When most think of ideal bass habitat, the first words thrown out are typically things like “grass” or “brush”. And while there are few things I love more than snatching fish out of cover like grass and brush, there is this certain feeling I get when I find a stretch of riprap or a gravel bank. All types of rock provide an ideal environment for several reasons. While they look rather bland on the surface, these stretches create a comfortable home for bass’ prey and becomes somewhat of a buffet for them to move up and feed on. Rock also tends to hold a little more heat on a cold, but sunny, day. So, as bass transition during the early months, it is nearly a perfect area for them to find comfort as well as food.
Types of Rock
Now, while the “rock family” isn’t as complicated as learning varieties of vegetation, there are a few different rocks you will run into and making note of that can help establish a pattern on your body of water. Sizes can range all the way from pea gravel up to massive boulders and on nearly every lake in the country you can find some stretch of riprap along causeways, around bridges, and near the dam. With pea gravel and smaller rocks, things are pretty straight forward. There’s nothing to really get snagged on so lure choice isn’t as complicated. But, when it comes to riprap, it can get quite frustrating with some baits. If the wrong lure choice finds its way into a crevice, and it will, you can really start going through your tackle box fairly quickly and begin to fish it rather “shy”. Here’s what I have found to be the most productive baits when approaching these rock banks and a few tips on choosing specific lures to use.
One of the primary meals a bass will find in and around rocks is going to be crawfish, so something to emulate that particular creature is going to be a top choice. That said, I have found that Texas Rigged crawfish imitators are not designed to go into the crevices in search of a bite. You will lose a lot of tungsten weights trying to fight that battle. Thus, a jig tends to be my first option. Not to stop there, I prefer a jig that’s not going to find itself getting snagged constantly. The Strike King Structure Jig, from experience, is designed perfectly for being fished in and around these rocky areas. And, if downsizing profile is needed, you can rig your craw style plastic on the Structure Head.
I have had some magical days banging a square bill into riprap and even burning it over pea gravel banks. While these areas are great habitat for shad and smaller bait, and quickly moving square bill can trigger some fantastic bites while allowing you to cover a lot of water in the process. Even here though, the wrong square bill is going to offer you a lot of problems with getting snagged around some types of rock. The ideal crankbait here is going to be one that floats quickly and easily so that it has more of a tendency to float its way out of a snag as soon as you stop reeling. This action also helps give the bait a more erratic action to elicit more reaction bites from nearby bass.
Another great way to imitate the bait that hangs around rocks is to cast a spinnerbait. This may be my absolute favorite bait to throw around riprap in the early spring. I don’t have all the answers on why it shines the way it does this time of year, but it simply produces. And, since you can really control the depth of the retrieve, you can keep it bumping the top of the rocks without letting it get buried in them.
If you wake up tomorrow and head to the lake on a cold morning with some sunshine in the forecast, I highly recommend finding a rock bank. You can put together about as solid of a pattern as you could ask for during this pre-spawn season and have an absolute blast doing it!