How Tides and Fishing Can Help You Catch Bass

By Andy Whitcomb

Apr 24, 2017

Tides are predictable saltwater shoreline events that affect the feeding and location of many fish, including bass where freshwater rivers and creeks enter the sea.

A tide is sea level fluctuation along the shore.  Usually there are two high tides and two low tides each day. This predictable phenomenon occurs due to the gravitational pulls of the moon and sun. Understanding tides and fishing in each area is of utmost importance.

Saltwater fish are not the only fish affected by tides. Estuaries are areas where freshwater and saltwater mix. While learning how to read tides for fishing, I have followed professional bass tournaments which sometimes have events in tidal influenced areas such as the Delaware River near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the California Delta near Stockton, California.

If you are on vacation and time is limited for fishing along the coast, you will want to research fishing low tide vs. high tide. Is one better than the other? The answer, as with much of fishing, is “it depends.” In a Virginia River Bassmaster event, low tide was where the action occurred. However, high tide was the best fishing in a Sacramento River tournament.

High tide pushes saltwater well up into its upper reaches. Fish can chase prey items such as crabs and even birds well into the shallow, perhaps marshy areas that may have been dry a few hours earlier. Low tide pulls everything the water can carry back to the sea, often prey items.

Understanding tides and fishing and how current and direction is key to fishing success is crucial. Tidal bass know the tide will turn and take advantage of the situation. Anglers in landlocked states experience this feeding “on-switch” in reservoirs when water is periodically released below the dam. Opportunistic feeders will position near the mouths of creeks at low tide and let the water bring food to it. Bass will use any structure to position in areas that conserve energy and create ambush points.

Timing is important to understanding tides and fishing. You can fish anytime, but pay attention to the current direction and know that it will change at a predictable time and that you may need to reposition yourself to best take advantage of the tide phenomenon. Familiarize yourself with tidal charts. These can be found online, or better yet when you are getting your fishing license, pick one up at a local bait shop where the proprietor can help provide the best advice for where to be and when. 

Andy Whitcomb
Andy Whitcomb
Andy is an outdoor writer ( and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.