April 26, 2023
By Shane Beilue
Sometimes, the motivation in accomplishing a menial task is brought on by a change in perspective. Most bass anglers would prefer to spend the weekend fishing than trimming trees in the yard. However, the two may be connected, provided the brush pile created by the trimmings is dropped in a nearby reservoir where it may soon hold a group of 3- to 4-pound bass. The fact is, man-made brush piles offer excellent cover for bass and baitfish, providing some of the best bass fishing in a body of water—assuming they’re constructed and placed correctly.
PICK YOUR SPOTS
Clark Reehm, a tournament angler and bass guide on legendary Lake Sam Rayburn, the massive east Texas reservoir southeast of Lufkin, keeps his clients on bass by planting multiple brush piles throughout the lake. His expertise in catching bass is rivaled by his savvy in building and placing brush piles.
"The first piece of advice I'd offer anyone planting brush is not to drop a brush pile where bass are already using the area—it can absolutely ruin the spot," says Reehm. "If you place brush on a high-traffic area, such as a point where bass are already present, it won’t draw any more bass to the area and the pile will change the dynamic of how they use that location, often doing more harm than good for the angler."
Instead, Reehm suggests targeting locations within the reservoir that will draw bass into an area that isn't already receiving heavy fishing pressure from other anglers. Nondescript flats devoid of cover and not necessarily adjacent to any hard structure break are prime locations for Reehm to add brush.
The Texas pro also recommends placing piles at various depths throughout the lake to accommodate different bass populations at various times of the year, noting that many of his best piles are in only 6 feet of water. Reehm points out the ideal reservoirs in which to drop brush are those with sparse amounts of natural cover. He says that lakes with heavy vegetation or acres of existing trees and brush along the lake bottom are poor choices for adding supplemental cover.
Reehm's ideal types of wood for east Texas lakes are bamboo, willows and various hardwood trees indigenous to the region.
"The bamboo and willows will typically have some type of green foliage, which can draw baitfish, bluegills and bass almost immediately after placement," he says. "However, once the green foliage starts to die out underwater, those piles aren't very attractive to bass until the foliage is completely gone. Hardwood trees can last many months in the water before decay sets in and the wood is gone, but the rate of decay is hard to predict due to all the environmental factors in the lake each year."
To attract bass, he prefers the limbs to lay mostly horizontal on the bottom, as opposed to standing upright. "Ideally, a good brush pile has a couple of heavier, dominant branches, and I want to try to make some of those come off the lake bottom at around a 45-degree angle," he says. "Bass like to have overhead cover, and those heavier beams allow them to actually get under and within the brush pile."
The size of the pile is another key consideration. "Smaller, more isolated brush piles are almost always better, as they're just more efficient for an angler to fish than huge piles that take more time to dissect with a lure," says the pro. "However, the deeper I'm placing a brush pile, the bigger I want to make it. It's funny how a mass of limbs suddenly doesn’t look that big on side imaging sonar in 25 to 30 feet of water."
Reehm weights the brush with multiple cinder blocks or quick-drying concrete in a bucket. When using cinder blocks, the brush is secured to the block with heavy-duty, 2-foot-long zip ties. For concrete, many anglers will insert a rod or piece of wood into the concrete as it dries to provide an attachment point for the branches and zip ties.
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Reehm cautions that just because you place a brush pile in the water, it doesn't mean fish will use it for cover. "I've learned through trial and error that many of the brush piles I've dropped never hold bass, so it becomes a numbers game to place the piles and see which ones the bass find and utilize," he says.
"Once you place a brush pile that bass are using consistently, keep seeding that location with new brush as the old wood starts to decay in order to keep the bass in the area," Reehm says.
Finally, Reehm precisely marks each location with a GPS waypoint, but adds that once a pile of brush goes underwater, it becomes fair game for any other angler to locate and fish. Therefore, placing the brush during low-traffic times on the water is best. Before sinking any brush piles on your favorite body of water, be sure to check with local and state officials to ensure it is legal to do so. As is always the case, it’s best to know what the laws and regulations say before you start such a project.