Cody Meyer, Ranger Boats and Evinrude team member, is considered one of the best structure anglers and a master with a drop shot. With a second place, third place, and seventh place finish in the last three consecutive Forrest Wood Cups, Cody Meyer is lighting up the tour. When given the opportunity to speak with him, I took the chance to get the inside scoop on how he searches for structure and the tools he uses to dissect it. We discussed waters from the west coast to tournaments he’s fished on the FLW tour in the east.
Many anglers get confused with exactly what structure is. The term is used in almost every tournament winning strategy you read about. I asked Cody to define structure, “The term structure, really varies by where we are fishing. In western lakes, structure is rock piles, road beds, or maybe a bolder. On the eastern lakes, it can be points, ledges, or a brush top in the middle of nowhere.” He described the recent FLW Cup event on Lake Ouachita, Arkansas, where he had found bass in isolated brush tops. While bass were relating to brush (cover), the brush was so isolated that he considered it to be structure. When questioned what his favorite structure to fish was, he replied, “Rock piles in transition areas, would be my favorite. Places that bass will hold up when moving from the shallows of the spawn to summer hangouts or where a bass will hang out waiting for the cooler temperatures of the fall to move shallower.” Cody went on to say these places are fantastic because they replenish their selves for quite some time.
Some other terms we hear floating around the winners circles are drop offs, ledges, or break lines. I pressed Cody to describe the differences between these, “Really there is no difference between a drop off and a break-line; however, a ledge is usually fairly large. Take Lake Guntersville, there is a ‘ledge’ running the length of the lake on both sides.” Cody explained that no matter what you call it, the key to catching fish on structure is isolation. He again used Lake Guntersville to explain, “With miles of ledges on the lake, the key spots are areas of shell beds on those ledges.” I asked him how he found the shell beds, “I start by looking for areas that current would wash the silted bottom and expose the shell beds, then using my Lowrance I scan for the irregular bottom edge that is a tell tale sign.” He continued and said that to help learn what your electronics are telling you, when you think you have found a shell bed, cast something heavy across it and see if you can feel it.
Cody says he starts looking for off-shore structure when the spawn is over. “Summer through fall and into winter, I’ll be looking for bass on structure.” Cody also said that lakes that have bait fish like blue back herring pretty much set up an off shore structure fishing scenario. “Blue Back herring really roam the open water, and bass will be out in that open water with the herring.” Cody mentioned that cold fronts in these situations will position the fish tight to off shore structure. Saying, “It’s the bright, sunny days following a cold front that put fish close to the structure.” He says you can pinpoint them with your electronics and put a bait right in their face. I asked Cody if there is a bad time to consider fishing deep or off shore structure. He was quick to say that dirty water will kill a ‘structure’ pattern. “If rain and weather muddy a lake, you can pretty much hang it up. Also, should you get heavy-cloud cover, bass get to roaming and are difficult to catch.”
Cody and I talked quite a bit about electronics and how they help find and fish structure. He spoke about an FLW Forest Wood Cup tournament on Lake Lanier where in practice he found fish would suspend over or next to isolated planted brush tops. After shaking a couple off he spent the rest of the practice time, for this event, covering water with his Lowrance. Never making another cast, Cody simply found and marked brush tops that had bass near them. First day of the event he had over 100 tops marked and was ready to cover some water. During the tournament, using his Lowrance, he would pull up within casting distance to the brush tops and work a drop shot Jackal Cross Tail Shad through the brush. What makes this tournament interesting to using electronics and structure is that, through the course of the day, he noticed bass underneath him instead of on the isolated brush. He was able to use his electronics to follow the bass that were out cruising and then drop his bait down to them. I question Cody on how he knew what direction the bass were going in order to follow them, “It’s pretty much a guessing game, but use all the factors you can, wind, bait fish movements, current direction if there is any. I would put my trolling motor on high and start looking. Swing one way and then the other until I found the bass again.”
Cody gave up some great pointers about how to learn what your electronics are telling you. “Use heavy baits, 3/4 ounce jigs, 1 ounce Carolina rigs, big deep diving crank baits to get a feel for the bottom. If you get a picture that you don’t understand, cast to it, heavy baits will help you figure out what it is.” Cody said this has really helped him out in the eastern tournaments. Being from California he hadn’t really experienced shell beds before and didn’t know what they looked like on a graph, nor what to look for. After casting his Phenix Baits signature series football head jig across a couple, he was able to cover water with his Lowrance and find them quickly. Cody was quick to point out that it is vital to know what your electronics are telling you under the boat while fishing. Especially when structure fishing. If you see fish on your graph, you need to know where they are in relation to the boat. He recommended taking a bait and dropping it straight down until you find it on your graph. Cody said, “It’s vital to know where your sonar cone angle is, how far it reaches away from the side of the boat at different depths. Once you find the dimensions, you can easily see an eighth ounce drop shot weight and 4 inch plastic worm with no problem, and you can really pin point where a bass is.”
Cody and I talked some more about how electronics help him with new lakes and fishing tournaments. Cody says he couldn’t imagine not having GPS and a Navionics Card. “It’s so easy, pop in the card, turn the Lowrance on, and I can see all the creeks, humps, and points in an instant.” He went on to say, “Some of the local anglers are hard to beat at these events, they have years of experience and know where all the key bends, brush tops, odd boulders and so on are. There is no way that in three days of pre fishing, a new angler to the water, can learn a large body of water. The navigation chips help even the playing field a little when it comes to structure. Without them, I would be lost on new water.” With the navigation chips, you can go straight to likely looking parts of the lake and look for irregular or isolated features. Cody made sure to point out that you have to find something different that will hold fish, “I look for anything, it could be a very subtle difference in bottom contour or composition. I have found lay-downs, boulders, and shell beds, along drop offs or on points. All these things will attract bass. When a bass is roaming and comes across something different it will take up residence on or next to it.” Cody claimed, “Good electronics are a huge part of structure fishing, and my Lowrance is a huge part of my day on the water.”
I questioned Cody along the lines of exactly how he uses the GPS part of electronics and learned new things myself. Cody revealed that, “I keep my front Lowrance set to split screen, half with sonar and the other half with the plotter.” Cody said he prefers not to drive over areas he plans to fish. So in practice he will set up two GPS points for each fishing location. The first point being the actual cast he wants to make and the second being the location he will hold his boat to make that cast. He then zooms in his plotter and lines everything up. Cody cautioned, “The casting angle you set up can change and often can be the difference between getting a bass to bite or not. So, I’ll set up a casting situation, however, if it doesn’t work I don’t just leave. I will work around the ‘cast’ point looking for roaming bass, along with, trying different angles on the structure to see if things have changed.”
Lets switch gears from finding structure and using your electronics while fishing structure, to how you catch bass on the structure you’ve found. Something Cody pointed out was that many anglers get apprehensive when fishing deeper structure and before you can learn to fish structure you have to get past this. Cody continued by saying, “Twenty feet of water is really not that deep, think about it in terms of your boat. A twenty foot boat turned vertically. If you think about it that way, it’s not so intimidating.” Along those same lines, many anglers don’t feel they need to be as stealthy when fishing deeper structure, however, Cody believes that bass can still hear trolling motor and outboard noise. This is one reason he will position his boat away from the structure he is fishing. Cody talked about how long casts are important so you don’t spook the bass your trying to catch. He also said, “This is more for when they are tight to structure, if they are out roaming there isn’t much you can do.” Cody continued, “I like to set up long casts and make sure I am casting across or past the structure and bringing my bait to the fish.” After talking about this some, he said, “think of it like visible cover and working a bait, you want to cast past the cover, so you don’t spook the fish when your bait splashes in.”
Cody recently finished in seventh-place in the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita; he was catching bass on top water early, or when the cloud cover came in. However, later in the day and when the sun was bright he was catching fish with a drop shot in twenty plus feet of water. I asked Cody if he thought these were the same fish, just moving up and down structure during the day. He said that unless it’s a bluff type situation, you really have two different type of fish. Some stay shallow year round, while others move to deeper water for the summer through winter months. “If you have a bluff they can move vertically with little effort, and you can catch them on top water early and they work them deeper later. With a point or drop off situation, I think it’s too far for them to move. Bass won’t waste that much energy unless they have too.” Cody said that many times the deeper structure fish will bite better in the morning just like your shallow bass, however, many anglers don’t fish for them until after the sun comes up. He said, “If you have solid structure fish going, it can be a great idea to head to them right off the bat. You’ll likely catch bigger fish doing so.”
I asked Cody, since he is so in tune with his electronics, if he every just fishes a location because it looks too good to pass up. Cody replied, “Definitely, especially if it’s a brush pile situation. Electronics can’t get it all. Side scan is fantastic. You can gain a tremendous amount of information, looking to the side of your boat. However, it may not show you all the fish, especially if they are tight to the brush. I’ll always make a cast or two to likely ‘looking’ water. One or two bites can really help in a tournament.”
I probed into how Cody tells the difference between bass and trash fish with his electronics. Cody responded that, with some experience, you learn the difference. “White bass appear as much smaller dots, while trout or salmon will move around a lot. Over time you can tell, but just like with learning what the image is telling you, make a cast and try and catch one.”
Try and catch one! Now we’re getting to the good stuff. You’ve got your navigation chip in; you’ve found a likely drop off with some irregular features, it has fish arches on it. What next Cody?
When asked Cody said, “I’ll start with a Berkley Hollow Belly swimbait, then a larger worm, and I’ll finish up with a drop shot.” I questioned his approach, and he replied, “My goal is to catch the biggest fish in the area first. The swim bait is a reaction strike, and the big worm a slower presentation; however, both are trying for the big bite or more aggressive fish. Then a follow up with the drop shot to catch the finicky fish, and any keepers size fish in the area.”
This seemed like an hour’s worth of fishing to me. So I asked Cody how much time he spends with each of these on likely structure. He replied, “About ten casts, a couple with the swim bait real quick, then drag the large worm through the area, and I’ll check to see if I can find them with the Lowrance and drop a bait in their face. If they don’t eat, I’m off to the next spot.” He did say that if it’s one of those spots that he just has a gut feeling about or is too perfect not to produce (say bait fish around the area) he’ll make a few casts with different angles to see if bass are setting up on the structure in a specific way. “Things like current, wind direction, or simply the way the bait fish move through the area, will cause bass to position in an exact way on structure. Switching casting angles is always a good idea if you can’t get them to bite.”
Cody is very well respected in the bass fishing community for his drop shot fishing abilities. I was able to get some tips on how he plucks fish from the lakes across the country with this finesse technique. He keeps the weight size pretty simple and only talked about four, but claims he really relies on just two. “Use the lightest weight you can, heavier weights take action away from the bait. I use three sixteenths or one-quarter ounce mostly. There are times in strong wind or fishing extra deep that I’ll go to three eighths, and conversely if shallow I’ve used as little as one eighth.” I asked him about the different shapes available and when to use them. “I use the tear drop shape. Cylinder shapes are good for grass or current and round shapes are great for dragging the bottom. However, I have found the tear drop shape is effective in all situations, I just stick with it.”
Cody and I got into a pretty good discussion about leader length, when to use what size. Cody always starts with a 10 inch to 1 foot leader and will work from there. He recommends that someone just learning go with a general 18 inches as it’s a great all around starting length and effective without getting to specific. Cody mentioned that leader length can get very specific, but someone just learning shouldn’t worry about it as much. Things that he takes into consideration are position of the fish to the bottom, how active they are, and what they are feeding on. “I have caught bass that would only feed when the bait was above their heads. I would have to put the weight in their face before they would take the bait above it. I have also used as small as 1 inch leaders; essentially a Texas rig would do the same thing. However, the short leader drop shot, presents the bait in a horizontal manner and can be more effective.” Cody went on to talk about line, “I use Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon in 6 to 10 pound test. I get more bites with lighter lines; the action is better. Heavier line hampers the action of the bait.” I continued along this line of questions trying to find out exactly how he works a drop shot. Cody was quick to say, “It’s not always a vertical presentation. I do a lot of casting and then let the bait pendulum back to the boat across structure. I’ve also found it productive to swim it through brush piles. The pendulum approach is great for catching suspended bass, it basically allows you to cover water while you try and find one under the boat.” In closing, I asked Cody what rod and reel he uses for his drop shot. He explained that a good drop shot rod runs in the 2 power. “You don’t need a lot of hook set power with this application, my Powell 712 M spinning rod is perfect.” As for reels Cody talked highly of the ABU Garcia Revo.
Cody has made some very impressive finishes relying on various structure and his electronics. Next time you hit your favorite lake think structure and off shore. Hopefully, you’ll see it in a different light and put some of Cody’s experience to work for you.
Get the Net it’s a Hawg