One of my favorite ways to target aggressive bass in the summer time is on Rock Piles and Ledges. One and the same or different? To me they are drastically different and so is the approach I take at fishing them. In California we don’t have a ton of typical ledges in the sense of the TVA back east so let’s first look at what we do have a lot of here in Northern California and that’s Rock Piles.
Let’s clarify rock piles, rocky flats or veins, rock fields for all intents and purposes one and the same for this article. They are all a bit different but they do have similar characteristics. First is tackle, what type of rod and line weight to use? Well this will depend a bit and I’ll give some examples. Jigs are my number one way to attach and comb rock piles for big bass. I’ve found that a 3/4 to 1oz jigs comes through the rocks best in most cases. They also fall very quick enticing a reaction strike. For this I prefer 20lb fluorocarbon line tied directly to the jig. I fish this set up on a Daiwa Tatula Elite AGS Flipping Stick that was designed by Ish Monroe. This rod is very versatile in that it’s extremely light and sensitive with a lot of back bone, making it easy to fish all day. I pair it up with an 8.1-1 high speed Tatula SV so that I can take up line quickly. Now how you fish said jig all depends on you. Me personally I like an aggressive approach, hopping is off the bottom with the rod and letting it fall. This technique can elicit some vicious strikes. However, we all know how moody bass can be so you will need to vary retrieves to find what the fish want. Some of them being a steady slow retrieve by turning the reel handle, drag and stop, drag and hop and stop, and so on. Experiment until you find what the fish are in the mood for. By the way I find that a green pumpkin G Money 3/4 oz football head jig with a PBJ Structure Bug trailer works great just about anywhere. Again make adjustments as needed based on water color. If I was fishing Oroville or Shasta for instance Id prefer a 7’6 4 power rod and downsize the line a bit but no lower then 10lb for the heavier jigs, I prefer 15 and have found they eat it just fine.
Crank baits are another great way to probe rock piles. The important thing is that your crank bait is banging into and off of rocks.The deflection and erratic action is the trigger for these bass. I really don’t like going to low on the line weight when cranking at Clearlake, but there is a time and place that it’s needed. Typically I find 12lb fluorocarbon to be my starting point and I could go up or down from there but never below 8lb, and rarely over 14 except for square bills then I may go up to 20lb. Cast the crankbait across the rock pile and retrieve in back into and over or through the rocks. Change speeds and give a pause when it deflects. Again like the jig, vary the retrieve until you find what the fish want that day.
Big worms and creature baits are the third and final option for me on deeper rock piles. I will fish this on 15 to 16lb fluorocarbon with a 3/16 to 1/4 oz pegged weight. I just find that the pegged weight snags less often thanks to the bulk of the plastic being fished. Most often Im either slow dragging this presentation or short hops and pause retrieve. Id much prefer to throw a G Money Jig or Deep Diving Crank Bait if they will eat a faster presentation. I like the Strike King Plastics for this method. Something like a Rage Hard or Rage Tail Space Monkey, and the Rage Thumper Worm. Again I don’t over think it, if one of these doesn’t get bit then they are probably not there.
Not all rock piles will hold fish. Ive seen a pile be loaded for a year or two and then be void for several years. I believe this is due to forage in the area. Water levels and clarity can change a lot here in California. This year at Clearlake Ive had to relocate these pile fish and search around. The good thing is typically when you find them, they will be there for the season. Finding rock piles used to be a challenge. Then with side imaging and Navionics chips this became much easier. Although not all rock piles show on these sources. Sometimes the old fashioned way of covering water in the best alternatives to finding something that the masses don’t know about. Once located, depth, angles and baits will need to be dialed in. I don’t know a magic answer for this other then try it until ya find it.
Now ledges are a bit different here in California and usually we don’t have a current in our lakes other than wind. I still like using the same baits, but in place of the worm I prefer a heavy drop shot(1/2 oz). Doesn’t mean I wont use a Texas rigged worm, but it is down on my list. Again a 3/4 to 1oz G Money Football Head jig is my choice. Only here I prefer a Rage Craw for a trailer. It just kicks like nothing else. Crank baits are also a good choice here, either parallel or bumping the top of the ledge. A swimbait can also be a good choice. The trick here is to keep the bait in contact with the bottom. This means you may need to feed line as it falls from rock to rock down the edge of the ledge. This is the reason for the heavier drop shot, the lighter weight will tend to pendulum away instead of falling straight down. I also prefer a beaver style bait on the drop shot over a worm here.
The final approach would be on shallow piles, rocky points or flats. Since we are talking summer and aggressive bass my first choice would be a walking bait. Something like a Sexy Dawg or Spook. Square bills are good for sub surface baits and a weightless Ocho or stick bait is a good slower presentation. Rocks regardless of depth will be bass magnets (will thermocline depending). Rocks are used by all kinds of forage, therefore bass are usually close by.
A downfall or two of fishing rocks is snagging. Some can be retrieved and some will be lost, it’s just the nature of the beast. Personally i don’t like driving the boat over the top to get baits back but thats up to you. Sometimes the fish can be spooky and it can shut them down. This ear in particular was delayed due to all the rain and cold fronts that delayed our spawn and summer season. The fish are just coming into their summer patterns so get out there and find some rock piles and ledges.
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See Ya On the Water