Across the country, fish use many different types of structure or cover to live and feed in. Weather it's rocks, docks, lay down logs or brush piles, as the year goes on and the seasons change, you will notice certain ones being more productive than others. And trust that no matter how random it can sometimes seem, there is a rhyme and a reason as to why they are using cover in a specific area, or more importantly, depth range. It is based on factors such as time of year, weather conditions, water color, water temperature and, last but not least, the amount of baitfish in the area. Most species of fish are predators, and if there is no food there, then obviously the fish will go elsewhere if they have the option. In this article I really want to focus on brush piles. Whether they are man made or natural from trees and debris falling in the water, the simple fact is that most times of the year, there are fish holding onto some sort of brush.
Fishing the Right Bait & Depth in Brush Piles
Brush piles are a perfect place for baitfish such as bluegill and shad to live around and hide in. With the presence of the bait fish, the predators such as bass are going to be close by. Now, throughout the year, some brush piles will be more productive than others. As the water temperature changes, the fish move, and this is related to the thermocline level. This is the level where the water temperature is the most comfortable to the fish and where the water is the most oxygen rich. The hotter the water temperature, the deeper the thermocline will be. In lakes that have clear water, the thermocline will also be deeper, so don't be surprised to find fish in extremely deep water in the summer on a clear lake or reservoir.
To find the this productive, healthy water depth, having good quality electronics such as the Lowrance HDS Gen3 Fishfinder is important. Just idle around your local lake or reservoir and pay attention to what depth you see the majority of the baitfish. Next, check suspecting areas where brush piles might be placed that are close to that same depth range, and there is a good chance that baitfish and bass will be near by.
How to Find the Brush or Fishing Structure
So now that you have the proper depth figured out, the next step is actually physically locating the brush. People will sink man-made brush piles in a variety of different places such as points, creek channels, river channels or, probably the most common, docks.
In my opinion, the easiest-to-find brush piles are near docks. They are easy to find because of a few keys that are normally a dead giveaway that a fisherman lives there and has possibly sunk brush around his dock. Two things I really like to look for are lights and rod holders. These are definitely things that should be paid attention to when looking for brush. The next step to this simple method of finding brush is physically stopping and casting a weighted soft plastic and feeling around the bottom with the bait. This is a no-electronics, fool-proof way to find brush.
Now, if you have side imaging technology, then this process is much easier. All you have to do is idle by the front of a row of docks, and your graph will show you which docks have brush around them within 200 feet of either side of your boat. In order to find brush on the points and dropoffs, having electronics is critical and will really make your search easier and more effective.
Marking the Brush Piles Before You Fish
Once I have brush located, no matter where it is, there are a couple really important things I like to do. The first is marking the piles physically before I start to fish them, which is very important for brush that is way out on points or sometimes in the middle of the river on a ledge. To do this, I use a Bass Pro Shops Marker Buoy. There are a couple ways to do it: You can drop the buoy right next to the brush, or one of my favorite methods is dropping it where you want the boat to be positioned, and then using a reference point on the shore to line up and cast at.
Fishing Tackle Choices
Normally when I'm fishing brush for bass, I will use slow-moving baits such as jigs, Carolina rigs, Texas rigs, and shaky heads. Fishing these slow on the bottom, I will crawl and work my bait through the cover, letting it lift and then fall in the limbs. I always try and do this on a semi-tight line; if you have to much slack in your line, the fish will often pull you deep into the brush, which makes them almost impossible to get out. So be ready to set the hook quick and get the fish moving up and out toward the boat.
I like to use pretty heavy tackle when fishing my jigs, Texas rigs and Carolina rigs for that reason exactly. I like to use Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon fishing line from 17-pound to 25-pound test, on a heavy-action rod and a high-speed reel. The only exception is when I'm using a shaky head set up, and in that case, I will use either 8-pound fluoro or a 20-pound braid mainline with a fluorocarbon leader. At certain times of the year, baits such as Spro Little John DD crankbaits and heavy 1-ounce spinnerbaits can be very effective when bumped into the brush. I would suggest going to Bass Pro Shops and picking up a weighted lure retriever or retrieving pole for getting your baits free from deep brush.
So go out on your local body of water and look for the key ingredients. First find the depth the baitfish are using, whether it is 2 feet or 30 feet. Next, locate and mark the brush. And finally, present your lure properly to the waiting fish. Always be patient, and if you are getting frustrated and having limited success, just keep searching because you never know when you might run into the right brush pile that is holding the mother lode of big fish. I'll see you on the water!!!