The first lesson Todd Faircloth learned about bass fishing in lakes filled with flooded timber was not to fish the individual trees. It’s a lesson the Yamaha pro admits was hard to accept, especially while growing up near tree-filled Toledo Bend Reservoir, but it has since served him well during more than a dozen years of top-level tournament competition.
“No matter where you’re fishing, and as inviting as acres and acres of trees in the water may look, don’t use your time trying to retrieve your lures by as many of those trees as possible,” emphasizes Faircloth. “Very seldom will you catch many bass that way, unless you just happen to stumble into them.
Leaning timber, for instance, frequently outlines the edge of a channel; a clump of trees taller than the surrounding timber may indicate a ridge or high spot; and a well-defined open route through the timber could mean a roadbed.
“Bass will use these features regularly,” continues the Yamaha pro. “They’ll migrate down a roadway or gather on a high spot to feed, and you fish them just like you would if the trees were not even there.
“Bass will follow the edges of a treeline, too, the same way they follow the edges of a grassline, so these are also good places to fish, but again, you’re not fishing the individual trees along that edge.
Many times, the bottom contour or the composition changes along that edge, so while I’m fishing I’m also studying my depthfinder carefully. I’ve located schools of bass concentrated right at the point of a treeline, just like I’ve found them on a regular point in a lake, but they’re not concentrated there because of the trees.”
Only occasionally does Faircloth make an exception, and actually aim a few casts to specific trees in the midst of a flooded forest. This is when he’s trying to identify what he describes as ‘patterns within patterns,’ and one of his favorites is finding isolated trees or small clumps of trees located away from the main timber. He was able to utilize a pattern like this to win the 2008 Bassmaster® Elite Series tournament at Lake Amistad, another Texas reservoir where trees were left standing during impoundment.
“I also like to look for larger trees when I’m idling along the edge of flooded timber,” Faircloth continues, “because the bigger trunks are generally hardwoods, and while they usually grow in low areas, they have more branches and limbs than the pines, which tend to grow on the higher places.”
When he is fishing particular trees like this, Faircloth is also looking for baitfish. Their presence nearly always means bass are nearby, and if he sees them on his depthfinder, he can often determine the depth of water the bass themselves are using, and choose his lures accordingly. If he doesn’t see baitfish, he won’t spend much time in the area.
The Yamaha pro’s favorite lures for fishing lakes filled with standing timber are crankbaits, jigs, and plastic worms. He especially likes to throw the shallow-running square bill crankbaits along the outside edges where he can bounce the plug off the trunks and stumps. Both the jig and the plastic worm are better suited for pitching to individual trees if he’s been able to identify either the depth, a particular bottom feature, or a certain type of tree bass may be using.
“Flooded timber is hard for most bass fishermen to ignore because it always looks so good,” concludes Faircloth. “Even after all these years, I still have to resist the urge to throw a spinnerbait or topwater lure out in the middle of an acre of standing trees. I try to visualize the bottom first, however, both by what I see in the trees themselves as well as with my depthfinder, and that’s what I concentrate on.”