Work a topwater over a weed bed and a bass explodes on it. Run a spinnerbait by a log and hang onto your rod. Drop a jig into a brush pile and watch the line jump.
Those are examples of bass ambushing lures and why I love shallow water fishing. When a bass moves into shallow cover, he’s there to hide and ambush his prey. While this characteristic is found in other fish, a big ol’ bass makes your heart pound harder because the strikes are so sudden and powerful.
Fishing around shallow cover is one of the first things a bass angler learns, yet something that many fail to refine. There’s more to drawing ferocious strikes around cover than making random casts around bassy-looking hideouts.
- Be quiet. Nothing turns an aggressive bass off faster than a noisy angler. Bass are much wiser – especially the big ones we want to catch – on lakes that get a lot of fishing pressure. If a bass senses you’re in the neighborhood, it goes on the defensive and is harder to fool.
- Look before you cast. Boat position can be critical, so be patient with that first cast and you’ll maximize your chance of catching a fish. When you see logs lying along the bank and extending into deeper water, wait until you’re in position to run your lure the full length of the log. If you throw across the log, you’ll likely spook the fish rather than trigger the reactionary strike.
- Cast underhand when possible. Overhand casts cause the bait to crash into the water. Underhand casts or “pitching” techniques propel lures lower to the water and allow them to drop beneath the surface quietly and naturally.
- Present the lure tight to cover. Remember how you’ve been told to cast beyond the cover and bring the lure alongside it? That’s not always true. While conducting line visibility studies with Berkley in a clear Florida lake several years ago, I learned that I could trigger more strikes by dropping a worm close to the bass’ head than by casting beyond the target and working it towards him.
When I cast beyond the reed beds and worked worms toward the fish that I could see, they got edgy and ignored the baits. But when I pitched a worm in front of fish, it grabbed the bait instantly. That led me to believe that a moving fishing line displaces water and alerts the fish that something isn’t natural.
- Watch your profile. In stained or muddy water, you can get close to a target without spooking the bass. But fish in clear water will see you before you see them and tend to be more wary. Make longer casts in that situation, especially on sunny days.
Also, be wary of your shadow. Any shadow cast abruptly across a bass’ ambush area signals danger.
- Assess the cover. Never fire a cast into cover without first determining the most likely spot a big bass might be holding. Big bass typically own the best spot, and that’s where you want to be with the first cast. And if you’re fishing an area that receives a lot of pressure, that fish will be in the thickest section of the cover.
- Don’t give up. If you’ve made mistakes or think you spooked the fish, let the spot rest and return to it. Bass will resume their aggressive nature when left alone for a while. As a final reminder, act more like a hunter when fishing around shallow water cover. Sneak up on the fish and present the lure naturally so that you trigger it to attack instinctively. That’s a sure-fire way to produce more fish — and maybe the bass of a lifetime.