While cutting his angling teeth on the California Delta, Bassmaster Elite Series pro Chris Zaldain has come to understand the highs and lows of this massive tidal fishery.
Despite the apparent play on words, I actually mean that in the sense of pros and cons, plusses and minuses, the good and the bad.
Basically, the daily water fluctuation is the quintessential give-and-take scenario in the flesh. High water grants access, low water takes it away. Rising tides disperse fish, falling tides concentrate them.
That’s pretty basic, but Zaldain offers some insight on two extremes for the Delta, and most any tidal bass environment.
“Sometimes we’re dealing with a 3- to 7-foot tidal swing,” he said. “Once a month, we see an extreme low tide, which we call a ‘minus tide,’ and then an extreme high, or ‘plus tide’…That can be difficult, not only in looking for fish and catching them, but also in navigating.”
To help anglers manage both ends of a large tidal swing, Zaldain offers these two major tips:
1. Go Super Low
When a strong wind pushes a falling tide past its normal low, this not only decreases fishable shoreline structure, it increases the likelihood of impacting submerged structure. Looking at the bright side, Zaldain notes the wisdom of extreme low-tide recon.
“On a positive note, minus tides expose a lot of cover in the channels, maybe on a channel swing bank,” he said. “On the California Delta, you may find a sunken car, washers, driers, sunken tractors and things like that.
“You always want to keep your eyes open for those pieces of cover that you didn’t know were there. And always hit a waypoint, whether it’s an obstruction for navigational safety or a good piece of fish-catching structure.”
2. High Hopes
When full moon phases expand the normal high tide range, anglers may find an extra foot or so of water over flats too shallow to navigate on normal tides. Zaldain sees this as a narrow window of intriguing opportunity; but not one devoid of risk.
“You want to go to the very far back corner of that flat or pocket,” he said. “Those bass are opportunistic and they’re going to recognize that foot or two difference and they’re going to want to travel as far back as they can to feed.
“But you have to be careful about navigating through there as the tide starts to fall so you don’t get stuck back there.”