Outdoor Chenango: Catching Deep Largemouths

By: Eric Davis

Outdoor Chenango: Catching Deep Largemouths

When it comes to patterning ambush predators, you need to think like them to guess where they might be hiding.

As the water gets warm in lakes and ponds, it can get too warm in the shallows. When this happens, fish head to deeper water that is cooler. Colder water holds more oxygen (a great comparison a professor gave was think of the carbonation in soda, when it is cold it is quite bubbly but once it warms up, it gets flat).

While sometimes bass can just be suspended out in the middle of a body of water (almost always smallmouths when it does happen, in my experience), it is usually rare. Since the bass is a predator, it likes to go someplace where it can find its next meal while also being protected from becoming a meal for a larger fish.

Vegetation can grow in deeper water in lakes that have zebra mussels as they clean the water and allow sunlight to penetrate deeper. Bass will hide on the edges of the vegetation to ambush prey. A spinnerbait or crankbait retrieved down the edge of the vegetation can get hiding bass to attack. Soft plastics fished along the edge such as a curly-tail worm fished on a Carolina rig can allow for a more detailed approach at covering the vegetation. Another technique I have used with luck is to fish a 5” stick worm (like the Yum Dinger or Yamamoto Senko) on a weightless Texas rig and just barely dragging it once it hits bottom. It can be painstakingly slow fishing, but it can work.

Changes in bottom contour can congregate fish to an area. Going from a relatively flat bottom to a steep drop off attracts fish that will sit just off the drop and wait for baitfish to swim by. The sides of points are good places to watch for changes in the bottom. Going from a steep bank to a flat spot or ledge will have fish sitting on the ledge looking up the slope for potential food items. One of my favorite ways to fish a drop off in 10-15 feet of water is to use deep-diving crankbaits (dives 12+ feet) cast towards shore and retrieved towards the drop off. The crankbait will dive into the bottom substrate as you retrieve it, kicking up silt and debris, adding more visual attraction. Keep an eye on the end of your line between casts as it can get beat up by the abrasive substrate and retie your lure when needed. This is a good time to use fluorocarbon line over monofilament as it holds up to nicks and dings better.

Where a creek comes into a lake, the flowing water will scour a channel in the bottom of the lake. Follow that channel out into the lake and you will find where it connects to deeper water. Often, at this change there will be some large sunken material such as logs, stumps, or rocks that have accumulated after getting washed into the lake during storms or snowmelts. Once you find one of these isolated pieces of cover on your fish finder, probe it with a jig-and-pig or a tube jig. You may even want to have two rods rigged up with the same thing so you can get a lure back down in front of fish as quickly as possible after landing a fish if you are in a tournament. Another good approach is to use a finesse worm a foot or so above the bottom on a drop shot rig with lightweight tackle. This is especially useful in lakes with super clear water. Downsizing your line and lure size can keep fish from being skittish as it approaches.


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