Depending on which part of the country you fish, the bass are either in a late-summer or early fall pattern neither of which is all that great if you’re trying to catch them. Some of you, after a fun-filled summer on the water with friends catching plenty of fish have decided to go ahead and get yourself a boat or are taking the next step up and getting a new boat. So even though the fishing might be slowing down for next little while, this is a perfect opportunity for you to get on the water and focus more on improving your boating skills without putting a lot of pressure on yourself to catch more and bigger fish.
When it comes to bass fishing, boat positioning and control can be just as important as having the right tackle. It can definitely affect your success. With these tips, I hope to show some of the most-encountered situations I come across when fishing out of my Ranger boat and how to best handle and position your boat so you can have as much fun catching fish as I do.
First, let’s talk about fishing for spring bass on the beds since this is the most popular time for people who like to sight fish. The problem is they don’t know how to spot beds (that’s another story) or how to approach one once they find it.
There are several factors to consider when approaching a bedding bass—conditions (sunny, cloudy, windy, calm), water depth, vegetation in or around the bed and structure (rocks, docks, etc.) around the bed. Generally, beds will be in shallow water near structure in both hard and sandy-bottomed areas where the water is warmest. Bass on the bed can be spooked very easily, so how you approach them with your boat will greatly impact your ability to catch them.
When approaching bedded bass, keep the sun in front of you. It is important that you do not cast a shadow over the bed as this can cause a bass to vacate the area very quickly. Also, avoid the temptation to run your trolling motor up to the bed. Stop well short of the area and push pole or coast into position. Also, get just close enough to see the fish and no closer—as long as you can see the fish and your bait in the bedding area you are close enough. Make sure that you remain quiet on your boat because walking, talking and dropping things on the deck can also spook a fish.
Drop-offs and Points
One of the mistakes an angler will make when fishing drop-offs (also with steep ledges and bluff faces) is that they will usually position their boat too far away from the structure and try to cast towards it. Since you are trying to catch fish that are relating to this structure, you want to keep the bait close to the structure as it falls. If you cast parallel to the face of the structure, it is more likely, as it falls, to remain close to the face. If you are positioned away from the face, as your bait falls, it will drift away from the structure and towards you—taking it away from the structure-oriented fish.
When fishing wind-swept points, remember that almost always a bass is going to be facing into the wind. So the best thing to do is position your boat close to the backs of these points facing into the wind as well. Cast into the wind and retrieve the your baits over these points and into the face of these bass who are lurking in the area in hopes of ambushing small bait fish that are swept by the current over the points.
There are an infinite number of situations you will come up against the more time you spend on the water, and some situations require some critical thinking before deciding where to set up. Keep an eye on the weather and don’t venture out in rough water situations if you can’t handle the boat in those conditions.
Boat positioning and control can be the difference between catching fish and just going fishing, so spend the time on the water and learn what it takes to get close to the fish on your favorite body of water.
A two-time winner of the Bassmaster Classic, Ranger Pro Hank Parker is the host of “Hank Parker’s Outdoor Magazine.”