the valley from the U.S. Army's search and digging for quartz crystals for radios before man-made quartz took over a few years before closing the quartz pits and flooding the valley in 1955-56. Those old pits were covered with timbers, as were dug wells, root cellars, storm cellars. The timbers floated out leaving interesting holes usually full of fish. Caskets floated out too, leaving rows of pits where fish belly down in, though most of those were found in time and relocated on high ground like at Buckville. The Cedar Glades town site is still visible on sonar, mostly just unnatural straight lines and squares, the streets, and house foundations. That's where I winter fish deep. One of Mark Davis' honey holes is a large flat, the former site of a sawmill, off the outside bend of the river where barges could moor. That flat is very close to 100 foot water, ideal escape for large bass. While the lake filled we could see the remaining equipment of the mill, as well as abandoned tractors and plows elsewhere. Any of that is fine structure, a permanent part of bottom.

Our two lakes have many similarities, like the farm houses on hills, but usually large hills that are now islands. Waste areas for rocks, piled stumps and scrap metal as well as rock outcrops and quarries are the smaller humps. Some of our humps are actually silted over stump piles from clearing land before flooding, some made by the Corps of Engineers.

Almost any lake is bound to have something from the past in the old flood plain. Even glacial lakes often have rock piles, dump sites, docks, pipelines or sunken water craft for structure. Anything different on bottom is a fish magnet. The more unique and cluttered the better to hide a hungry bass ready to ambush something. Little fish love to hang around the same places.

Jim
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
The point is every man made reservoir or natural lake has interesting bottom features that hold bass at some time during the year. Some of the structure is very deep and not usefull to bass until the lake is drawn down to a level where the deeper stuff becomes fishable. During the cold water winter periods even stuff deeper than 100 feet hold bass suspended over it. I fish highway submerged bridges in lakes Casitas, Castaic and Pyramid that are over 150' deep when these lakes are at full pool and spoon bass down to 75 feet sometimes. Why do they hold over these deep structures? Current breaks that attract baitfish, the bridges are big structures that up well the deep currents.
Lake Casitas has very similar farm structures as lake Isabella, just less of it. Castaic was scraped clean of most original structure and has rip rap added embankments to help reduce soil erosion, there is one small highway bridge and a few road beds. Trees in Castaic a few and the corps cut a grove of big oaks down the last time they had the water level drawn down for dam repairs.
I believe that once the water covers objects the average fisherman forgets the structure is there. Out of sight out of mind and thats OK with me.
Tom
 

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I haven't had company out in open water except by striper fishermen. I've learned not to admit I'm LMB fishing out there, as that just sets off criticism and makes me look silly. I can blame it all on guys like Davis who I watched do that for years before trying it myself. It really is a deep secret since few anglers will attempt to believe it. They prefer to believe all the big bass are gone. Yet, many see those fish in the spawn! Few actually catch one, so the whole thing remains a mystery to most. "You saw a carp or a striper, NOT a 10# LMB."

I've learned a lot about deep water from divers searching for bodies. Once they drift below 60 feet they don't deteriorate due to low constant water temperature. It gets down to about 55 degrees and stays 55 degrees. Lake bottom water drawn below the dam is always 55 degrees and is quite comfortable in winter, a good 15 degrees cooler air there in the heat of summer. Caves, wells and mine pits stay the same constant temperature, all together telling me the earth's crust warms the depths.

Lack of oxygen further preserves dead flesh. So where should a bass go when the shallower temperatures in winter drop to the 40s? I'd advise them to go to the 50s if sufficient oxygen is carried in by the currents. They do exactly that, seeking the best combination of temperature and DO. In winter we get excess rainfall, and the power plant draws bottom water to generate. That sets up a reliable current through the winter. Shad can take lower oxygen levels and escape the deadly low temperatures (below 45 F) that kill shad. Gizzard shad can take it down to 36 F, but they grow too large for most bass to feed on.

Jim
 

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This is a great topic especially for this time of the year when so many bass are offshore on deep water structure :D
 

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Great thread. Everyone should get some great info out of these post. :thumbup01: :clap: :clap: :clap:
 
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