Five Top Bass Structures
Finding bass is the most difficult part of catching them. Here are five prime places to concentrate your search for fish.
By Bob McNally
Although there are no short-cuts to catching bass, some spots are so sure to harbor fish that anglers should go out of their way looking for them on waters they work. Such bass hangouts are called “structure,” and the following five are among the most dependable places to yield bass to anglers.
1. Feeder Creeks
An area where a feeder creek flows into a larger stream, river, lake or pond always should be carefully fished for bass. Normally, there will be a slight drop-off at the mouth of the feeder where water from it has gouged out a hole in the larger body of water. Even a slight drop-off of only a few inches is important and offers bass a place to hold and wait in ambush for food washed from the feeder creek.
Feeder creek mouths also can have swirling currents and back-eddies that bass love because they’re first-class dining rooms, loaded with such choice foods as minnows, crayfish, earthworms, nymphs and other goodies.
Feeder creeks can offer especially good bass fishing during and just after rainstorms. Water flushed out of the creek contains earthworms, crawfish, minnows and other fish food, so bass hold at feeder mouths to dine on the smorgasbord.
2. Boat Docks, Piers, Pilings,
Few structures draw more attention from bass anglers than boat docks, piers and pilings. There’s just something “bassy” about such cover, and plenty of bigmouths are caught from it every year.
While almost any dock occasionally can give up a bass or two, there are some that consistently hold tremendous numbers of bigmouths. I spend a lot of time fishing docks and piers on the sprawling St. Johns River near my home in North Florida. Over the years, I’ve learned some of them rarely fail to produce bass. Two friends and I, for example, fished the river’s docks one day last summer. We caught lots of bass, but one favorite dock of mine really sparkled. We worked it three different times that day and caught bigmouths each time—including a pair of 5-pounders, a 7-pound fish, and an 8 1/2-pounder. We also lost several fish around that dock I know were of similar size.
Docks that extend the farthest to deep water, or are close to a creek or river channel, are likely to be best. The dock on the St. Johns I mentioned is near a point of land. The water depth is 22-feet off the end of that dock, while the deepest water around all other nearby docks is only 10 feet.
A dock with a boat lift usually has deeper-than-usual water where a boat engine has “washed” out the bottom. Such a spot is a prime holding structure for dock and piling bass.
Anytime you’re working piers and docks take careful note of the shoreline and look for old pilings from piers that have rotted away. Often such pilings harbor schools of fish and they’re seldom tapped by average anglers. A floating raft used by swimmers is a good clue to deep water there, and any piers or docks in the area should be fished meticulously.
Riprap—the large rocks used to reinforce roadways, causeways, railroad rights-of-ways and dams—are easy-to-find, simple-to-fish structures. But riprap can be confusing to fish. Usually it’s found on large lakes and rivers, and it’s not uncommon to find riprap along several miles of shoreline. With so much water that appears the same, it’s no wonder many people opt for fishing more eye-appealing, “easier-to-read” structures.
This is a mistake, however, because riprap invariably is jammed with bass food (minnows and crayfish) and therefore is attractive to bigmouths.
The difficult part of fishing a riprap bank is that usually the visible shoreline is long and straight, with no points or turns anglers easily can recognize that draw bass. But on any riprap shore there will be places where—underwater—rocks extend farther offshore than most of the rest of the bank. Too, there will be places along riprap where the water is deeper than most other areas. Find underwater riprap points extending farthest to deep water, and it’s likely you’ve discovered a classic largemouth lair.
Riprap also is superb for shoreline fishermen to enjoying outstanding largemouth action.
I never met a bridge I didn’t like—at least for bass fishing. Few structures offer more consistently good fishing than bridges. Although bridges of any size, shape or material can provide some of the fastest fishing any bass angler could ever hope for, I like low-to-the-water wooden ones, 100 to 200 yards long. Shorter bridges usually don’t offer enough pilings to harbor lots of bass. Longer bridges have so many pilings they can be impossible to fish properly in a week’s time.
Low bridges offer lots of shade to bigmouths, and that’s a major plus, especially during summer’s broiling heat. I don’t know why, but it’s been my experience that wooden bridges attract more forage fish, and I’ve consequently had better bassing around them. Older wooden span bridges also seem to have more support cross beams, which makes for additional cover, and so is more appealing to cover-conscious bigmouths.
Most bridges span some type of river or creek channel, and it’s around these channels where the best bridge bassing is had. Pilings on the edge of the channel are prime. Pilings in the channel are likely to harbor lots of suspended fish. Vertical jigging with spoons, heavyweight “tail-spinners” like Bill Lewis
“Spin Traps,” grub jigs and plastic worms are death on bridge-living bigmouths. Work lures carefully from just under the surface all the way to the bottom.
5. Brush Piles
Just about every bass angler gets excited fishing brush piles, because, simply, bass love brush. But there are a number of things that make certain brush piles better than others.
On water where there are few brush clumps, almost any bush or submerged brier thicket can harbor bass. However, on lakes where brush is common, it pays big bass dividends to know which ones are likely to yield the most and biggest fish.
Much of the time brush piles with the most dense limbs and twigs are best. The more sticks, branches, limbs, leaves and pine needles underwater, the more places small baitfish must hide, which also makes for more places for bass to hold waiting in ambush for prey.
The closer brush is to deep water (8 feet or more) the better. In addition, brush piles that are completely submerged and out of sight from the surface are the ones most likely to have the least pressure from other fishermen. This is why it’s wise to look at reservoirs during periods of low water to “mark” natural brush piles, and to locate places to “plant” your own. It makes plenty of sense to sink brush piles for attracting bass on lakes and rivers where it’s lawful. Oak brush is best for making your own bass havens, since it lasts longer than pine or other softwoods.
When sinking brush piles, put them on choice structures where there is no cover already available, like a submerged creek channel saddle, or creek channel juncture.
Plastic worms, weedless jigs and spinnerbaits are popular brush lures, but don’t overlook crankbaits. Plugs with large lips are remarkably weedless and unnerve big bass that often refuse other lures. The Luhr-Jensen “Brush Baby” is a particularly deadly brush bass crankbait.