One of the keys in competitive bass fishing is learning to focus on catching better than average-sized bass. The skill level of anglers has accelerated at such a fast level over the past 10 years that having the ability to just catch a limit keeper size fish will rarely even cash you a check at the Tour level.
I grew up fishing on Grand Lake in Oklahoma, and fished the lake extensively during the summer months. Decades ago, summer fishing on Grand usually consisted of throwing a topwater lure until the sun got up and then fishing docks later in the day. This strategy would produce, but I noticed that as the years went on the winning summertime weights went up in tournaments, while my typical weights, utilizing the one-two punch of topwaters and docks, stayed the same. A handful of local anglers were running away from the rest of the field in most events.
Eventually I found out the reason their weights were going up — some of the anglers were planting deep brush piles, and mining them during the heat of the day for big largemouths.
Since the word has gotten out about the effectiveness of man-made brush piles, it has become nearly impossible to win tournaments on many lakes in the summertime unless you are fishing these structures.
There are two ways to capitalize on brush piles and make them part of your game plan:
The first is to locate the piles that are already present in the lake you are fishing. This is the most common method due to the sheer amount of brush that has been planted in many lakes over the past 10 years.
The downside of this is the time it takes to locate them, although their locations are often very predictable. For example, on Grand Lake, there are few points on the lake that do not have brush somewhere around them. Slowly idling across points with a side-imaging unit or traditional sonar make these easy to find.
More subtle piles are usually found in the middle of coves towards the back, and along straight stretches of otherwise nondescript shoreline. Once you find a pile, it’s important to mark a GPS waypoint on it to remember the location.
An even more productive method of using brush piles to your advantage is to plant you own piles. The obvious advantage of this is that you can place them in areas that don’t get a lot of normal attention. Set your piles in various depths to take advantage of different lake levels, and plant them away from where most anglers fish.
My favorite way to plant brush is to use dead hardwood branches that make a pile that is about 5 feet long and has limbs that reach up about 4 feet. You don’t need a huge pile to attract bass. Many times smaller is better, and isolated is the best of all. It provides a great ambush point for one or two bass.
Also, remember to weight your piles. I usually collect bowling ball size rocks, and tie one to the center of the branch with wire.
Once you plant these piles, they will last for two to three years before they begin to rot away.
Having brush at different depths is key. Varying water clarities, lake levels, water temperatures and boat traffic will make fish use different pile depths. If you have a good amount of piles located in shallow, mid-range, and deep water, it boosts your chances of success even more.
Once I’ve made several casts with the worm, I’ll then switch to a crankbait like the Megabass Deep-X 300 or Deep-Six for different depth ranges. Many times, if the fish don’t react to the slow worm presentation, the crankbait will generate a reaction strike.
Also, remember that boat positioning is key. Always fish into the wind when approaching your piles, because you can maintain better boat control and casting angles.
Now is the time of year to learn to fish brush, or expand upon the knowledge you already have. Whether you choose to take the time and find them with your graph, or do the manual labor and plant them yourselves, I can promise you the work will pay off with big dividends in the hot weather months!