Bass anglers have learned through experience and research, that bass seek out shelter and ambush points to rest and feed. For this reason, while putting together a successful bass catching pattern, many anglers target cover. Cover is simple to duplicate; making it easy for anglers to find more. However, anglers get so fixed on the concepts of shelter and ambush points they forget bass have to swim to these cover options. Is it likely a bass was born and raised in a single brush top or under the same boat dock? Because of seasonal changes and food sources, bass swim around a body of water.
Day to day, and even hour to hour, bass will relocate for a variety of reasons; wind direction, water current changes, cloud cover, sun, food sources, way too many to list them all. For the purposes of this article, I’d like to use docks to explain a few points that are applicable to all types of cover.
I’ve watched anglers move down bank lines flipping docks. When they complete all possible casts on a dock, the angler kicks his trolling motor on high and moves to the next dock without making a cast. Once at the next dock, the angler proceeds to pick it apart. This angler is obviously on a dock pattern and has probably caught several bass. However, what about all the bass between the docks? Bass had to swim to the docks this angler is fishing.
Docks are just an example; the same is true of cypress trees, flooded brush, pole timber, vegetation. Bass didn’t just appear in these locations. Using the versatility I’ve talked about in so many articles I’ve written, spend some time casting to seemingly open water or barren bank lines while moving from location to location. Use seasonal patterns to help determine what to cast. In the winter, I’ll toss a lipless crank bait or jerk bait. In the spring, I’m casting a spinner bait. Summer is a topwater festival. And finally, in the fall its wide open, bass are feeding up for winter, so use your favorite reaction style bait.
If you make a few casts away from your current pattern, one of several things can happen. 1) Catch a bass traveling between daily options. 2) Find hidden cover. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found another anglers brush pile simply by casting. 3) Discover a travel route that is overlooked by the majority of anglers.
The first two are fairly self-explanatory, but let’s dig into the travel route concept. I once found a defined travel route through a series of docks that improved my catch rate and became a favorite tournament location.
For most of the year, the bank behind these docks was covered in milfoil. I pitched a jig to the front of the docks, and then I would cast a frog over the milfoil as I worked to the next dock. There were about ten docks in this stretch, and nearly all of them would produce at least one jig bass.
There were two spots among these docks where I routinely caught a bass on a hollow body frog at the edge of the milfoil between the docks. I believed there was a brush pile or stump under the grass holding fish in these spots. However, the water was very clear one winter and I could see where the bottom changed from mud to sand. Where the mud changed to sand created a line that swung shallow and then back deeper as it worked its way along the bank line through these docks. I then realized the two places I routinely caught bass between the docks was where this mud to sand composition contrast line worked out deeper to the edge of the summer milfoil growth.
Prior to knowing this, I only worked the outer edge of the milfoil. The next summer, I caught bass using a frog by casting it shallower when the composition contrast line moved shallow, or by punching baits through the milfoil at locations I remembered the composition contrast line to be. Knowing where the contrast line traveled, I was able to increase the number of summer bass I could catch in this stretch. For years, I was leaving 5-8 bites every time I fished it. Bass were using the composition change as a travel route as they moved between docks in search of food.
So even if you simply swim the bait you are currently using, make a few extra casts while working your pattern. You never know what you will discover. We’ve all heard the stories about the angler that makes a long cast to the middle of the lake to clear his reel. Then, after picking out the loops, he either has a bass on or gets a strike while winding in. That bass was doing one of two things, relocating or following a school of bait fish. Remember, bass swim.