Under a Bridge with PAA Pro Mike DelVisco
Middle of August, 100 fiery degrees. It seemed every bass was off for summer vacation. Fishing was brutal for most anglers on the lake yet for some reason I was enjoying one of the best sessions of ferocious bass fishing action I’ve had in a long time. First cast was a spotted bass close to four pounds. Second cast, a smallmouth in the three pound range and after boating many more nice size bass, I hooked and landed a largemouth well over six pounds. I was not fishing a secret spot but rather a place that many just drive by and don’t think twice about fishing there. I was under a major bridge that crossed the lake. Bridges provide year round cover, shade, forage and depth for all species of bass. Applying a few simple strategies and paying attention to your positioning and timing can get you some of the best untapped action any lake has to offer in summer.
Maybe it’s just too obvious or maybe anglers just want to run to where they think are more productive areas…but you can bet if a body of water has a bridge crossing it, I am going to stop and fish it, possibly several time during the day. That is exactly what happened that day I had great success. I had fished most of the day with only a meager handful of bites, only to stop on this particular bridge and proceed to wear them and myself out. It was so simple, make a cast, start winding and set the hook. Of course it’s not always like this, but pull up at the right time and it can surely happen.
One thing I love about fishing bridges is that it does not take long to realize if they’re biting or not at the time. I opt for some type of reaction bait most often when I fish bridges. When your arrive at the right time, those fish are there to feed and generally they’ll be suspended on some portion of the bridge (more on that later). Depth is typically not a concern. It’s the bridge itself that matters.
The cool thing about bridges is a variety of lures can catch fish here. I usually have several reaction baits rigged such as spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, crankbaits and a Yamamoto Swim Senko rigged on a jighead. I may even have a small jig or shaky worm to slow down a bit – but if they are biting, I primarily concentrate on the moving baits.
Location, Location, Location
One thing I have noticed is that every bridge has a certain personality and there can be very subtle, specific locations on each bridge that bass will use to feed. The very first step is identifying the type of bridge you are dealing with. I first look at what types of columns it has, are they rounded cement, oval shape rock or square cement columns. The two later examples are the types I have had more success on than the rounded cement ones and maybe that is because these two offer more ambush points for the bass. I also look for any additional structure that connects the columns such as center dividers either above or below the water line. I do however favor dividers below the water line. Current whether it is from wind or power generation is another key ingredient although not necessary for getting bites. Shade is a very important factor and that is why I like to start targeting bridges when the sun start climbing overhead, typically by about 10 am.
I start by positioning my boat so I can make the first cast parallel to the outside edge throwing several feet past the edge and may repeat this cast several times. My next series of casts will be straight down the long portion and on one side. Next I will repeat this process on the opposite edge on the other side of the column and then cast lengthwise down the back side of the remaining portion. One little trick is to get your lure as close to the structure as possible and even running into it. Spinnerbaits and crankbaits are great tools for this and I like a 3/8 oz tandem willow Bassdozer spinnerbait in a shad pattern and a Rapala DT, either Series 4 or 6, in the same pattern. This generates a lot of bites even if the first few casts do not produce. I may also change up and rotate between different baits to show the bass something a little different especially if I have already caught a few.
Now the type of bridge that I like the most is one that has a square cement column. These structures usually have a support post underwater several feet in between the outside columns and for that type of bridge I will make a series of casts on the inside post as the fish will use this as ambush. I will also cast past the target and slowly retrieve the bait so it comes in contact with the underwater structure, and many times the bites occur just after the lure has cleared the edge. One additional thing I will do if the column has a center support with a slight indentation is cast right into that small space. It’s amazing how many fish will use this tiny indentation to hide and ambush prey.
The Subtle Reaction
Sometimes after catching a bunch and especially if the water has good visibility I will fish a couple other baits to coax a few more strikes. The first is a jerkbait and I favor a Rapala Clackin’ Minnow or X-Rap Slashbait. I am going to fish these in the same fashion as I would under any other circumstance, with a “twitch, twitch, pause” cadence. By switching up offerings it just gives the bass a little something unique to key in on and will put a few more in the boat. The other bait I really like and it’s especially deadl y for spotted bass is a Yamamoto 4 ½ inch Swim Senko rigged on a Series 35 Yamamoto jighead. I fish this on a light baitcast rod with 10 pound test Sufix fluorocarbon line using a slow steady retrieve. If I feel a fish come up and bump the bait but not take it I will make another cast, start my retrieve and then kill the bait. This method is deadly on big spotted bass. I stick with more natural bait fish colors like watermelon/cream two-tone (#901) and pearl silver flake (#031).
Whenever I fish a bridge, I will always pay attention to any surface activity in and around the bridge as bass may be schooled up on bait and roaming around. I also pay close attention to my “undewrwater eyes”, my Lowrance HDS looking for the presence of suspended fish. Additionally I will fish each and every bridge column as at any given time, bass may be present on one but not the others. You really can’t adssume or judge that one column will be mnore productive than the next. I will point out that there may be specific features that will attract bass to a certain column such as a drop, brush or rubble and those special features should always be fished. Aside from that you always need to cast at every column. For the time it actually takes to stop and fish a set of bridge columns the rewards can be huge. So come summer’s fiery days, you’re likely to see me under a bridge catchin’ the shade and catchin’ the bass.
Mike DelVisco is sponsored by: Texas Roadhouse, Phoenix boats, Mercury, Thorntons, Rapala, Sufix, VMC, Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits, Browning Eyewear, Motorguide, Gemini and Lowrance.