Tournament winners frequently clock in with the highest weights thanks to their ledge fishing technique outside of pre-spawn and spawning activity. In most of the US and other warm-weather climates in the summer, ledge fishing works best in the late summer and early fall.
When offshore bass fishing, a ledge is any spot where the depth of the water goes from shallow to deep in a short distance. These are most commonly found around banks sloping into water, and river channels or creek channels. Whatever results in a sharp depth change can be a ledge. These brief underwater “valleys” provide bass with a place to hide and get out of the current.
The bottom of ledges are often hard and consist of gravel or shell beds, which guarantee little sediment. That lack of sediment makes areas ideal for foraging fish and the bass that pray on them.
Ledge fishing is all about increasing your odds by getting near the highest concentration of bass. Short of maps and high-tech equipment to measure water depths and currents, look for sloping rock banks. As these banks descend into the water they will have outcroppings at depths all through the water column. Gentler-sloping banks will lead to ledges. If you can envision or identify where the current is strongest and can’t find bass in the area, move on to another spot.
Baits for all the sweet spots
As water temperatures rise through the summer, bass move into ledges for access to food — primarily crawfish, shad, and other small fish that gather near these water edges. The water is also cooler and more oxygenated.
Largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass often congregate in compact, tight groups often no more than a few feet wide or long. But the depths they swim in may vary and this is where the right bait can make a difference.
You can use crankbaits like the Castaic Cowboy or spinnerbaits like the Castaic Atlas Spinnerbait to attract bass around ledges. In addition, the Castaic Jerky J and a Kitana Scrounger Jighead make a deadly combination, particularly for lazy largemouths waiting to target a bait as it comes over a ledge.
Pro fisherman Jason Lambert goes into detail about ledge fishing mid-summer at Kentucky Lake. For southern and warm-weather climates, ledge fishing can be a successful technique well into October.
Using the 7” Super Jerky J soft bait and a Kitana Scrounger Jig was a “tactical move” for Lambert.
“This is a one-hook bait and is far less likely to get thrown. Which is why I chose it,” says Lambert. “Every fish I weighed in came on this.”– Jason Lambert
Flutter spoons, rigs, and drop-shot rigs are also productive choices worth trying. Allow the baits to sink to the ledge and start with a slow retrieve. Keep your boat positioned away from the end of the ledge as far as possible. This keeps the lure deep in the water for the longest period of time and you’ll reduce your chances of pulling away from bass holding tight to the ledge.
For color, stick with warm color schemes like reds, plums, oranges, and yellows. The brighter colors will catch attention in depths as much as 35 feet.
Ledge Fishing Technique
Start your day with baits that go for quantity-oriented predators. These will help you find fish and promising areas faster. Then shift to crankbaits or swimbaits to lure big predators. If you fish out the smaller fish too quickly, you risk diminishing the school and encouraging larger trophy fish to head somewhere else. Have a plan for how you deploy baits and transition between them. Give yourself a lot of time and recognize fishing pressure the big bass on ledges are under.
- Locate a school
- Excite them by catching a few quickly on a small bait
- Send in a big, moving target like a crankbait, swimbait, or spoon
“When you see a group of 15-20 fish, you can sometimes catch every one of them when that school gets fired up,” says Lambert. “Sometimes it’s a crankbait, sometimes it’s a plastic, sometimes a swimbait. Once you catch one or two, it turns on the competition in that school.” But as the school dwindles, learn to move on.