April 29, 2022
In the springtime, bass notoriously gravitate to rock cover, both before the spawn when the big girls stage on it, and after they reproduce when shad and other baitfish cling to it. But if you carve out a donut hole in your schedule and you avoid riprap when the bass are bedding, you’re making a big mistake, said Pete Gluszek, a veteran pro, guide and the “Dean” of The Bass University.
“They don’t just use it in transition,” he said. “They spawn right on it. That’s especially true on the lower end of many lakes. The base of the lake, further from the spillway, is a low-flow area, often protected on multiple sides and it provides a lot of safety it terms of access to deep water.”
Even on fisheries where the water fluctuates heavily in the spring, the extension of the riprap into the water provides a high level of security.
<>p>He said that in his extensive experience throughout the country, this section of the lake is often the last place the bass will spawn. When fish are guarding fry elsewhere on a lake, and you’re limited to catching aggressive males, it’s possible to still target the larger females in an earlier phase of the reproductive process. In fact, because riprap is such a prime attractor of bass this time of year (and all times of year, for that matter), it’s often possible to find bass in all three stages.
“The females helping the males guard the next generation will be swimming in and out of the rocks,” he said. “And at the same time there may be fry guarders there.”
Additionally, because the water at the lower end of a lake typically provides the greatest amount of visibility, it makes the process easier.
Of course, hitting a long stretch of riprap under a time crunch can be intimidating to many anglers, particularly on unfamiliar bodies of water. Just like fishing a grass line, though, Gluszek said that anglers can speed up the process by looking for irregularities.
“When they lay the riprap, they never do a perfect job of it,” he explained, so he’ll look for divots, points, or rocks that stand alone. He also keys on the sections of the riprap that get the greatest level of sun exposure. “It’s got to be sun-drenched,” he added. “A lot of times we’re looking for shade, but not at this time of year. I want to hit the riprap that gets the greatest amount of sunlight from noontime on through the afternoon.”
Gluszek said that bass will often engage in what he calls “colony spawning” on these manmade aggregations of rocks, in which there will be more than just one isolated bed in a confined area. That’s why a soft stickbait, typically a Yamamoto Senko, is his primary tool. He fishes it weightless most of the time but varies between a Texas Rig and a Wacky Rig.” The former excels when he wants to cover water, and it comes through the rocks more efficiently, but the Wacky style is a better choice when he wants to target a defined spot and keep the lure in that small area for an extended period of time. He starts with the 5-inch version but will occasionally drop down to a 4-incher, or even the 3-inch model when he wants to employ what he calls the “Tiny Child Rig” – a stubby Texas Rig with a small nail weight at the opposite end, in essence a modified Ned Rig. With the Texas Rig, he’ll use a 4/0 Round Bend VMC hook. For the Wacky Rig he prefers a 1/0 VMC wacky hook, with no O-Ring.
“I don’t like anything to get in the way of my hook set,” he said.
Another finesse option that he employs in this situation, even in noted big bass territory, is a shakey head, which allows him to pinpoint his presentations even more exactly. For this technique, he likes a 4/0 VMC ball head jig and typically places a Zoom Trick Worm on the back.
He fishes all of these soft plastics on spinning gear, including a 7-foot medium-heavy Cashion rod paired with a Shimano reel.
“I use 10-pound test Gamma Torque braid for a main line,” he said,” and then with the Senko I’ll use 10-pound test Gamma fluorocarbon for a leader, or 8-pound test if the water is really clear. It’ll adjust it depending on the cover. With the shakey head, it’s the same rod and reel, but definitely 10-pound test for the leader.”
While the rocks create gnarly cover and a heavy snag zone, the fact is that most fish swim away from them when they grab the lure, out into what is typically open water. It may be nerve-wracking, but with patience and finesse it’s possible to land even giant bass on this light gear.