Fishing A Transverse Current

By Ted Peck - April 1, 2010
The slackwater/fast water interface frequently found in conjunction with a backeddy is a popular haunt of riverine walleyes in the spring.

Locating one of these fish magnets is fairly easy. But orienting a boat or making a cast that puts your offering in the optimum strike window is a study in precision.

Anchoring up is one angling skill that many casual anglers don't take seriously. River fishing isn't like lake fishing where anchoring within casting distance will usually pay off.

If you're in position to get a reasonable drift where the fast water meets the slack water you may be able to tempt a few fish. But if you anchor up to present an in-your-face presentation you can catch 'em all.

In a river heavy with spring runoff walleyes tend to lie along a narrow seam near the bottom rather than spreading out-sort of like Olympian speed skaters following the same precise track.

Bounce that jig or rig just a couple feet away from this invisible seam and you're probably out of the strike zone.

How exactly do you go about finding this "sweet spot". The short answer is "time on the water. " Learning to read a river takes time.

Telling most folks to anchor up in the transverse current is like telling a city kid to go look for morels around dead elms. Once you know what to look for you can see a promising tree from a half mile away. But trying to communicate an accurate description of a freshly dead, a little red ,slightly pealy-barked elm is tough.

Directing somebody to anchor up dead-nut-on for the fullest advantage on a current seam isn't much easier. But there are a couple little secrets which may shorten your learning curve.

First, look for a trail of white bubbles sneaking back against the current headed upstream. Watch the bubbles for a few minutes and pick out the spot where the bubble trail disappears.

Sometimes you'll see bubbles just milling around a pocket of slack water in an eddy. Although such a spot looks promising, it doesn't mark the nexus of the honeyhole. The bottom under this slack is probably mud, with a couple of waterlogged snags often part of the picture.

The key is finding bubbles which are moving. Once you do anchor up in such a way that you can toss that jig and retrieve it in the same direction the bubbles are tracking-essentially you are casting downstream BUT bringing your lure back WITH the current.

If the bow of your boat is facing downstream and snug against the anchor rope without tracking back and forth, you should be real close to the glide path.

Maintaining frequent bottom contact when the bait is coming back at you isn't easy. No-stretch superbraids like FireLine help a great deal. A GLoomis GLX rod or similar sensitive wand will also make you a more productive angler.

The heaviest weight I ever use when splitting a seam on the upper Mississippi is 5/16 oz. Usually ΒΌ oz. is better. If you can work a 3/16 and fish are home you'll want to keep the landing net close at hand.

When throwing a three-way rig with a floating jighead on one dropper, I won't go heavier than a half-ounce jig on the other dropper-and neither dropper will be longer than 14 inches.

How can you maintain frequent bottom contact in a big, deep river like the Mississippi with just a quarter ounce jig? By targeting water less than 12 feet deep.

Why would you want to fish in water less than 12 feet deep? Because that's where the fish are! At least those walleyes which are on the positive side of a neutral feeding attitude.

During April and May water temperatures are within comfortable walleye habitat parameters in water less than three feet deep in most upper Midwestern rivers. If visibility is less than three feet and food is present why would any walleye in her right mind want to hang in deeper water, fighting the current?

Saugers and small male walleyes will often hold in deeper, faster water than quality males and females this time of year.

Don't be distracted by some guys in a nearby boat catching 13-inchers. Fish the fish-not the fishermen. You may find the fish of dreams when fishing a transverse seam!
Author Ted Peck
Ted Peck
Cap'n Ted Peck has over 30 yrs. guiding experience, specializing in multi-species fishing on Pool 9-10 of the Mississippi from Genoa, Wi. to Prairie du Chien. Cap'n Ted is a pro staffer for Lund, Northland Tackle, MinnKota, Bill Lewis Lures, Evinrude, Uncle Josh, HT Enterprises and Custom Jigs & Spins. When not guiding Cap'n Ted communicates the outdoors experience via newspapers, magazines, TV, radio and through seminars. This work has taken him all over the midwest, Canada and beyond... but he always returns to the upper Mississippi which he considers the most diverse fishery in North America. Click here for more info on Ted's guide service. Cap'n Ted's new book Mississippi Musings with the Old Guide is a personal account of his long career as a professional fishing guide on Old Man River.