Deep Tactics

What are some fishing tactics that all bass anglers can use?

One of the toughest bass fishing situations are when bass are holed up in deep water.

There are several techniques you can use to reach deep-water bass. One of my favorites is a ‘Drop-Shot’ rig.

A Drop Shot is simply a finesse worm technique that is rigged with a plastic worm or small shad type bait fished on a #1 wide gap hook tied approximately 18 to 24 inches ABOVE a 3/16th ounce weight attached to the end of the line. The key to remember is that the worm is tied above the hook.

Finesse refers more to the technique than the actual bait. You can also use live-bait this way. What I mean by ‘finesse’ is smaller plastic baits, such as 5″ worms, instead of 8″ And, this type of fishing is a straight up-and-down, tight-line type of fishing. You just drop the rig straight down to the bottom.

There is basically three methods used.
Texas Rigged- where the hook point is buried back into the worm to make it weed less. This is the preferred method if fishing structure such as deep timber and logs.
Hooked directly through the tip of the nose where the hook is left exposed
Wacky Style where the hook is placed through the center of the worm and left exposed.
The last two rigging methods are best used out in deep, open water where bass are suspended away from structure.

Your rod needs to be an ultra-sensitive graphite, med action rod. I would recommend a bait-casting reel, but you can use a spinning reel if you prefer, spooled with 6-8 pound test line. Some of the hits on this rig will be very, very light, so you need the sensitivity to detect them.

To use this rig, simply drop the line to the bottom in 30-50 feet of water in suitable location, and gently ‘twitch’ the bait up and down, a few inches, periodically. It’s like jigging, only much gentler.

A few tips to this rig are:
Under normal conditions shad won’t suspend around cover like bass do. They prefer open water where they can mill around and travel freely. So if using Sassy Shads, choose your locations accordingly.
You have to rely on your electronics to help you find and stay on the bait-fish.
The Drop Shot method is deadly on both active and not so active fish “IF” you get it in front of his face.
Don’t over power your finesse baits with rods and line that are too heavy for this technique.
Watch the birds for feeding action. Keep a casting rod handy, rigged with a surface lure, or a crank-bait when bass hit on the surface.
Don’t get discouraged if your results the first trip or two is slim. Like all other effective methods there is a learning curve to this technique. The more you use it, the better you get at it.

Another key to successful deep-water bass fishing is to use structure. This is a very misunderstood term. There is a big difference between ‘structure’ and ‘cover’. ‘Cover’ is a distinct physical object that is not part of the bottom contour. Bass use them, but only temporarily. ‘Structure’ is the actual features that make up the bottom contour, such as ledges, holes, channels, old river-beds, shoals, etc… All fish use these as highways, or trails in their travels. They will use the same ‘trails’ all the time, unless something happens to change them. It’s a lot like hunting, where you need to learn where the regularly traveled trails are. Once you learn these, you can catch just about any kind of fish, all-year long.
To be successful, your preparations begin long before you ever hit the water. You need to do some homework. Get a contour map of your lake, and study it intensely. You can mark likely areas with color-coded highlighters. Here is what you should look for.
In a perfect world, we can base the entire life cycle of a bass on knowing two things: Their spawning areas (flats) and their wintering areas (deep-water vertical-break areas). The structure breaks that connect these two areas are their migration trails. All you need to do is figure out where along the trail they are at the time you are fishing.
Here is a general seasonal outline: Bass winter in the deepest water/vertical break areas available. In the early spring (pre-spawn), bass begin their movements up toward spawning flats, and creeks. They use main creek channels, or the main lake drop as their route. They stop off at points and humps first, then secondary points, on their way to the spawning grounds. When spawning is complete, they head back out the same way, stopping at secondary points, then main points and humps. Summer bass tend to scatter throughout the system, but most will be along the main deep-water channel areas. In the fall they will again move shallow, using the same points and humps they did before, to gorge-up for winter. Where you find large schools of baitfish along these routes, you will find bass. The rest is just trial-and-error, checking each likely place out. When you find bass, mark it on the chart. They will be there at this time next year.
There are some general guidelines for deep-water structure. During periods of active feeding, such as low light, rain and wind, the fish generally move shallower and hold looser to cover. During periods of high-pressure, or under adverse conditions, the bass tend to be a little deeper, and tighter to cover.

Structure with hard cover on it is better in the spring and late fall (shell/rock). Structure with soft cover, and current are better in the summer. Structure areas with more vertical breaks, such as ledges, are better during the winter. The same areas on structure tend to produce over and over each year. A thin echo bottom line on your LCD represents a hard bottom. A thick echo represents a softer type bottom. Turning the gain all the way up on your LCD will enable you to find hard bottom/soft bottom areas and the thermocline.

Happy fishing.

Dan Eggertsen is a fellow bass fishing enthusiast to the point of obsession. :) He's been providing solid advice on bass fishing since 2004.

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