January 27, 2021
By Ken Duke
Most cover or structure in a lake or stream has its season in the world of bass fishing. Shallow flats can be great during the spawn. Deep bluffs are best in the dead of winter. Thick vegetation during the heat of the summer offers cover and solace from the sun. But bridges? Bridges can be good 24-7-365. Just ask Major League Fishing angler Edwin Evers.
"Bridges offer just about everything a bass might need to live and thrive," Evers says. "They create a funnel that amplifies current. They offer shade and ambush points. They have deep water and a variety of cover—from riprap to pilings to brush and other things that blow in and collect there."
In dissecting a bridge, Evers looks to three key areas that will draw bass, depending on things like season, current and forage availability: corners, pilings and riprap.
"The corners—where the land ends and the bridge span starts—are where I expect to find the most active bass when current is present." These fish will typically position themselves on the down-current side and target forage coming through the funnel.
"The pilings are magnets for suspending fish that are usually holding in an eddy behind the piling or in the shade of the bridge."
Finally, although the riprap along the shoreline may stretch for hundreds of yards on either side of the bridge, the key areas will have something different to offer. Evers looks for steeper slopes, the transition on the bottom from riprap to something else, a laydown or some other cover that may have drifted in on the current.
Critical to Evers' approach is the understanding that bridges are three-dimensional hotspots like few others. In addition to what the angler can see above the water, there's much more below the surface, and weather and water conditions will dictate the depth at which bass will hold and feed.
"Bridges are the ultimate structure for bass to move vertically," Evers says. "They can be near the surface on riprap or a corner early in the morning and drop down to the base of the riprap or a piling with very little effort. And this sort of movement happens all day long as they feed or rest, as new fish move in or as conditions change."
This is part of what makes bridges so attractive for an angler. You can fish the same general area all day long and know that fish are moving in and out, up and down and that even if you catch one off a particular piece of cover or structure, another bass will likely move in and take its place very soon.
Therefore, it pays to be persistent. If one pass along a riprap bank produces several fish, a return pass will likely do the same. Bridges and their accompanying structure and cover are bass magnets that Evers believes can be worthy of an entire day's fishing…if you have the patience and are willing to adjust your approach to changing conditions like time of day or current intensity.
If bridges carry any negative stigma, it's that they produce mostly small fish, but that doesn't bother Evers in the least.
"Fish of all sizes can be caught around bridges," he says. "If you're seeing mostly small fish, it's just because there are more small fish than big fish. Bridges hold absolute giants, too. You just need to pick them apart and focus on the key spots within the larger area to find them."
Top Bridge Spots for Bass
- Transition area where riprap ends and natural substrate begins is a likely place to find bass throughout the day.
- There are usually bass suspended in the eddy or shade of bridge pilings. They can be caught, but are typically less active.
- Anything "different" along the riprap bank is likely to hold bass. Laydowns & cover trapped against the wall can be great.
- The "corners" of a bridge are always key spots. Current is maximized here, where you'll find the most active fish.
Build a Bridge Box
The right baits for fishing the entire water column.
Because bridge structures are so diverse,effective lures for fishing them run the gamut from top to bottom. Edwin Evers generally narrows his selection to four bait types.
- Suspending Jerkbait: "These are especially good in the pre-spawn. I like a Berkley Cutter. It will get down and bump the riprap, or I can pause it around the pilings."
- Jig and Trailer: "An Andy's Custom Bass Lures ‘E' Series Finesse Jig and Berkley PowerBait Chigger Craw will imitate the crawfish that live in riprap. A jig is a great choice if you need to slow down."
- Crankbait: "All kinds of diving crankbaits can be effective around bridges and riprap. Choose a lure that will get deep enough to contact the riprap or other cover. I'll use a Berkley Frittside or Dredger or something in between to reach the depth I need."
- Swimbait: "A swimbait like the Berkley Power Swimmer 3.8 is extremely versatile and can be fished top to bottom all around a bridge, bridge pilings or riprap. It's often the answer when other baits aren't working."