April 24, 2020
By Glenn Walker
Many of the Midwest’s lakes and rivers are blessed with a vast amount of fish-holding cover. The best or most desirable pieces of cover often need to stand out to attract and hold bass. Of course, time of year, water level, color and current also contribute to whether a bass will be holding and feeding on a specific bit of cover. However, often, one of the most consistent features of holding cover/structure attractive to bass is that it occurs where one form of structure transitions to another form. This seems especially important during spring.
In the spring, bass are not only moving from one area on a body of water to another because of changing water conditions—water temperature, clarity, current and level. More importantly, bass are relocating from their wintering areas to pre-spawn/spawn locations. Transition areas act as the ideal highways and rest stops for bass.
Transition areas allow bass to move from one section of a lake or river to another in a manner that puts them in the right areas to feed, and in a logical position to move onto the next stage in their yearly progression. As fish transition in and out of a creek or backwater slough connected to the main river channel, for example, they’ll likely transition through a pinch point or underneath a bridge. This bridge area is a great funnel for bass to push bait and feed as they transition from one section of the lake or river to another.
Attractive bridge areas to target include the riprap bank on the shoreline approaches to the bridge as well as the bridge columns themselves. Columns might be concrete or wood, depending on the bridge, but either way, they create a current break for bass to sit behind and grab an easy meal. Key with any bridge is figuring out how the current and water depth around the bridge will position the bass.
An assortment of lures can shine when fishing around bridges. Think spinnerbaits, jigs, lipless crankbaits or Carolina rigs. Other great options include crankbaits and soft-plastic swimbaits rigged on a jighead. Rotate through your baits to identify what bass are wanting.
- Key Gear Item: By changing up the pound-test of your fluorocarbon line, you can alter the fall rate and action of your baits. In cool water, I like to spool up with 15- or 17-pound Seaguar InvizX, as I still get the abrasion resistance and low stretch, but its presence in the water column is reduced.
CHUNK ROCK TO GRAVEL
When bass fishermen talk about fishing transition banks during the spring, a bank transitioning from chunk rock to gravel is usually what comes to mind for most anglers. Often, these banks are fairly obvious. Just idling by the shoreline, sometimes you can see rock on the bank clearly go from large chunks to gravel. A keen eye is occasionally needed, though, as a more specific characteristic might be in play, such as the specific size of the rock or style—round boulders to flat slab-style rock, for example.
If the lake or river level is high and the rock on the bank is submerged, rely on your electronics to find transitions. This is when I idle the shore evaluating what my Humminbird MEGA Side Imaging unit is showing me. The screen clearly depicts the size of rocks on the shoreline. Other considerations when evaluating a chunk-rock-to-gravel transition are its proximity to the creek channel or its strategic positioning between pre-spawn and spawning locations.
When I begin fishing this type of transition in the spring, I like throwing a 1/2-ounce War Eagle Spinnerbait, as I can cover water and search out actively feeding bass. This is important, as these transitions can be abundant on some bodies of water. Fishing as many as possible and locating actively feeding bass is key. Water clarity typically dictates your spinnerbait’s blade configuration, but I’ll often go with a tandem Indiana/Colorado blade configuration, as the front Indiana blade puts off a lot of vibration. This can be useful when water has some stain to it, as often occurs during the spring.
- Key Gear Item: Witch Doctor Tackle Surman 50G Rod and 15-pound Seaguar Rippin’ Mono. This combo helps ensure a solid hook-up when bass freight-train a spinnerbait. The half glass/half graphite rod has give when a bass inhales the bait, and the stretch of the mono keeps the bass from throwing the bait. Once I locate a group of bass or find a section of bank I need to slow down and fish more thoroughly, I’ll fish a 1/2-ounce All-Terrain Tackle A.T. Jig in either green pumpkin or black/blue with a Zoom Super Chunk trailer. With this rig, I can cast to cover water or pitch to isolated pieces of cover. The A.T. Jig’s unique head design has “grippers,” allowing it to crawl over bottom cover without hanging up as often as other jigs.
RIP RAP TO SAND
Another transition that anglers can search out on river systems is where a section of bank goes from rip rap to sand. Where this possible transition might occur is where riprap was placed on the bank and current has naturally pushed sand to that location. The other is where wakes from tugboats have pushed sand over the rock. So, in essence, this transition happens because of that bank’s location and the current hitting it.
Like the previous transition, you can sometimes locate this one with your eyes when water levels are right. If not and if the current isn’t too strong to hold fish in that area, relying on your electronics is critical to locating the underwater transitions.
This type of transition is a common one on the Mississippi River, and usually water levels allow me to deploy my dual 10-foot Minn Kota Talons to keep me in the prime spot for targeting schooling bass on the sand. When there is an active school, a lipless crankbait is hard to beat. A Carolina-rigged Baby Brush Hog or Super Speed Craw gets the nod when the school is inactive or when the bass are feeding on crawfish in the rocks.
- Key Gear Item: Pair your selected plastic bait with the proper hook. For bulky baits, an extra wide gap hook is needed, like the Eagle Claw Lazer TroKar TK120 Magworm hook. When I use a streamlined bait, I like to use the TK105 Pro-V Worm Hook. As you are idling around on your next fishing trip, keep a keen eye on the shoreline or your electronics to search out transitions. In the springtime, these are the areas often likely to load up with bass.
See All: Humminbird MEGA 360 Imaging
You can’t fish transition areas this spring if you can’t find them. Humminbird’s new MEGA 360 Imaging allows you to see more detail than ever before. By sweeping up to 125 feet all around your boat, you’ll be able to locate key individual pieces of structure and important transition areas that are holding bass.
With MEGA 360 Imaging, you’ll be able to find fish in any direction. With features like range rings, which help indicate a target’s distance and direction from the boat, you can place casts with precision so that your bait lands right in front of marked fish. And, when you see important structures or fish with MEGA 360 Imaging, you can create waypoints right on the MEGA 360 Imaging sonar screen. The waypoint will appear on both GPS/Chart views and MEGA 360 Imaging views. It will also update position on the 360 Imaging sonar screen as the location or direction of the boat changes, allowing you to always understand where fish are in relation to the boat.
On your Humminbird fishfinder, you can create split-screen views using MEGA 360 Imaging and other sonar views or contour maps from your LakeMaster chart to fully understand how fish are relating to the structure and depth changes below. And when you need to use your trolling motor, don’t worry about losing your picture. MEGA 360 Imaging rotates automatically and independently of the trolling motor’s lower unit, so you have full use of your trolling motor, even Spot-Lock, while using MEGA 360.
The MEGA 360 Imaging is compatible with SOLIX G2 and HELIX G3N units equipped with MEGA Imaging+. MEGA 360 Imaging transducers include models compatible with Minn Kota Ultrex or Fortrex trolling motors. $1,199.99; More Info