August 09, 2016
Lots of people are out fishing for bass in the springtime when the weather is nice and bass are in skinny water hitting most every type of bait cast their direction. That is when fishing for bass is easy, or at least as easy as bass fishing ever gets.
Fast forward to mid-summer and it is a whole new ball game. Many anglers are reluctant or even intimidated to chase bass once they head to deeper water, but just because bass are not hugging the shorelines and stacking the shallow coves in large number; it does not mean bass fishing is over until fall.
To the contrary, fishing for bass when they are on the ledges is often some of the best and most consistent action of the year.
First we must remember that not all bass move to ledges. Telemetry studies have shown some bass stay relatively shallow all year, some stay in deeper water all year and others tend to move back and forth seasonally. That said, the general rule of thumb is bass begin moving into deeper water after the spawn concludes and lake temperatures rise. Typically they position along ledges.
What is a ledge? A ledge, as related to fishing for bass, is defined as any drop-off where the depth of the bottom goes from shallow to deep in a short distance. Ledges are found along banks sloping into the water, main lake river channels, creek channels and other locations depending upon the lake being fished.
Bass move to these ledges for a variety of reasons. They move there for structure or habitat, easy access to deeper water, water temperature and quality. Last and certainly not least, bass move there to eat. Crawfish, shad and other small fish also set up shop on these ledges, so it is a no-brainer the bass are going to be where the food is found.
Most all lakes have ledges of some variety, but even with plenty of available ledges, not all hold bass. Back in the day, anglers relied on paper maps and flasher units to locate ledges. Today we have an entire arsenal of technology to locate ledges and savvy anglers learn to use them all to their best advantage.
Maps, although they may seem dated, are still a good source for finding river and creek channels and getting a good feel of the lay of the lake. Next up is computer technology, Navionics software and GPS. Lastly, an on-board high-definition electronic unit with side scan and down scan is probably the most important piece of technology at an angler's disposal.
THE SWEET SPOTS
Simply finding a ledge is not necessarily enough to ensure success. Not all ledges hold bass and even on ledges that do hold bass; fish are often congregated in small areas sometimes no larger than the hood of a car. But finding these sweet spots are not only key to success, but also key to some fantastic action.
The trick is to locate something irregular about a ledge that is attractive to bass. It may be a turn in or a turn out. It could be a creek running in, a stump, hump or other irregularity. Find the spot the fish like and it is game on.
It may simply be a change in bottom composition. On some lakes there are ledges with mussel shell beds and these areas create a harder bottom with a strong contrast from the mud and soft bottom surrounding it.
One of the highlights of fishing for bass on ledges is it is not a one-species proposal. Largemouths, smallmouths and spotted bass all hit the ledges in the summer months, although they may not always be at the same spot on a ledge or even at the same depth.
Sometimes, however, all three species are grouped fairly close together. Most times though, the spotted bass are considerably deeper than largemouths and smallmouths.
BAITS AND TACTICS
Regardless of whether one is fishing, building a shed in the back yard or working on a vehicle, the task is much easier to accomplish if the right tools are available. When fishing for bass, this means the right bait and tactics.
Ledge fishing comes with many variables, so bring a variety of baits and be willing to experiment and adapt to find what works on a given day. Just because bass were caught on a ledge yesterday with a certain bait does not mean it will work today or that the bass are even on that spot or ledge at all.
Ledge fishing is about perseverance and not giving up. Finding the fish and what they want to bite are the hard parts. Once discovered though, the action is oftentimes fast and furious.
Lots of factors influence where bass are positioned on the ledge, how willing they are to bite and what kind of bait attracts them most. Generally speaking, days when there is some current the ledge bite is much better, but do not fall into the trap of not fishing ledges when there is no current. Bass are usually still on the ledge somewhere; they just may be in a different spot and may be more scattered.
Two very popular baits for ledge fishing are crankbaits and spinnerbaits. A deep diving crankbait is very effective in areas where crawfish are a primary forage. Cast the crankbait to the high part of the ledge and then reel back while causing the crankbait to bump along the bottom coming down the ledge, simulating a craw scurrying along the bottom.
Similarly, a slow-rolled spinnerbait is sometimes deadly. Other great ledge baits include swimbaits and plastic worms.
Largemouths usually prefer large crankbaits, 8- to 10-inch swimbaits or 10- to 11-inch worms. Downsize for smallmouths and spots. Sometimes spotted bass are better caught using a drop-shot rig and brighter colors.
Fishing for bass is often lots of fun and at other times frustrating. But that is what keeps us addicted. Yes ledge fishing requires a bit of a learning curve, but it is not a steep curve and after just a few trips on the water and some experimenting; ledge fishing gets considerably easier.