At the risk of sounding like obnoxious know-it-all, we’d like to say that catching bass is easy in shallow water.
Did we ruffle some rookie feathers there?
The fact is that Bass are predators and the more you learn about them, the more predictable they are.
Spend some time knowing the fish, the reactions, the typical feeding depths, the cover that they normally use, the type of prey that’s most likely to entice a reaction from them and the wind direction.
Now, get on the water and practice and practice until you start to catch them.
It might take weeks or even months before you start to get a feel of things. But once you do, it’s like fishing on autopilot.
You won’t even need to make any major changes to your setup.
Just get out into the water, cast the line and catch bass. Hook line and sinker.
But none of these techniques will cut the mustard when the fish venture deeper into the water.
Come summer, bass will follow the baitfish into deeper, cooler waters which means that anglers have to get out of their comfort zones to catch them.
In this article we talk about the best times to catch bass, which will explain the whole cooler temperatures thing.
Deep water bass fishing is a different ball game altogether.
One that even the most seasoned angler might find to be an uphill task at times.
Today, we will demystify deep water fishing and share with you a bunch of tips and techniques that will make life easier for you beyond the 10-feet depth that you might be most accustomed to.
Know Your Water
Rather than jumping the gun and talking about lures, baits and jigs, let’s talk about an oft underrated aspect of deep water fishing.
(You can learn about lures, baits and jigs here)
The fish finder!
Fishing in deep water without quality electronics is like shopping pig in a poke.
Why would you want to rely on primitive and cumbersome fishing techniques when you can use a Fish Finder and GPS to get a 3D map of the lake surface?
Everything from the depth of the water, temperature, contours, thermoclines and the type of bottom surface to chart plotting, off course alarms and saving your favorite routes, modern day fish finders take the guesswork out of deep water fishing. Here is a fairly nice fish finder that will be great for deep water ventures.
In fact, we’d say that you are trying to fish with one hand tied behind your back without quality electronics.
Think about it. You can even identify potential hotspots on the lake surface that other anglers might have missed.
Happens all the time.
If you are new to fish finders though, then we recommend that you spend some time learning the screen.
Most seasoned anglers know how to read the graphs like the back of their hands and like everything else, it comes with practice.
Know how to identify structures, humps, fish schools. Learn how to switch between a real time scan and using split screens.
Learn to chart a course and store your favorite routes for future use.
A rookie mistake often made by beginner anglers is to underestimate the importance of currents in deep waters.
It’s a given that the riffles might not be as obvious as they are in shallow water.
But it’s definitely there, be it a lake or a reservoir.
Use the fish finder to identify the spots where the currents begin and you will most likely find a school of bass waiting to ambush baitfish and forage.
Humps in particular are usually located in high current areas and make for the perfect setting for bass.
Bait for Deep Water Bass Fishing
There are baits and rigs galore that can entire a reactionary bite or just seduce the bass into biting in shallow waters.
But in deep waters, there are only a handful of them that are proven to work more effectively than the rest.
- The Carolina Rig: The Carolina rig is a no-brainer choice for deep water fishing, especially when the bass is reluctant to feed on the bottom and holding off it. This slip sinker can cover some serious ground allowing you to keep the bait closer to the bottom than any other rig. If the bass is hanging around at the bottom, they WILL bite a Carolina rig more often than not. And it’s ridiculously simple to set one up. An ¾ or 1-ounce sinker depending on the depth, a bead, a knot to tie the swivel, a leader line that’s about 3-feet and a hook. You are all set to catch bass.
I wrote an article on how to fish the Texas Rig here which is very similar to the Carolina Rig.
- The Football Jig: The jig or rig debate will continue to rage on forever. But for us, if the bite is on, then a football jig often outshines the good old Carolina. For one, it perfectly mimics crawfish or bluegill or other bottom feeding baitfish. Secondly, the sudden movement is more likely to evoke a reactionary bite from aggressively feeding fish rather than the subtle one of a C-rig. Plus, you can catch bigger fish. Retrieval is a skill that you will need to master while using the football jig. Depending on the type of bottom surface, alternate between dragging, stroking and dead-sticking. Also, always reel the jig. Never snatch it.
- Crankbait: Another infallible choice when the bite is on. Get a good tackle with a solid backbone and a deep-diving crankbait with a big lip. Once it is in contact with the bottom, make erratic moves with the rod tip so that the bait is right in the face of the fish. If you have the right technique, the fish will bite. A crankbait rod can also be a great choice.
Here is an article I wrote on how to fish crankbaits.
Here is an article I wrote on how to fish jerkbaits.
Check this article if your in between a crankbait and jerkbait.
- Drop Shots: Unlike other rigs, the drop shot has the weight on the bottom which allows the bait to move unhindered, exactly like baitfish does. If the bass is using cover, like a road bed or a rock bar, then a drop shot is one of the best ways to target the fish.
- Flutter Spoon: There is no better reaction-strike evoker like the flutter spoon. Believe it or not, this innocuous looking piece of metal often generates better reactionary bites than a football or a C-rig. Just let the spoon fall right down to the surface, pull it back up for a few feet before letting it flutter down again. Don’t let your eyes off the line when it’s fluttering down. Its also a good idea to know the lake depth to ensure you have enough fishing line on your reel.
There are of course, other methods like swimbaits and bucktails which are also quite popular among anglers. But if you can’t catch bass with one of these, then you are probably having a bad day in the water.
Try to Visualize Your Bait
This is not as easy as we make it sound. Especially, when you are new to deep water fishing.
But you’ve got to try and visualize what your bait is up to in the depths every time you cast the line.
The fanciest fish finder or GPS screen cannot match what your mind can see.
Irrespective of whether you are crashing or deadsticking, there needs to be a clear picture of the bait in your mind.
Is it sliding down a bridge piling? Is it crawling along the bottom?
Think of how the bait is behaving and you will know how to control it better.
You don’t feel lost and are more likely to catch one.
Positioning Your Boat
Anglers are diligent about getting their boat position right in shallow waters.
But when they are fishing off-shore in deeper waters, they tend to overlook the importance of boat positioning and presentation.
The fact is that presentation is critical in deep water bass fishing and unless you bring the bait in the right direction, you won’t entice a bite even from a school crammed with hungry bass.
If you spot a current in your fish finder, then the task becomes easier. Follow the current and you will get a bite sooner or later.
But when there’s no current, it becomes a little more difficult as it’s impossible to understand which direction or angle to cast from.
In such a scenario, the only way to know what works is to try from all possible directions and angles.
Experiment with the position of the boat. Keep casting until you start getting bites.
Be Prepared for Failure
Let’s face it.
Despite all the preparation and schmancy gadgets, sometimes you won’t boat a single fish.
That’s part of the game and beginner anglers must be prepared to go through that phase.
Put in the time. Try out all possible techniques.
It can be frustrating to spend all day in the boat without a single fish to show for it. But that’s how you will hone your skills and gain the confidence.
A lot of the deep water fishing tourney winners have started their journeys as rookies.
The only difference in them and someone who prefers sticking to shallow waters, is that they were prepared to fail.
Eventually, you will start to notice a pattern to things. You will habitually start using the fish finder to chart courses.
You will know beforehand, where the hotspots are. And before you even realize, you will be catching bass from as deep as 45-60 feet.
Spend time in the waters and the fish will tell you everything you need to know.