BoatUS ANGLER: Fishing Basics
By "The Bass Coach" Roger Lee Brown
When it comes to bass fishing, boat positioning is probably just as important as having your rods and reels on board with you. Using your boat properly while bass fishing can definitely make the difference between catching bass or not catching bass, especially when certain circumstances prevail during the course of the time spent on the water. For example, let's say that you were fishing for bedding bass during the Spring. Many anglers are aware of the sensitivity nature of the bass during this time of the year, they can be very skittish and frighten (or you can spook them) very easily right? Now, you certainly wouldn't want to motor the boat right up on top of the beds and scare the bass before you had a chance to fish for them would you? of course not! In this article I hope to help you understand the importance of boat positioning by giving you a few scenarios that many anglers encounter during the course of their time they spend on the water.
Many of my Bass Fishing School students are amazed when I teach them the importance of boat positioning, especially when they're actually shown How and Why one would position his or her boat a certain way while learning to fish the many different environments offered by many bodies of water through out the nation. As important as I feel this subject is, I always teach my students and even my bass charter clients how and why I would position my boat certain ways when fishing: drop-offs, fall-downs, gradual slopes, rip-rap, steep bluffs, current conditions, vegetation, channel contours, rocky areas, points, windy conditions, etc. just to name a few, and when the students and charter clients begin to start understanding the whys and hows of boat positioning, they can't help but to increase their angling skills, confidence, and ability to become better anglers.
Fishing beds - Now, let's go back and start with the Spring beds (or Spring bedding bass.) Many anglers that fish bedding bass usually will have trouble fishing them because they really don't understand how to approach these beds when they do find them. There are several factors one might consider before making a approach before fishing these bedding bass such as; what the daily conditions are (sunny, overcast, windy, calm), what the water depth is, how much vegetation (and types of vegetation) is in the area of the beds, what types of structure or obstacles may be in these areas (such as rocks, pilings, docks, etc.) and there are more, but lets just take a few of these factors I just mentioned and try to draw a picture of why boat positioning would play an important role when it comes to fishing beds.
First of all we'll need to find some of these areas that you would normally find beds in. Most of the time these bedding areas would be located around: shallow water, structure (usually found in the more shallow water areas), shallow vegetation areas, sandy or hard surface bottoms areas, and especially the warmest shallow water areas you can find.
As I mentioned earlier the bass get very skittish during this spawn period and you certainly wouldn't want to do anything that would spook the bass before you had a chance to fish for them. So first, we'll start with the daily conditions. Let's take a brief moment and think about what the best approach would be for bed fishing if the day offered a bright, sunny sky with no cloud cover. Any Ideas? First of all, I would consider the shadow cast of the boat and myself over the beds. Don't think for one minute that the bass won't spook when they quickly get a shadow cast around a bed area from a boat or a person... because they most definitely will, and don't think that a sudden noise made from you or your boat (trolling motor, something hitting the floor, slamming a compartment shut, etc.) in a bedding area won't spook a bass... think again!
The best approach an angler should use under this situation would be to approach (as quiet as you possibly can) the bed area with the sun in front "facing you!" This will avoid any shadow cast into the bed area before you start fishing the bed, thus not spooking any bass in the area. Secondly, make sure you stop your motor several yards before entering the bedding zone, even including your trolling motor. Many times anglers will carry a "Push-Pole" with them so they can quietly push the boat closer to the beds they plan on fishing allowing them to make as little noise as possible. Now, if the sun is at your back, try (again as quietly as possible) to move your boat around the area to prevent the sun at your back... Get the picture?
There have been times in the past where I have actually got on my hands and knees and approached a bedded area using my hand to steer my trolling motor (on the lowest speed) so I could make my casts close enough to reach the beds.
Fishing drop-offs and steep ledges: One of the biggest problems or mistakes an angler will make when fishing drop-offs, steep ledges or bluffs is that they will usually position their boat to far away (or out from) the contour of the structure itself. For example, if I was going to fish along side a ledge or bluff, I'd surely want to keep my bait where the bass are "normally close to or near the structure areas". Now, where would be the most probable place to position a boat in this situation? If you guessed parallel and as close to the structure as possible, you're right! The reason for this is because if you make a cast parallel (or along side) of the ledge the bait would remain in a close proximity to the ledge, especially if you added some weight to the bait (like plastic baits, jigging spoons, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, etc.) right? Now, what would happen with one of these baits mentioned if I was out from the ledge or bluff at least a good casting distance away and made a cast as close as I could to the ledge area? The answer is that the bait will hit the water (unless you smack it against the ledge, which we all do!) and will start to sink, but when it starts sinking it will start moving or drifting away from the ledge back in the direction towards your boat, kind of like a pendulum swing and the result would be that it would fall away from the fish area and wind up under your boat to far away from where the fish are holding.
Fishing point drops: Points are probable one of the best areas you will ever fish for bass on most any body of water, and they can be fished many different ways. One of the best ways to fish a point would usually be to fish the back side of either a current or windy point area as close as you can get to the point itself, especially if you happen to find any structure or irregular drops on the bottom contour. Now, keeping this important factor in mind, 99% of the time the bass are facing "INTO" the current or wind!, so the most logical place to position your boat would be facing into the wind or current (more times than not you'll have to keep on your trolling motor to hold your boat in place) on the back side of the point casting into the wind or current and retrieving your bait across the point! Sometimes, the bass will hide behind whatever structure or contour is offered and wait for the food source to come over the point and come up and take it.
Boat control: There are many different situations you will come up against the more time you spend on the water, and I feel that boat positioning and control can really make a difference between frustration and enjoyment. Here are a few tips that you should keep in mind to help you enjoy yourself while on the water:
- Always think safety first! Don't ever get into rough water situations with a boat that can't handle the rough water.
- If fishing during a windy day point your boat into the wind for the best control, or if you're fishing with the wind (letting the wind push your boat) try using what they call a "sea anchor" or a "wind sock" this is a device that's been around for many years, you tie it to a cleat towards the back end of the boat, throw it into the water and let it drag behind, while your boat is moving it will open up like a small parachute and slow your boat down.
- Use an anchor if you need to fish a certain spot (honey hole) always trying to keep your boat pointed into the wind or current for the best control.
There are many, many, different situations you will encounter over the years of bass fishing and I hope this article will serve as a starting point. As I said before, I can't stress the importance of boat positioning enough especially to my bass fishing school students that really want to learn more than just simply casting different baits. There are many things to learn about the sport of bass fishing for one to become a more consistent, successful angler, and boat positioning is just one piece of the puzzle.
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