Bass fishing in canals can be a very productive way to catch fish from a boat or from the bank. Bass love to hunker down in canal systems making them a good and plentiful source of fish throughout the year.
Through my experience and a TON of research, I’ve identified 15 awesome tips to help you catch more bass in canals (read to the end to learn when NOT to fish a canal too).
Tip #1 Use Finesse for Canal Success
Canals are usually protected from the effects of wind because they are protected by land on both sides of the water. As a result, most canal water is calmer and less disturbed by weather conditions like waves from wind and muddied up water.
Because the water is more settled, finesse baits and tactics may be the way to go when trying to catch bass in canals. Tubes, shaky heads, and drop shots can be some of your best setups for fishing in these conditions.
Tip #2 Water Flow into Canals
Pay special attention to any place in the canal where water is entering into the system. Entry points can include places like a stream, drain pipe, or runoff (from rain) spots. Fish love to sit in these kinds of areas looking for prey to be washed into the system and delivered to the waiting bass. These are very high percentage areas for catching bass.
Culverts are GOLD! Find a culvert and you almost always find bass. Keep your eyes peeled and START there when looking to land a lunker.
Tip #3 Bank Fishing Secrets for Canal Bass
Many canals offer easy access for bank fishermen. Many of the techniques included here apply to bank fishing. For some great INSIDER tips on fishing for bass from the bank, click here to see 10 Essential Tips for Fishing for Bass Without a Boat. There are some outstanding, well-thought-out principles that you can use right away to land more fish.
Tip #4 Bass Fishing a Canal Efficiently
To fish canals most efficiently, consider the size of the waterway. If the canal is small enough so that you can easily and accurately cast from your boat to both sides of the canal without using a paddle or trolling motor to move closer in, then attack the canal by moving in a straight line down the middle of the canal while making casts to both sides as you work your way through the water.
If it’s too wide to reach both sides, work your way down one side in its entirety then turn around and fish the other side. I usually opt to start on the shady side first because shade typically attracts more fish.
Tip #5 Why do Bass Love Bridges? Fish Bridge Pilings.
Bass love bridges because of the bottleneck effect. The bridges concentrate the fish into smaller areas as they travel from one part of the water to the next. They also provide shade and cover for bass to wait to ambush prey.
The value of a good bridge cannot be overstated when trying to catch bass in canals. Canal bridges produce shade and, again, fish like the cover of shade.
Bridges usually have rocks around them which are good for a variety of reasons. Rocks can create current breaks and can also hold heat during the colder months, both of which bass love.
Find the Bridges, Find the Fishes!
Tip #6 Make Smarter Casts to Catch More Bass
One of the best ways to fish moving baits in canals is by making casts that are as parallel to the bank as possible. By making parallel casts, you are able to cover high percentage areas faster and more efficiently.
Tip #7 Docks, docks and more docks.
Docks are a clear favorite of bass, especially in canals. Fishing docks in canals can be a VERY productive pattern. They love to sit in the shade of a dock using the darker area as an ambush point for prey.
One of my favorite finesse strategies for catching bass in canals is by skipping a wacky rigged worm under docks. Skipping under docks takes considerable practice but can pay off in BIG ways.
When wacky rigging, I like to dead stick during the first part of the cast with one or two small twitches at the beginning. I’ll end by slowly moving the bait back to the boat with multiple, erratic twitches. This technique has produced many quality fish for me over the years.
Tip #8 Bass Highways and Canal intersections.
Fish move just like cars move on highways. They use thoroughfares to move from one area to the next.
Where are some of the busiest places on the roadways? Intersections.
Just like roads, the intersection of two canals can be a busy place for bass. Try fishing these more open areas with moving baits that can cover water a little more quickly like walking baits and jerkbaits. You can also fish points at the intersection with something slower like a jig or plastic worm.
Tip #9 Know Where to Cast in Canals
Look for small pockets in the shoreline cover or points that stick out from the norm. Just like main lake fishing, you’ll do best if you look for and target abnormalities in the cover as you work your way through a canal.
Tip #10 Hit ‘em in the Mouth
There are certain spots in lakes that seem to always hold bass. The mouths of canals are one spot that consistently produce good numbers of fish. Try fishing the open water with a crankbait or jerkbait while working the edges with a slower bait like a Texas-rigged worm or other slower moving bait. Try using a punch bait for thicker cover on the corners of the entrance of the canal.
Tip #11 Don’t Forget the Middle for Roaming Bass
While true that most bass stick tight to canal edges and cover, don’t ignore the middle of a canal. Take a few casts down the middle of a canal with a moving bait to test waters especially in more narrow canals where bass may easily venture out to look for prey and then duck back into their holding spots throughout the day.
Tip #12 Fishing Walls for Bass and a Little-known Secret.
Canal walls are a great spot to fish for bass waiting in shade. Sometimes, the bottom edge of a wall decays over time and provides an area that is cut out of the wall unseen to the naked eye. Fish the bottom edge of a wall nice and slow especially in the heat of the day. Those cuts can hold some big bass and deserve attention.
Tip #13 Pitch Perfect Practice.
Canals usually have many targets for you to fish and many canals are smaller, more confined spaces.
Under these conditions, casting may not be your best option for presenting your bait. Pitching and flipping are better, more efficient ways to fish when you’re looking for accuracy, control, and stealth.
Take time to practice your pitching and flipping skills when it DOESN’T count. Use time at home to set up cups or other targets so you can practice this valuable fishing technique before you get to your favorite fishing spot.
A precise presentation can make all of the difference in the world and WILL mean more success for you as a bass fisherman.
Tip #14 Avoid These Kinds of Canals
We’ve discussed many reasons why fish love canals, but what makes a canal bad for bass fishing? In my experience, it’s best to avoid canals under certain conditions.
Canals that are too shallow rarely hold good numbers of bass. Canals do not have to be super deep but should have a decent element of depth to be productive.
INSIDER TIP There is a special exception to the depth rule. On more than one occasion, I’ve encountered a canal that, initially, appears to be too shallow. However, occasionally, if you push back and get PAST the shallows, you will encounter deeper holes towards the back of canals that can be jackpots for catching a ton of bass.
Mucky water canals are typically not good for any fish including bass or the prey that they feed on. Stagnant water is usually a no-go for me because it’s usually not clean enough.
Tip #15 When to Fish Canals and the Bass SPAWN
Our last and final tip deserves, arguably, the most attention Canals are widely accepted as one of the best places to catch spawning bass. Bass love to make their way into canals and, especially, love the backs of canals as they enter the spawn and look for the best place to bed.
As always, being stealthy and quiet is key when approaching bass on beds in canals so you don’t alert them of your presence. Finesse approaches work best in these situations since, once again, you are going to typically be dealing with calmer water.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these tips to help you catch more bass in canals. Next time you head out to your favorite lake or river, look for opportunities to put these great tactics and strategies to work for you in your quest to catch more bass!