FISHING DEEP WEED EDGES
By Ken Poor
In the summer, when water temperatures peak bass will move out of the warm water shoreline shallows to the cooler water along the deep weed edges. Bass will move up and down the deep weed edge depending on various conditions including, wind, water temperature, light, water clarity, depth, location of forage and other factors.
All deep weed edges are not created equally. There are basically two types of weed edges, slow tapering edges and sharp, well defined edges. On some lakes you will find weed beds that have dense or sparse low growing weeds that extend out from them for various distances. Bottom composition and water clarity typically determines how the weed beds will develop. The type of weed edge determines the most effective technique to use.
The ideal weed beds are close to deep water and have a gradual taper with a large swath of low growing weeds extending out from them. It doesn’t stop there. Generally, the most active weed beds are the ones with the with the wind blowing into them. Keep in mind that as wind direction, light conditions and other factors change weed beds in some sections of the lake will turn off and other weed beds will turn on.
Bass are intolerant of bright light and as a general rule during the summer, fish weed edges facing the west early in the morning or work the weed edges facing the east in the evening. During the bright light conditions of midday, look for the open pockets or deep shady spots along the face of the weed bed.
It also makes good sense that the key to fishing a deep weed edge effectively is to break down the edge into three separate depths – surface, mid depth and deep.
Don’t try to cover all three ranges in one pass or with one lure. Select lures designed for the specific depth you intend to work, and make sure your tackle is correctly matched to the lure.
Work the surface early in the morning or late evenings and on cloudy days or anytime there is a light breeze. Floating minnow imitators or poppers can be very effective when worked on or just below the surface and parallel to the weed edge. Use a slow, steady retrieve with frequent pauses, allowing the lure to float back to the surface.
After the lure breaks the surface, give it a light twitch, pause, and then continue your retrieve. This will keep the lure clear of submerged weeds and often trigger a strike. Cast to the same spots more than once because bass often hit a lure on the second or third presentation.
Varying your retrieve may be the secret to triggering a strike. On very calm days I like to use a soft twitch and pause on the first few casts. The reason for doing this is to keep surface disturbance to a minimum. If this method is not providing action, especially on days when the wind has riled up the surface, I will twitch the lure harder, but stay with a slow speed retrieve. Faster retrieves are my last choice, but I do not overlook this option.
Surface baits can produce some dramatic hits, and quite often bass will hook themselves. Sometimes you’ll see a bass heading for your lure and set the hook too early. The solution is to wait until you feel the weight of the fish, then drive the hook home. The truth is, lots of fish are missed by premature hook sets caused by a big bass splashing at your lure. Anyone who hasn’t missed a bass this way probably doesn’t use surface baits very often.
MID DEPTH LURES
After the action slows on the surface, change your lure and cover the same section of the deep weed edge at a mid-range depth. Lure selection is based on the depth of the weed growth typically four to ten feet and typically I will use a crankbait. Anytime I work a crankbait close to weeds or any other type of cover I will use a floating crankbait and a pull – pause retrieve. Floating varieties let you pause your retrieve when you feel your lure come in contact with cover, but only pause long enough for the lure to rise just above the submerged vegetation or cover and then continue your retrieve.
Typically, I will select a crankbait with a tight, side-to side action and one that rides at the correct angle for the body and bill to shield the hooks. These two points will help a lure come through light weeds cleaner.
When fishing weed edges that have a slow tapering edge, position your boat well off the edge and fan cast the target area at a right angle. Again, cast your lure to the same spot several times and vary the speed of your retrieve. An erratic presentation may trigger a strike from less active fish.
This is great approach when fishing large weed flats with slow tapering weed edges. A long cast with a floating crankbait combined with a pull pause retrieve will allow your lure to reach and remain at the optimum depth for a longer period of time. A Texas Rigged plastic worm is a great alternative to a crankbait in this same area.
When the weed edge is very sharp and well defined, move in close to the weed edge and make long cast parallel along the edge. This allows you to cover the most productive area of the edge in the shortest possible time.
DEEP DIVING LURES
Sharp, well defined deep weed edges close to or facing deep water or in deep cooler water temperatures provide the most consistent bass action during the mid to late summer. After the mid-depth range has been thoroughly covered, motor back to the original starting point. Change your bait to a deep diving minnow imitator that will reach the bottom or at least close to bottom at the weed edge. On most lakes this will vary from 6 to 12-feet depending on water clarity and the type of bottom. Position your boat close to the deep weed edge and make long cast parallel to the edge.
The ideal retrieve will result in the lure just brushing the tops of low growing vegetation commonly found in the deeper water just off the deep weed edge. If the bottom is clear of weeds, let the bill of the lure bump the bottom and stir up mud. This will often trigger strikes.
Medium-action bait casting tackle spooled with 12-pound test line is normally adequate for both mid and deep presentations. Don’t hesitate to use heavier equipment if the situation warrants, but always match your tackle to the lure and presentation you are using.
The techniques I’ve described in this article can be used to quickly locate active fish. Changing lure color, size and shape are all good variations. For example, live baits set within the three key depths can be very effective. On days when the bite is exceptionally slow try a Texas rigged worm worked slowly on the bottom. With a little practice a spinner bait can also be a good alternate for all three depths. Three people fishing together can rig for different depths and cover a lot of territory quickly. Once active fish are located, it’s a simple matter for everyone to switch to the correct depth and presentation.
In summary, deep weed edges should be worked at three levels – surface, mid-depth, and deep. Good fishermen go out and create the action. They don’t wait for the action to come to them.