The Basics of Fishing Shore Cover by Matt Williams
It is no secret that bass are cover nuts. Find some grass, brush, lily pads, lay down logs, boat docks, piers or other assorted forms of cover, and it is a good bet that Micropterus salmoides will probably be nearby.
Jason Barber of Gun Barrel City was quick to agree with that textbook logic. Barber is a full-time fishing guide on Cedar Creek Reservoir just east of Dallas.
“This lake is isn’t particularly well known for having an abundance of shoreline cover, but where you do find it the bass usually aren’t far away,” he said. “It doesn’t take much to hold them, either. I’ve caught some big bass off of old lawn chairs, ladders and other pieces of junk sitting at the water’s edge more than once.”
Bass are attracted to cover for several reasons. For starters, it appeals to their wolfish nature.
Green fish are predators. They make their living hunting and they like to kill stuff. Cover provides bass with hiding spots where they can lay in wait for unsuspecting bait fish to swim dangerously close.
Cover also affords some shade, which is always a big draw for bass during heat of the summer under a big Texas sun. Another benefit is it provides the fish with a sense of security when they are spawning or simply loafing around.
As earlier mentioned, cover comes in many different forms. It also can be found at varied depths, ranging from to shallow to deep. The story line here points to shoreline stuff. From here on out we’re talking skinny water, say six feet deep or less.
So, what is the best way to pluck a few bass out of shore cover? That depends on which type of cover is up for discussion. The best approach for a bush may not the best approach to use around reeds, grass beds or boat docks. Here are a few tips for fishing around different types cover:
When Texas bass anglers talk about catching bass in the bushes, they are usually referring to willows, buck brush or huisache. In most cases bushes need to have at at least three feet of water in them to attract big numbers of bass, but not always. The best stretches of bushes are typically located in close proximity to deep water provided by a creek, river or ditch. Bushes situated on main lake and secondary points can be promising, as well.
• Casting accuracy is a virtue around bushes. If you can’t cast or flip baits accurately at short ranges, you could be in for a long day.
• Flipping and pitching are good tactics to use when bass are buried up tight in bushes. Jigs and Texas rig plastics are the orders of the day for this type of fishing, mainly because they are weedless.
• When using a Texas rig, be sure to peg the sinker to the head of the weight using some sort of bobber stop. This is will prevent the bait and weight from separating on the fall and reduce the potential for hang-ups.
• Always use a stout rod, heavy line and quality hook for flipping around bushes. This will help you to turn big fish quickly, before they wrap you up. Many anglers prefer fluorocarbon line over braid for flipping bushes because braid is prone to cut or dig in to tree limbs.
• Be a line watcher. If your line goes slack, twitches or does something out of the ordinary as the bait is falling, set the hook!
• Moving baits like a spinnerbait, square bill crankbait, topwater or Chatterbait can be equally effective around bushes at times. When casting around bushes, always cast past the target and bring the bait right up against it on the retrieve.
When Texas bass anglers talk grass, they are typically talking about hydrilla. However, much of what you are about to read could be applied around other types of aquatic vegetation as well. When grass is abundant in shallow water it will usually hold fish all year long, even during the dead of winter.
• Bass like to relate to the outer edges of grass beds, especially stuff that is matted on the surface. Try to position the boat so you can fish parallel to matted grass rather than to and from it. This will help keep the bait in the strike zone for longer periods.
• Look for physical oddities in the grass such as a points, guts holes or indentions. Such changes could indicate a change in water depth and prove to be a sweet spot.
• When fishing a grass-lined creek, always give special attention to sharp channel bends and swings, inside and outside.
• Buzz frogs and hollow body frogs are deadly around hydrilla, lily pads, hay grass and pepper grass. Most buzz frogs have to keep moving to say afloat. These frogs tend work best around vegetation that is scattered on or beneath the surface, or situated in clumps with pockets of open water around. The hollow body stays afloat when sitting idle. It shines in the really thick slop or dense stands of lily pads, where bass may need a little more time to zero in for the kill.
• Shallow diving crankbaits can be killer around shallow grass. The trick is to fish the bait just fast enough that it bumps the grass without burying up. Keep the rod tip high and crawl the bait along, almost like working a Texas rig.
Laydowns, Rocks, Boat Docks and Stumps
Laydown logs, underwater rocks, docks and stumps are stationary targets that hold good potential provided there is sufficient water around around them.
• Be sure to work your baits as close to underwater stumps as possible. Bump or deflect the bait off the wood if you can. Often times this will trigger a “reaction strike.”
• When fishing lay downs, always work the bait down both sides and around any protruding limbs before moving on. At times it may take multiple casts at the same piece of cover from different angles to coax a strike.
• Always be careful to avoid bumping stumps and other hard objects beneath the surface with your trolling motor and boat. This can spook fish from a considerable distance and spoil your chances prematurely.
• A good pair of polarized sunglasses will reduce glare off the water’s surface and help you detect underwater logs, stumps and other potential holding spots before getting too close and spooking the fish. If you don’t own a pair, get some.
• On lakes with lots of docks, a few will invariably be better than all the rest. Often times key docks will be built on points or near a channel swing or drop that offers easy access to deep water. Docks that have been doctored with brush piles can be especially good.
• If you spend a lot of time fishing around docks, it would be wise to learn to present baits using the skipping technique. Picture a rock skipping across the surface and you’ll get the idea of what skipping is all about. It will help you penetrate shady areas far beneath a dock or bush that cannot be reached with conventional casting. Plus, it will make you more proficient when it comes to probing around different types shoreline cover.