First published September 1, 2017
Bass fishing river ledges is a great pattern during hot and cold months in the south. Finding the right spot will baffle many, but once one breaks down how these ledges attract the bass, it becomes much easier. Here are some tips I use when breaking down these haunts during the years extreme temperature swings.
A key lesson I have learned is bass will stay on the same ledges during the summer and winter months. This is what makes bass fishing ledges hard to beat. In warmer waters, bass will move up a little higher on the ledge. When I find some good bass during the winter months, I will always set a waypoint and come back to the very spot in the summer months and will also find bass. Most of the time, these bass are higher up on the ledge, unless they have a very distinct break or curve in the ledge. On power generating lakes, anglers will find these tight breaks and curves are a must and the bass hold to these in the same general area, especially while the current is moving.Bass Fishing River Ledges - What Ledge to Fish
When looking for those perfect ledges, two things are key: time on the water and good electronics. Bass anglers want to find areas of change on the ledge; whether it be a pile of rocks, logs midway down, a sheer break and drop, or a hard turn with wash outs. To find these changes, I always look at the river itself, how it lays out, and imagine where the eddy current would be. I then scan the area with my electronics to see what’s there. What is amazing, it doesn't take much to make a current eddy on generating lakes. A cut in the bottom, a deep hole, mid-sized rocks, one log, anything to change the flow of the water will produce a current eddy. Bass love these areas, especially the small eddies. There isn't much room in smaller eddies, and the competition for the forage is less. Always work areas with the slightest change on the bottom, it’s easiest to find these changes with down scan imaging.
Many bass anglers only fish the ledges going into backwaters at the mouth; I prefer the hard turns in the main lake river. The flowing water will cut into the bank and make great places for current eddies. Bass will move into these areas to feed throughout the year. Watch for small areas of change in the curving ledges. Rocks and or wood, anything causing a variation in the current, are great targets to fish.
Again, the key is time on the water, using electronics and marking these key areas worth trying out, then breaking them down by catches through the years. On Pickwick Lake, I have over 200 marked areas on ledges, some of them are double and triple marked. Marks correlate in order 'looks good,' 'catches,' 'many catches.' With a quick look at my screen, I can plan my day. During tournament practice days and fun fishing, I go over all the ledges marked with one mark and make notes on the waypoint about any catches. If I have fished a specific mark a few times and never had any action, I will remove it. Notes are essential for ledge fishing; there are just too many great places not holding bass. Anglers can run around all day long and never find them, so if after a couple of trips with no bites, those areas aren't worth going back too.
Current, it's the ticket! Ledge fishing without a little current is a curse to us all; it's slow, it's boring, it's trying to make a bass do what he doesn't want to do. The bass are resting during non-current times, they know when the water flow starts up, pods of baitfish will begin to move with the current, and they set up on the break to ambush prey. The rest of the time they are in rest mode, conserving energy. Check the generation schedule each day to know when to be on the ledge fishing; this one thing will save many hours of looking around trying to find bass. Remember, it does not take much current to get a school up and feeding, just enough to move the pods of baitfish downstream.Bass Fishing River Ledges - Baits for Ledge Fishing
I use the KISS method, Keep It Simple Stupid! Below I will break down each bait and method I use when ledge fishing. I keep it as simple as possible just like fishing other types of structure, use a starting bait and a follow up bait for best results.
I always start off with a crankbait rated to dive to the structure on the ledge I am fishing. The key is hitting this structure and getting a reaction strike. It takes practice to fish this way; anglers must cast past the area and crank down just like fishing any other deep structure. It will take practice to get used to fishing ledges in moving water. Cast up stream and work the crankbait back down then move out and cast up on the ledge and work it down the ledge bouncing the bait off all the spots believed to hold bass. With every cast, make a mental note of where the bait landed and how it was retrieved, when a bass is hooked, repeatedly make the exact cast again, the magic school could be laying there waiting.
During the hot months, I use a flutter spoon, a big one, 6" minimum, up to 10". The flash and drop will produce bites, especially when the water is barely moving. Also, with a little practice, it’s easier to keep a spoon in the strike zone longer than with a crankbait. Cast past the best area, let the spoon flutter down, then rip it up and repeat. Watch the line very carefully, almost all strikes are on the drop.
When I find an area with bass and have caught a few in the same general location, I always follow up with a jig. Dragging a jig through every nook and cranny can catch the biggest bass of the school. I use the NuTech 1 ounce Bomber jig, usually in brown/blue color. It will keep contact with the bottom even during high water movement times, and the extra weight makes it easier to feel what is going on.
When bass are lethargic, large worms, 12" and bigger, are good choices when ledge fishing. Something about a big worm crawling by them just brings out the beast, and they will hit it at times when nothing else will get their attention. Texas rigged with a 1/2 oz. weight, non-pegged is my go to when fishing a worm in the deeper water. Try swimming the worm, then crawling it when the bite is super slow, or the water is barely moving.
Ledge fishing can be some of the most boring fishing there is; however, it can also be the most exciting. Knowing when and how to fish ledges is the key to making it great. When there is no current, fish deep brush piles or in the main channels, but when the current flow starts move to the ledges, you'll start loving them, just like me.Lee Smith
To ask Lee Smith or any of the number of bass catching specialist on Ultimate Bass visit the Ultimate Bass Forum