Does Boat Traffic Affect Fishing? Reap the Benefits

When the weather turns nice, people rush to the water. And not just anglers. Boat traffic can be intense but there are positive benefits.

Heavy boat traffic can help bass anglers in these four areas:

  1. It activates the food chain
  2. It can create hard spots
  3. It can position fish 
  4. It can help hide your movement

For years, I would not fish when the boat traffic was crazy. Then one day I learned how to fish around it and have had some terrific outings ever since.

Heavy Boat Traffic Can Activate the Food Chain

The first thing we need to remember is that boat traffic is often more annoying for us on the surface than it is for the bass. 

Yes, sound and its vibration signature can travel much faster and farther in water than in air. When bass are familiar with waters that have lots of traffic, they often reap the rewards of it.

One day when fishing Kentucky Lake, I noticed that every time one of those massive super-pusher barges came by I caught some good bass. The wakes slamming into the rocky shoreline dislodged crawdads and baitfish. 

The smallmouth and largemouth put on the feedbag and catching them was easy for a few minutes.

The same thing happens on smaller lakes and rivers when skiers, tubers, and waverunners go roaring by us. 

(Here is an article about what is a good size for a crankbait.)

The movement in the water from boat traffic stirs up microorganisms and therefore the food chain.

The wakes from those recreational boaters stir up all kinds of organisms and the predators take advantage of it. 

Many bass anglers look for secluded places to avoid boat traffic. There are days when I look for the shoreline that is getting hit with the most boat wakes. I am usually the only one fishing it and I often enjoy a catch-fest.

Boat Wakes Can Create Hard Spots That are Bass Magnets

Many lakes are plagued with a silty and mucky bottom composition. 

Boat wakes can fix this.

Look for shallower points, funnels, and beaches that are often hit by the waves created by recreational boaters.

These areas will almost always be free of silt and other debris. The result is a hard bottom composition that bass love. 

Once you understand the boat traffic pattern on a body of water you can look at an aerial photo or map and accurately predict which places will be free of silt. You will find bass nearby.

(Here is an article about my favorite lure for fishing around boat traffic.)

These rocks will soon be cleaned off when boating season starts.

Boat Traffic Can Push Bass Into Predictable Places

Every body of water is different. Bass will react and adjust in varying degrees of depth when the boats are ripping around.

Once you catch a few, you can then accurately apply that knowledge to other areas of the water you are fishing.

On my home lake, when the boat traffic is the heaviest, the bass will either position ultra-shallow gorging themselves, or they will move to the outside weed line when in a loafing mood.

I can bank on it. 

If the water activity stirs up a mudline, the fish will be using that transition from dirty to clear water.

My favorite predictable locations are funnels. If I can find a pinch-point, saddle, or funnel I know I have found a very high-percentage area.

I will position my boat on the down-current side and cast back up into the boat wakes coming through the funnel. The bass will be facing right into the current and be in a feeding mood. 

This bass is positioned on an outside weed edge.

Boat Traffic Can Help Mask Our Movement

Bass are instinctual creatures.

They sense water displacement and pick up the smallest vibrations with their lateral lines. In clear water situations, their eyesight is also good.

In other words, they know we are around way before we know they are there.

When the boat traffic is high on a body of water, we can get away with more “mistakes.”

Us talking, shutting lids, and idling into a bay are all not as unusual as on a Monday morning when the lake is calm. 

I still approach every area I fish with as much stealth as possible, but I have found that I can get away with a lot more when boat traffic is high.

My Filming Underwater Has Proven Bass Will Stay Shallow on Busy Days

I spend hundreds of hours each year filming bass underwater.

While I find plenty of fish deep on busy weekends, there are also many bass that stay shallow for the above-mentioned reasons.

When pointing the camera straight up, the surface of the water is of course riled up, but it is quite calm just a foot or two down.

Waves disturb the surface of the water and help to mask our movements.

It’s All About Our Mindset When Bass Fishing Around Boat Traffic

There are weeks when the only time we can sneak away to fish are also days when the lake is the craziest.

Take advantage of the benefits that boat traffic can create. 

Some of the very best outings I have ever had for both numbers and size have been during high-traffic situations. 

Good luck. Be safe and make sure to encourage someone today. You never know how you may change their life forever.

Isaiah 6:8

Steve Rogers

Steve spends his time filming and writing about bass fishing. You may even see him in your area. If so, stop and say "hi."

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