By Pete Laramand
No matter what body of water you are fishing, whether it’s a lake, a river, reservoir or pond, the one thing that you will find in common with all of them is cover, such as fallen trees, which we call “laydowns.” We see them along the shore and we cast to them, but we don’t always catch fish on them.
The location of the laydown is probably the most important part in finding the best laydown on your body of water. Laydowns on gravel banks are best in late spring, while laydowns on flats are often best in the fall. Laydowns next to deep water are best in late summer, which is what we are going to focus on. Although, fishing a laydown any time of the year can be done the same way.
Ideal laydowns are found where there is a drastic change in water depth. This type of change is usually the best location for laydowns in the summer. Also, laydowns which have more branches and have been in the water for a long period of time are usually the best for holding multiple bass.
This particular laydown extends another 10 feet under the surface past where the last branch is sticking up. I position my boat in 15 feet of water. The base of the tree is right on shore, which is about 6 inches of water. So you can see that the tree extends far out into deep water, which is what we are looking for this time of year. A good pair of polarized glasses really comes in handy when fishing laydowns, as they allow you to see into the water in order to fish the tree top in deep water before making casts into the heart of the tree.
The most common mistake that anglers make is to fish the laydown from the inside out. Fishing the inside of the laydown first will ruin the possibility of catching more than one bass on a single laydown. Fish the outer edges first. This way if you catch a bass on the outside, you will be able to pull it away from the cover without disrupting the other bass that could potentially be in the middle of the laydown.
There are several baits and techniques that you can use to fish laydowns. The most common are soft plastics or flipping jigs. I like using other baits to fish outer edges of the laydown before using jigs or plastics to fish the heart of the tree.
Spinnerbaits and crankbaits are great for quickly covering lots of water. Fishing a laydown on the outer edges with these types of presentations is a good idea. These are normally reaction-strike type of hits from the bass and since we are fishing the outer edges and trying to avoid disrupting the bass in the heart of the laydown, these baits make it a perfect match to get those outer-edge bass away from the laydown. Also, the bass on the outer edges are usually ambushing their prey and what better replica of bait fish than a spinnerbait or crankbait.
However, there are few key elements when fishing these types of baits. The spinnerbait I normally use is a ½ oz double willow leaf blade. This gives me the most flash and allows me to burn the spinnerbait past the edges of the laydown, causing reaction strikes.
The rod/reel and line combination when fishing spinnerbaits is very important. I use a high speed reel along with a 6’10” rod . The 2 reasons for the high speed reel are as follows; I want to burn the spinnerbait to create the reaction strike and secondly to get the bass out quickly, with as little disturbance as possible. The med-heavy action rod provides the backbone necessary to horse out the bass, if necessary.
The line is also just as important. I use 20 lbs fluorocarbon line for my spinnerbaits. The heavy fluorocarbon line is abrasion resistant and virtually invisible in the water, giving me an added advantage when fishing. When retrieving the spinnerbait, I want it to come in contact with every branch that is in its path. This will help draw attention from the bass.
For crankbaits I use the exact same reel and a 6’8” Medium Light rod and line combination. The biggest criteria when fishing crankbaits around wood is the type of bill that the crankbait has. Now you are probably saying to yourself, “A crankbait in and around a laydown, won’t I get hung up?” You will if you are using the wrong type of crankbait. The bill is the key factor when deciding which style of crankbait to use. Make sure it is a floating model that has a square bill and not a round one. The round bill will cause the crankbait to turn and twist once it comes in contact with the branch, causing the back hooks to catch the branch. The end result could be a lost crankbait. A square bill on the other hand, will allow the bait to hit the branch squarely. Once you feel that, stop reeling in and the bait will float up. Once it’s cleared from the branch, you can continue to reel in. It’s normally when you start to reel in after making contact that the strike will occur. The best crankbaits that I have used from this scenario are square bills in a Shad or Matte Tiger. Built-in sound technology drives bass crazy.
Jigs and Plastic Fishing Baits:
Jigs and plastics are the best types of baits to use for fishing the heart of the laydown. They allow you to present the bait quietly into the living room of those stubborn bass.
Flipping jigs are usually the number one choice for fishing the heart of the trees because they are so versatile and can be placed with pinpoint accuracy. Normally a ½ oz jig with some sort of trailer on it works well. A ½ oz jig being the common weight used should penetrate the branches and limbs of the tree to get those bass. If the limbs are covered with dense leaves or needles (depending on the tree) you may want to go to a heavier jig like a ¾ oz or even a 1 oz. Just remember, the heavier the jig, the faster the fall. The bass will tell you how fast it wants the bait to sink. If you don’t get any strikes with the heavier jig, try a bigger trailer like a pork rind or chunk. If that doesn’t help, then go to a lighter jig. This will slow down the fall of the jig.
The jig that I normally use is a ½ oz jig tied on with 50 or 65 lbs braided line and a 7’6” flipping stick. If you want to use another option, try plastics like the Berkley Jigger Craw or even a 7” worm. Use a ½ oz or heavier tungsten weight to allow those baits to fall through the limbs.
The next time that you see a laydown on your favorite body of water, give it “the time of day” and fish the entire laydown. You may be surprised how many bass a good laydown will produce for you if you fish it correctly.