When you think of bass, you think of fishing beautiful lakes, ponds, and reservoirs if you’re the average fisherman. If you live by the coast, you might think of the ocean or tributaries. However, there’s one type of fishing location that a lot of anglers don’t know about. Even many advanced anglers have never really thought of them before.
Fishing roadbeds for bass isn’t as common as fishing at the other locations we mentioned, and unless you’ve been told about one, or you were around to see it be made, you might be right next to one and not even know it.
We’re going to cover what roadbeds are, why they’re amazing fishing opportunities, and how you can take advantage of them to hopefully beat your personal best.
Let’s get started.
What is a Roadbed?
A roadbed is a road that happened to get swallowed up after a reservoir flooded. That’s why they’re not commonly known in the fishing world, and outside of fishing aficionados and people who happen to know where they are, you usually don’t hear about them.
How are Roadbeds Made?
Typically, roadbeds can be found in man-made lakes, because before the area was a lake, there was likely a reservoir or dam holding back water, and the lake was made by blowing that up. In that situation, the water spills out and a man-made lake is created. Everything in the spill zone before the water was released is buried beneath the lake. That includes the roads that ran through the area.
Because of this, roadbeds are rarely the same. You might find some in the middle of a lake where a small establishment once was years ago, or you might find them running the entirety of the lake if they were major roadways in the past. Sometimes, they’ll be under old bridges, because the bridge went over the roadway at one time.
How the roadbed is set depends on what was needed when it was an actual road and how that road has weathered since the flooding occurred.
How to Find Roadbeds?
Finding roadbeds can be a problem.
First, you have to make sure the lake you’re fishing at is manmade. If the lake has always been there, there isn’t a road running through it unless that lake expands over a roadway over time. That’s not commonly a permanent issue, either. So, check the history of the lakes in your area to see if they’re natural or man-made.
Then, the best way to find a roadbed is to have been around the area before the lake was made. That road you used to take back in the day didn’t just disappear after the new lake was made. However, that requires you to be lucky, and usually, fairly old.
In that case, modern tech comes into play.
Mapping the waterways of the United States is a massive undertaking even if you’re just mapping what you can see. Mapping what’s beneath the surface has been impossible for quite some time due to how much would go into creating effective maps.
That’s not the case anymore.
Modern sonar allows us to map out waterways, including what’s beneath the surface, in spectacular detail. Modern underwater maps can tip you off to boating and swimming hazards, depth changes, natural structures, man-made structures, and yes, roadbeds.
Now, getting ahold of those maps can seem a little difficult at first. It’s a massive endeavor, and managing to do it with so many waterways in the US is a lot to take on. So, many of the companies interested in creating waterway maps haven’t gotten far with the underwater portion, yet. However, you can use Google Earth and its historical imagery feature to peer back into the past, to the time when the lake was constructed or during periods when the water was clear or low, allowing you to discern the outlines and directions of submerged roadbeds.
Another way to do this, which should be used in tandem with waterway maps, is to follow the dead-end roads at man-made lakes. The municipality doesn't tear up the road after they flood a big portion of it. Usually, the road will "end" running right into the water, and that's the start of the roadbed.
Why Should You Fish Roadbeds for Bass?
If a roadbed is just the remnants of a road lost to flooding, why should you care about getting over one to fish? It’s just like the rest of the lake, right? Well, it’s pretty special.
There are two main features of a roadbed that bass love, and then a third that helps quite a bit.
First, the road sticks around. Despite being fully submerged, it’s still there. That provides a very hard surface on the lake bottom, and bass love hard surfaces. They absorb heat, allow for great bed laying, and are generally just better for a bass than soft-bottom lakes.
Then, there’s the depth changes that accompany roadbeds. Roads are typically slightly elevated above the ground. That is compounded when an area floods and the ground weathers away faster than the road itself. So, significant depth changes are plentiful around roadbeds. Bass use these for controlling their body temperature, hiding in wait for prey, and simply getting away from other bass since they’re mostly isolated fish.
This makes a roadbed the perfect spot for bass to hang out.
However, you also get the benefit of other common structures found around roadways. The pipe systems for drainage, simple signs, and other garbage, etc. Those add cover to roadbeds and increase their ability to support bass, and other species, quite a bit.
Roadbeds aren’t everywhere, and they all fish differently, but in general, they are some of the best bass fishing spots you can find, because they match what a bass needs to survive so exceptionally well.
Even if the closest roadbed you can find is an hour away, it is worth breaking away from your usual spots and trying to fish a roadway at least once in your lifetime.
Strategies for Fishing Roadbeds for Bass
Fishing strategies that you use for any other standard fishing hole will remain pretty much the same. The differences come in when you consider your positioning, the obstacles that you might face, and the environmental changes that affect visibility and other factors.
In this section, we’ll go over some of those differences that you’ll want to account for.
1: Use a Slower, More Controllable, Lure
Since a roadbed is just a submerged road, you have to consider the fact that it’s shaped like one. You have a fairly narrow window to get on top of it, and if you try to fish off parallel drop-offs, they’re easy to miss.
Because of this, we recommend using lures that are meant to be used slowly and methodically with a lot of accuracy. Jigs, various Texas rig retrieval methods that are slower, drop shots, and similar tactics are great options.
With those, you can drop right onto the roadbed, and if you know how it’s oriented, you can maintain your position on the roadbed a lot easier.
Roadbeds also tend to have lots of sudden depth changes. So, using something that will drop to those depths, instead of lures that buzz straight forward at a set pace, will allow you to take advantage of those dips.
2: Fish the General Area
A roadbed isn’t just a great spot if you fish directly on top of the road itself. You can fish around the road and take advantage of a variety of different conditions you usually don’t see on the bottom of a lake.
Think of all the things along the roadside. While the areas around the roads are typically cleaned up if the lake is made in a controlled fashion, there are still tons of trees that will leave deadheads in the water, both man-made and natural structures. That stuff doesn’t just disappear, and it means the surrounding area is likely dotted with remnants of the unflooded land.
The key is to not venture off too far from where the roadbed is. The further you get away from it, the fewer benefits you get.
It is also recommended to take not of areas where trees or creek channels intersect with the roadbed, as these spots frequently yield some of the lake's prime fishing locations.
3: Watch for Snags
One negative aspect of roadbeds is that you have no idea what to expect. You might end up with a roadbed that is full of bass with little to no hazards, or you might get to one that is covered in rebar from broken road sections, debris, natural hazards that have sprung up around the roadbed, and more.
Mostly, this means utilizing weed guards that can help your lure skip off of such hazards, if you notice a snag-prone spot while you’re fishing, prepare for it properly, and try to use a fluorocarbon line that won’t be abraided easily.
Featured Resource: 10 Useful Tips to Reduce Snags When Fishing
4: Find the Bottom and Fish it
Most of the benefits of a roadbed are the various features it adds to the bottom of the lakebed. Whether that's the remnants of the road itself or the things that have popped up alongside it after the flooding occurred.
If you fish 20 feet off the top of the roadbed, you might as well fish anywhere else in the lake. This is a bottom fisherman's game, and if you want to make the most of it, switch your tackle over to things that sink.
5: Position Correctly
This is connected to the point we made earlier about staying over the road portion, but, but this tip is mostly related to positioning yourself properly. Not just where you put your lure.
Again, think about a road. It goes straight for a long distance, and it's about 10 feet wide. To cover the most area possible per cast, you want to be able to cast parallel to the road. Not across it.
The easiest way to do this is to find the end of the road that is still on land. Just because the road gets a large portion flooded, the state doesn't come in and demolish the road. Most roadbeds will have old abandoned roads that run into the water, and for most people, seem to end. Well, that's the beginning point of the roadbed.
If you legally can, try to drop your boat off from the point where the road enters the water, and keep going straight. Again, make sure you can legally do it. Some of these entryways are blocked or have signage preventing you from doing so.
Also, note that this won't work for every roadbed. Roads don't go straight forever. If you try to drive your boat straight across the pond, at some point, in most situations, you're most likely to end up leaving the road because it turned long beforehand.
Unfortunately, the further away from the inlet portion you get the harder it is to tell when this happens. Maps that show underwater hazards and topography can help you stay on track, but it is difficult to stay on top of a windy roadbed even with an accurate map. Especially if the roadbed is deep beneath the surface. If that's the case, you can get fairly far away from the road without realizing it.
Will I Catch Bigger Bass on Roadbeds?
This is a question a lot of people have when fishing roadbeds for bass, especially when trying to beat a personal record. Also, whenever someone talks about a prime fishing spot, it's usually because of the size of the fish.
Well, a roadbed doesn't guarantee you'll find bigger fish in general. Instead, it ensures that you're fishing in a spot where bass can naturally thrive. So, the chances of you catching bigger bass, and more of them, are higher.
Not only will you find in-depth information about real-time weather conditions and maps of the fishing spot, but you’ll also find tips from fellow fishermen, spot-on solunar, bass fishing blog, species information, and more for nearly every possible fishing spot in the US.