As Curt Samo fished near an outside pillar one summer day, he saw an explosion against the concrete, back under the bridge. He threw his Spook to the spot and instantly hooked up.
From that moment forward, he started developing a pattern he now calls “banging bridges.”
“Most people just fish the corners of bridges,” said the northern Illinois angler, who spends much of his fishing time on the upper Mississippi River.
“You rarely see fishermen under it. Soon, though, I was fishing as close as I could get to all of those pilings. Then I was hitting them as I ‘walked the dog’ and that really started triggering strikes.”
The Illinois angler likes to throw a bone-colored Super Spook Jr., preferably with a feather on the tail. He uses a medium retrieve and gives his bait more action by tying it to 20-pound-test Excalibur line with a loop knot.
Samo likes to employ this summer pattern when the sun is high overhead. Smallmouth and largemouth bass move into the shade of the bridges, where they can be provoked into striking. “You get one and it seems to trigger the others,” he said.
Samo’s biggest catch using this technique has been a 5-pound smallmouth. His favorite targets are railroad bridges spanning the creeks and backwaters of the upper Mississippi. But “bridge banging” has also proven effective for him in other areas.
“When you get bit under there, it sounds like a toilet bowl flushing because of the loud echo,” the tournament angler said. Samo has caught some “dandies” with this pattern, including several 3-pounders while taping a television show.
While pilings are good, long cement walls of smaller bridges are even better. “You can bang the Spook the length of the abutment,” Samo said. “Keep it coming and then stop it at the end. Smallmouth especially can’t stand it, and their strikes are vicious.”
Aside from the shade, bass like bridges because minnows and crawfish are drawn to the rocks and riprap. Additionally, eddies and angles provide ambush points, as pilings and walls narrow current flow.
Focus on shallow water. “You can be in deeper water,” he said. “But you should be fishing in about 3 feet of water, and the upcurrent side usually is better. With big bridges, you want to concentrate on the pilings closer to shore.”
“Your bait can be 6 or 8 inches from the piling and you won’t get a strike,” Samo said. “You want to bang the bridge in the same way that you ‘bump the stump’ with a crankbait. I think that it resembles an injured baitfish trying to get away.”
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