In the hot dog days of summer deep water ledge fishing can be one of the most productive ways to fish. Here’s how I approach ledge fishing. First, let me say, I’m not crazy about ledge fishing in tournaments because you often have to bunch up to get to the best places, but if it’s a tournament where I can have a place pretty much to myself, I’ll give it a go. Otherwise, I look for something else where I can avoid the crowd. But if I’m not in a tournament and filming or fishing for fun, I love ledge fishing. The first thing I do is make sure I have quite a few rods rigged up (six or seven) – football jigs, a few deep diving crankbaits, Carolina rig, and a flutter spoon (something I can jerk up off the bottom and it will flutter down slowly). I generally will rig it with Sunline Sniper fluorocarbon, which is a dense line that cuts through the water well, and gets the bait down into the strike zone. Then I need to know how deep to get, which, in Texas is generally about 15-25 feet. Then I use my electronics to look for structure and schools. The Garmin Panoptix is an amazing tool for this type of fishing in that you can actually SEE schools of fish when you get close to them. So rig up a lot of rods on fluorocarbon line, determine the depth, use your electronics to find schools if possible, and get out there and have fun catching.
Finding Fish on a New Lake
Learning how to find fish on a new lake is really an art that can be learned. The best way to do it is simply to go to unfamiliar lakes at different times of year and try to figure out what the fish are doing. Every lake is a little different. Some of them will have shared tendencies, but they are all still a little different. I love going to a lake I haven’t fished much, finding an area that looks like something I’ve fished successfully elsewhere, and putting the trolling motor down to figure it out. Usually, when you fish a lake you haven’t fished in a while, it takes time to figure out what the fish are doing, and your day might not be as productive as a day on your home lake, or one you know exactly how to catch them on. So as you practice the art of finding fish on less familiar waters, you may be giving up a great catch on your home lake for a tougher day of problem solving, but if you want to get good at finding fish, in my opinion, this is the best way. In anything, the way to get better is to stretch yourself. Best of luck out there!
Information – A Crutch?
In tournament bass fishing, there is one thing that is widely disputed. How much does information really help in tournament bass fishing? Obviously, it can be a huge help. You’re heading into a tournament and you don’t know that much about the lake, somebody tells you about a great spot or area or a certain pattern, and it can mean a great finish in that event. But overall, how much does it really help – in the long run? I contend that help (information) can be a crutch that hurts long term results. It might get you by for a tournament here and there, but overall, relying on it is truly detrimental to your fishing. The reason I say this, and what I really like to tell young anglers is that the more you can find on your own, developing your own techniques, figuring out how to catch fish on your own, the more confidence you will have. You see, tournament fishing is truly all about confidence. Everybody in a Tour level tournament can cast, set the hook, figure out what baits are the best etc…, but the guy that can make the best decisions during the event with no one to help him while he’s out there is the one who will come out on top in the long run – those are the guys with longevity. It’s a skill that needs to be developed, and the only way to do it is to get out there in a tournament and figure things out on your own. This is not to say that you shouldn’t do your homework about a lake. You absolutely need to understand the history of and the type of lake you’re fishing and what’s been going on recently on a lake, but once you understand the basics, going out and figuring it out on your own will build momentum and confidence that will carry you through tournament day after tournament day and give you longevity in this sport. PC: FLW Outdoors
A swimbait is a pretty easy bait to fish – you make long casts with it and just wind. Swimbait bites are one of those bites you have to be real patient with. You will feel them tap it. It’s almost like a worm bite. You’re just reeling that thing along, and you’ll feel it. Then when one bites it, until he loads up on your rod, you just can’t jerk. You’ll feel him pop it, but a lot of times, they’ll just pop it and then hit it again and get it. Swimbaits require a lot of patience and attention, but they are a great bait for catching big fish. Good luck out there!
It’s the Time of Year for Jerkbaits!
One of my very favorite ways to fish in the pre-spawn in lakes that have clear water is with a jerkbait. Either over grass or on rocky shorelines, a suspending jerkbait, when fished properly can yield some great catches. First, it’s a slow technique. Usually, you make a long cast and your cadence is the key. Normally, I will go with twitch, twitch, pause – twitch, twitch, pause, with the pause being longer the colder the water is. With the water temperature in the low 50s or high 40s sometimes the best cadence is very, very slow. My favorite bait right now is a Strike King KVD J-300 Deep. This bait will get to about ten feet when fished on ten pound fluoro, which is right in the area where a lot of bass suspend this time of year. Bass like to suspend on vertical rocky banks, channel springs, around trees, docks or over grass. Sometimes the pause may be for up to 20 or 30 seconds, which is very slow, but you just have to let the bass tell you what they want. For a rod, I like a Cabela’s XML Bass Jerkbait/Topwater Rod. I’ve come to love this rod for throwing either a jerkbait or a topwater. It is light and will not wear out your forearm, elbow and wrist. If you get to a lake this time of year with clear, cold water, think about throwing a jerkbait.
Where to Start When its Cold?
When the weather starts getting colder and water temperatures drop, the first thing I do when I put my boat in the water is look at my Garmin 7612 to find where the bait is and what the topography looks like. A lot of times in this cold weather, fish will come out of the creeks onto the main body of water and suspend, so you will want to concentrate on fishing stuff that is vertical, fishing baits that work vertically, like a jig and spoon, something that will work up and down, or fishing a jig very slowly. Or if your depth finder tells you the bait is suspended, often the bass will be suspended, and you can catch them on a jerkbait or maybe a tight wobbling crankbait or a swim bait that doesn’t have a lot of action. It will be a little trial and error, but understanding what bait and bass do when the water is cold is key.
The Best Line for Topwater
Choosing the best line for topwater fishing can be a difficult proposition. There are several ways you can go, and each one of them has its benefits and drawbacks. The old standby is monofilament. I like Sunline Defier mono, usually in 17 or 19 pound test. Mono floats, it does not backlash badly, and it’s easier to cast, especially when you’re in a hurry. The drawback to mono when fishing topwater is the extra stretch and it can be more difficult working your bait from a long way away. The other way you can go is with braided line. I prefer Sunline SX1 35 on 50 pound test. I also use 65 pound test when throwing a frog. Braid has no stretch, and it can be easier to work the bait, and it’s often easier to extract fish from hang ups with braid. The drawback to braid is castability – it’s just not as easy to cast, especially when casting in a big hurry like on schooling fish. The other thing you can do is to put a monofilament leader on braid. This is an option I use quite often when throwing a prop bait, a popper or a walking bait. It is probably my overall favorite way to fish topwater. My leader length is 7-8 feet and I end up retying the leader knot about once a day. The bottom line on fishing line is that it’s really personal preference. You just have to get out there and decide which one you like the best.
Big Bass Big Baits
In the early Fall, you often see lots of big Gizzard Shad. Bass love these giant shad, and you want to go big with your set up to target these fish. When you start noticing big Gizzard Shad, think big baits. I like to use a big Strike King 3/8 oz. buzz bait with a Rage Toad on the back of it. As the water cools (even down to the 50s, you can catch them with this reeling pretty slowly. I also like big spinnerbaits or even a KVD 8.0 or 4.0. The 4.0 is smaller, but still works when bass are keying on big shad. So in the fall of the year think big baits for bass that are targeting big shad.