Aug 10, 2017

Getting Away From the Bank for Bass

How to Fish Offshore for Big Summer Bass!
By: Glenn Walker

I won’t deny it, or hide the fact that I am a self-proclaimed bank beater, what this means is that if I can target bass by fishing shoreline cover, I will! I grew up and honed my bass fishing skills on the Mississippi River where fishing for bass rarely has your boat sitting in more than eight feet of water. My knowledge and skill set for targeting bass that live offshore during the summer months in lakes is something that I’ve had to learn and work on during my fishing ventures.

The specific pattern of fishing offshore structure and deeper water during the summer months is important to figure out because, in many lakes, bass will head to these locations to search out the cooler water that is needed during the months when the shallow water gets too warm for them to live in.

Some lakes, like we have up here in the Midwest are loaded with vegetation and these weedlines extend out from shore into deeper water, offer plentiful habitat, food and cooler water during the summer months for bass to live in.

The downside to having such an abundance of vegetation is that covering all of that water isn’t possible nor the best way to spend your time on the water. When fishing offshore weeds, the first thing I like to do is to try and determine what type of vegetation is holding bass. Is it cabbage, coontail or milfoil? Once I know what type of weed is holding the biggest bass, I can look for that in other areas of the lake.

Finding the spot-on-the-spot in these weeds is important to being able to load the boat with big bass in a short amount of time. Sometimes this sweet spot could be an open water pocket in the weeds. Down at the bottom of these open pockets could be rock or a bare spot in the weeds where the bass will be camped out.

I rely heavily on the side and down imaging that my Humminbird HELIX unit provides me to locate these intricacies hiding away from the bank. With the new MEGA Imaging and CHIRP Digital Sonar, the detail that I’m able to see on my screen is incredible and allows me to fine tune my presentation based on the structure I’m seeing below.

To get an idea of where to look I’ll run a LakeMaster mapping chip in my HELIX units and utilize the depth shading feature to aid in keeping my boat at the correct depth. When I’m fishing offshore I always throw a marker buoy near the spot I’m fishing so I have a visual on where to make my cast.  

One of my favorite ways to fish these deep weeds or open pockets is to flip a ½ or ¾ oz War Eagle jig or Texas-rigged Zoom creature bait, such as a Super Hog, Speed Craw or Z-Craw rigged on a 4/0 Lazer TroKar TK 130 flippin hook. Using a tungsten weight for your Texas-rig is important because you can use a bigger weight, but yet keep a small profile so it doesn’t get hung up in the weeds.

With either of these baits, flip it to the weed edge or in the open water pocket and let it sink to the bottom. As it is sinking, be sure to watch your line for any ticks or jumps in the line, as sometimes the bass will hit it on the fall. If that doesn’t happen, I’ll jig the bait a few times and then reel it up and repeat the process.

Now, if the vegetation I’m flipping has become matted and the bass are positioned beneath that canopy, you’ll need to use a lure that allows you to punch down through it to where the bass are hiding below. My favorite way to target these bass is with a Witch Doctor Tackle Tungsten Flipping Jig. Like I mentioned above, tungsten has a smaller profile than lead, so I can use a 1 oz. or 1 ½ oz. jig to punch through the cover, yet keep a compact profile. What I also like about this jig, is that it has a double weedguard. This keeps it from hanging up in the weeds, yet allows me to get a rock solid hook up on a bass!

Getting those big bass out of the heavy vegetation is quite important. Otherwise all your hard work in finding the bass will have gone to waste. When pitching my jig or Texas-rig to the edge or into open water pockets, I’ll use 20 lb. Seaguar Flippin’ Fluorocarbon line, spooled on a Wright & McGill Victory II high-speed baitcast reel. My rod of choice is the Witch Doctor Tackle Oracle pitching stick (7’6” or 7’8”). This extra-heavy power rod allows me to pitch all day long without getting fatigued, yet the power of this rod allows me to hook up on a bass and get them away from the dense vegetation.

Now if I’m punching that matted vegetation with the Tungsten Flipping Jig, I’ll spool that same reel up with 65 lb. Seaguar Flippin’ Braid, as this line has no stretch and will cut through the vegetation as I set the hook on the bass. The rod I use is an absolute beast stick, a Witch Doctor Tackle Hydrilla Gorilla, which has a medium fast action, but extra-heavy power. This results in the rod loading under the hook set and providing the angler with exceptional lure control for punching at isolated targets.

A point on a lake is like a rest station along an interstate. Bass are able to move up from deep water that is much cooler in the summer and pull up on these points to feed. Some points are very distinct and evident, while others are much more subtle and require some searching out.

Depending on the lake, the deep water on the end of the points will range and how much the point rises up and slopes away into that deeper water will dictate how shallow the water is atop that point. Locating as many of these points as possible is crucial because the depths of water on them could dictate when the bass feed on that given point.

The associated cover that is on that point will also play a role in when and how those bass get positioned on that point. Some points are just a weedline that extends out from the previous weedline. On these types of points it is important to locate any subtle differences that will make a school of bass group up very tight. This could be one boulder, mixed in with the vegetation or the bottom make up is different. Whatever it may be, differences on a point will make it easy to target a school of bass.

To help cover water quickly, but still effectively, I like to use a crankbait when fishing points. This way I can bring it up, down or across the points and make it bounce off the cover, because many times this is when the bite will occur. The depth of water you are fishing will dictate which crankbait, depending on how deep it dives, you will need to use. In many instances, I like to use the Rapala DT series of crankbaits in the DT-10, DT-14 and DT-16 lineup. When it comes to colors, I’ll either use Parrot, Bluegill or a Craw color.

The Shaman cranking rods, from Witch Doctor Tackle, load up as a bass inhales a plug as it is retrieved by their mouth or popped off a weed clump. The deeper my crankbait runs, the longer the rod I’ll use as I’ll be able to make a longer cast, resulting in an increased diving depth out of my crankbait.   You can also achieve increased diving depth by using a smaller lb. test (has a smaller diameter) line, so I’ll use 12 lb. Seaguar Inviz X Fluorocarbon.

One of my favorite and most productive types of cover I like to seek when fishing offshore is rock piles. Not only do these piles of various sized boulders offer bass structure in sometimes a barren bottom of the lake, but they also offer numerous key items that bass need during the summer months. After sitting on the bottom of the lake for years, algae and other small aquatic insects and vegetation will be growing on these rocks and in turn bring in the baitfish and panfish. So when bass camp out on these rock piles they are putting themselves in a prime spot to feed on an easy meal.

Once I locate some potential rock piles, I mark them with a waypoint and then come back to fish them. My favorite lure for fishing rock piles is a ½ to ¾ oz. football jig. Using this jig to probe the depths of the lake, I can drag it slow or fast and still keep it in contact with the rocks. If the jig gets hung in the rocks, I can pop it free and use that action to help generate a stick. I like to keep things simple for my trailer and use a Zoom Z-Craw Jr, as it is compact, yet has some bulk to increase my jig’s profile in the water.

A key piece of equipment I rely on on my boat, especially when fishing offshore, is my HydroWave unit from T-H Marine. The speaker is mounted on the trolling motor and emits sound into the water that replicates certain scenarios, such as spawning bait, feeding frenzy and schooling bait. During the summer months sometimes these offshore fish have seen their fair share of lures and have had boats running over their heads all day, so I’ll run my HydroWave unit on Finesse mode at 75% volume with a 45 second delay. I feel this helps turn inactive bass on and gets them to bite.

With several warm summer months, bass will be hanging out in their cooler summer haunts offshore. So grab your favorite heavy jig or deep crankbait and hold on, because you are about to tangle with some monster bass.

Glenn Walker has been fishing tournaments for over ten years, spreading his passion and knowledge of the sport via articles and videos. He keeps busy fishing events across the Midwest and on the Mississippi River.