Fishing for bass in the springtime when they are stacking the shallows and hugging the shorelines is easy. But the true test of a savvy bass angler is locating finicky fish from July through August once they’ve relocated to deeper water.
After water temperatures heat up, one of the best techniques for catching big bass is ledge fishing. When using this approach, knowing how to graph the ledges correctly is the key to putting more trophy-worthy bass in your boat. If you haven’t graphed ledges much before, these bass fishing pointers should “tip the scales” back in your favor.
Why Fish Underwater Ledges?
A ledge is any drop-off where the depth of the bottom transitions from shallow to deep in a short distance. You might find ledges along main feeder channels, creek channels, or banks that slope sharply into the water.
During the hot summer months most bass (but not all) migrate into deeper water once the spawn concludes and lake temperatures begin to rise. At that point, those relocating bass often take up new positions along ledges.
Species like largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass might all move to these ledges for different reasons, including structure, water temperature, water quality, and easy access to deeper water. Most importantly, bass food sources like shad, crawfish, and small baitfish also set up shop on ledges in the summer. As a result, hungry bass congregate near ledges so that they can be closer to forage.
Ledge Graphing Essentials
Even though most lakes and reservoirs have ledges, not every ledge holds bass. Years ago, anglers relied on paper maps and flasher units to locate fish hanging out near a ledge. Today, there is an entire arsenal of high-tech, ledge graphing devices available. The savvier the angler, the more likely they will be to take advantage of newer ledge-finding technologies.
Although maps are still an effective way to get a general feel for the lake, including river and creek channels, newer computer-aided technology like GPS and Navionics software takes ledge fishing to a whole new level. And finally, an on-board, high-definition electronic unit with side and down scanning capabilities can be the most effective source of technology at the angler’s disposal.
Locating Bass Sweet Spots
Simply finding a ledge doesn’t necessarily equate with angling success. Remember that not all ledges contain bass and that fish often congregate in small areas that are no larger than a queen-sized bed.
The trick to graphing an area is to locate something irregular and unique about the ledge that may attract bass, such as a turn in or turn out. Or that irregularity could be a tree stump, creek bed, or change in bottom composition.
One example of the latter irregularity would be a lake with mussel shell beds creating a solid bottom that contrasts sharply on screen from the soft mud surrounding it. When fishing a manmade reservoir, you might also come across on old hard asphalt road that’s bordered on both sides by mud.
There are different methods to graph on ledges when running your electronic unit, including parallel or in and out. Which should you use? To answer that question, watch this short, informative video from professional fisherman and “graphing artist” Jason Lambert:
Ledge Fishing Baits and Tactics
When done correctly, ledge fishing can be an adrenaline rush. Although largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass all hit the ledges in the summer months, they may not always be in the same spot or at the same depth. For that reason, it’s important to practice patience and perseverance when graphing a lake. As a rule of thumb, days when there is at least some current tend to be better for ledge fishing.
Once you’ve discovered the fish, the secret then becomes deploying the best bait and tactics. If you find the right combination, the resulting reaction strikes and action can often be fast and furious. There are many variables involved when fishing ledges, so start by stocking your tackle box with an assortment of baits.
Three of the premier baits for ledge fishing are spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and spoons. On most days, a deep-diving crankbait like the Castaic Manna should put more monster bass in your live well. Spoons such as the Heavy Metal Spoon or Flutter Magic Spoon in deep water can dredge up some big bass.
Larger spinnerbaits like the Castaic Atlas Spinnerbait work well in depths over 5 feet, while a smaller, medium diver like the RS Spin should do the trick in the 4 to 5-foot range. Experimentation is the key when fishing ledges, so don’t hesitate to try out a combo like the Castaic Jerky J or Super Jerky J with a Kitana Scrounger Jighead.
When fishing your crankbait, cast it to the high part of the ledge and then reel it back. This technique will cause your bait to bump along the bottom while moving down the ledge, imitating a scurrying crawfish. Similarly, a slow-rolled spinnerbait can be a ledge angler’s best friend on days when nothing else seems to work!