As a kid growing up on the farm, I was often dispatched by my father to round up cattle. Some of our pastures were solid forests running along the river and it could take over an hour just to locate the herd. Other pastures had just a couple of lone trees and a single watering hole. In this case, the cows could be found predictably hanging out in the shade under a single tree or getting a drink. Finding bass is often similar. Sure, we all love huge coves just full of lily pads, hydrilla, or cypress trees. However, the euphoria of finding a treasure trove of fish habitat is quickly overcome by the helpless sense of looking for a needle in a haystack.
Fishing isolated cover can be a great strategy when you’re catching a lot of fish and also when you’re struggling. On days when the bite is good, isolated pieces of cover often produce a big kicker to anchor your limit, or might have a number of good fish to provide considerable upgrades. On the other hand, if you’re struggling to catch anything on a tough day, scrapping your plans and just hitting any random piece of isolated cover you locate is often a good backup plan to fashion a limit.
So what exactly do I mean by “isolated cover?” As opposed to “structure” which is a change in the bottom contour (e.g. humps, creek channels, points), “cover” is anything in the water that provides shelter for smaller fish or an ambush spot for predators. Classic examples of cover are laydown trees, submerged weeds, brushpiles, docks, and stumps. What I’m specifically looking for is “isolated cover,” so instead of a cove full of docks or trees, I scout for an area with a single dock or a shoreline with just one laydown in the water. With weeds, it might be a small clump of lily pads in a bay that’s otherwise covered with hydrilla, or a small patch of milfoil that is separated from all the rest of the underwater grass in the creek and is slightly deeper. Basically, you’re looking for oddities and anomalies.
Whereas bass are often randomly spread out in areas with lots of cover, they will frequently group up on isolated cover. If I’m going down a shore with 30 boat docks, I’ll make a few quick casts to each one and keep moving. However, if another bank only has one dock on it, odds are good that if I find one bass on it, there are multiple fish there. In general, the less cover options fish have in an area, the more concentrated they’ll be on the few pieces of cover there. This is also important to keep in mind if you plant brushpiles. In a cove or area with no docks, laydowns, trees, or weeds, your brushpile becomes about the only game in town and will likely be a bass magnet. Drop it in the middle of a big weed patch or stump flat and you’re often just adding to the haystack in which the needle (bass) resides.
Fishing isolated cover is pretty simple. I start off probing the edges of the cover with a moving bait and try to catch active fish before they know I’m there. Square bill cranks like a Lucky Craft 1.5 trigger a ton of strikes as they deflect off of limbs, posts, or grass in the shallows, or switch to the 1.5DD version of the same bait if the isolated cover is in 4’-9’. If the bass are feeding up on shad more than chasing near the bottom, a 3/8 oz bladed jig with a Live Magic Shad trailer tends to catch big fish that have become conditioned to so many spinnerbaits over the years. If it’s 8’ deep or less, I drop my Power Poles and make repeated casts from a distance.
After I’m convinced I’ve caught all the chasers, I’ll quietly drift in a bit closer and drop my Poles again, staying back as far as I can while still presenting a roll cast with very little splash. Jigs will certainly catch fish from these spots, but Texas rigged creature baits are more weedless, with less risk of ruining the spot by snagging. For bigger bass and on active days, a 3/8 oz bullet weight with a Lake Fork Craw Tube is my favorite to fling around. If the fish are smaller or the bite is tough, I’ll drop down to a smaller Texas rigged Baby Fork Creature or Hyper Stick with a 1/8 to ¼ oz bullet weight and slowly probe every square inch of their hideout.
Again, I can’t emphasize enough how fish tend to stack up on isolated cover and you can regularly catch multiple good fish from one little spot if you stay away and keep quiet. Long, accurate casts to key areas of the cover without snagging are the key to maximizing your catch. Roll casts with long rods allow the splashless entry of a pitch, yet from a much farther distance, especially with long rods. I’ve found the Dobyns 7’3” lineup of Savvy or Champion rods to be perfect for moving baits like cranks and chatterbaits, while their ultrasensitive 7’4” Extreme models precisely cast Texas rigs and still deliver great feel from long distances. By Tom Redington
In fishing, less is often more. Try some isolated cover on your next trip and you might just find a herd of lunkers hanging out there. For more fish catching tips, check out my website www.LakeForkGuideTrips.com, or follow me at www.facebook.com/tomredingtonfishingand www.twitter.com/Tom_Redington .
Tom Redington is a FLW Tour pro, host of TV’s “Big Bass Battle” & a bass guide on Lake Fork. To make the most of your experience in the outdoors, he recommends the Boy Scouts of America, Lake Fork Trophy Lures, Dobyns Rods, Ranger Boats, Mercury Outboards, Diamond Sports Marine, Lucky Craft, Costa Sunglasses, Lowrance, & Power Poles.