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Summer Ledge Fishing for Offshore Bass

Living on the edge: Summer is prime time to hit this fish-attracting structure.

Summer Ledge Fishing for Offshore Bass

A Texas-rigged worm or skirted jig are good options for deep cover on ledges. (Shutterstock image)

  • This article on bass fishing is featured in the West edition of the June-July issue of Game & Fish Magazine, now on sale at newsstands across the country. Learn how to subscribe

Ledges, those meandering edges that rapidly fall into creek or river channels, provide some of the best offshore fishing for mid- to late-summer bass. But since the typical body of water features miles of ledges, here’s how to efficiently find the best areas and then properly fish them, from bottom to top.

FIND IT FIRST

Time spent scanning channel edges before making a cast is time well spent. Use side imaging, down imaging and traditional 2D sonar to search not only for bass and baitfish, but ledge-associated cover that will hold fish. Think brushpiles, rock clusters, foundations, bridge abutments, stumps and cribs. Such cover provides ambush points for bass and will often collect crappies and sunfish—prime bass fodder.

Typically, bass will show up as groups of horizontally-oriented fish, whereas crappies will be more vertical. Be alert for both baitfish and game fish suspended in the water column, the presence of which will help determine lure choices when it comes time to make a cast. Side-imaging sonar allows you to evaluate greater expanses of water. Down imaging and traditional sonar often do a better job of revealing bass. Running all three views at the same time allows you to compare and mark fish-holding areas with waypoints.

ON THE BOTTOM

Having found potential bottom cover along a ledge, the next step is choosing the correct bait or lure. Naturally, this largely depends on how deep the structure is located.

If the cover lies in water within reach of a deep-diving crankbait—roughly 15 feet or less—ticking the cover with such a lure is a wise choice. Suspending jerkbaits can trigger bass holding above the cover, while a classic Texas-rigged worm or skirted jig can pick the cover apart for less active fish.

Another good option for bass holding off cover such as a brush pile or submerged tree top is a glide jig, the kind that Northern anglers have been using for years to dupe walleyes. For bass holding 20 feet or so away from cover, drop a glide jig right on top of them and then snap the bait off the bottom several times. Bass will either hit it immediately or ignore it. Bass scattered along a ledge are ideal targets for a flutter spoon ripped off bottom and then allowed to flutter back to bottom on a slack line. Fluorocarbon line transmits slack-line strikes better than either mono or braid.

fishing sonar screenshot
Run sonar in split-screen mode, with multiple forms visible, to get a more complete view of a piece of fish-holding structure.

MID-DEPTH SUSPENDED

Open-water baitfish often travel along channel ledges and pull bass out of cover. Having noted the general depth and location of suspended baitfish and game fish, a couple lure options are appropriate, the first being a soft swimbait. By tailoring the weight of the bait’s jig head along with your retrieve speed, you can sift through various levels of the water column.

The second option, the blade bait, is underutilized as a warm-weather lure but excels when targeting suspended bass. The compact offering can be cast a long way, even into the teeth of the wind. And like the soft swimbait, it can be worked at various depths via the countdown method.

NEAR SURFACE

Just as ledge-oriented bass will suspend at mid-depths, so will they rise close to the top, movements inspired by baitfish location. Often, such activity is obvious, as when schooling bass feed in a near-surface frenzy. Noisy topwater baits like the Rapala X-Rap Prop mimic the sound of baitfish and feeding bass. They are often crushed, albeit by smaller bass, which are most often on top.




A double fluke rig (two flukes rigged about a foot apart), can be fished a bit lower in the water column. The tantalizing look of the flukes’ baitfish profile often results in much bigger bass—ones that hover below the ruckus, picking off the easy prey.

HEAVY METAL

  • Baits that catch fish when other lures stumble.
Lures for catch bass on ledges
Silver Buddy (top left), Strike King Sexy Spoon (right), Acme Hyper-Rattle Glide Jig (bottom left).

Metal lures like blade baits and spoons have enjoyed a boost in popularity in recent years as bass anglers are re-discovering their ability to catch fish in a variety of situations.

Invented in 1983 by Paul "Buddy" Banks, the Silver Buddy is typically thought of as a lure for vertical presentations in cold water. However, it and similar blade baits excel when presented horizontally for suspended bass. The 1/2-ounce version ($6.39-$7.82; tacklewarehouse.com) is a great all-around choice.

Recommended


Available in several colors to match local water conditions and available forage, the Strike King Sexy Spoon ($8.99; strikeking.com) allows anglers to rapidly cover ledges for fish both near the bottom and suspended several feet above it. The 4-inch version is the workhorse, but don’t shy away from the 5 1/2-incher for bigger bites.

In both 2- and 2 1/2-inch versions, the Acme Hyper-Rattle Glide Jig ($7.69; acmetackle.com) sinks like a rock. The combination of gliding action and sound stimulates reaction bites from bass holding just off bottom cover.

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