If both bass and bass fishermen have a magnet, it is a strategically positioned piece of wood.
That can take many forms: a fallen tree with its roots on the bank and its branches extending well underneath the surface; a stumprow situated on a deep water ledge; shoreline bushes freshly flooded by rising water; a forest of standing timber; the extensive root system of a cypress tree; a brushpile anchored in a secret spot; a dock piling; a lone log hugging the lake bottom.
Those are just a few examples of the types of wet wood that attract both angler and prey. They are features of a lake, reservoir or river where the proper approach will usually produce a strike.
Here, then, are the 10 best tips for fishing wood, from some of the country's most experienced pros and guides.
To watch Kevin VanDam dissect a fallen tree, with jig in hand, is to see a skillful surgeon at work.
VanDam makes initial pitches to the heart of the tree, probing each individual junction formed by a major branch. His boat is positioned perfectly to enable him to methodically work each intersection of limbs along the trunk during the retrieve. If that effort goes unrewarded, the Michigan pro then drops the lure along the outer portions of the shallow, submerged tree.
"I always go right to the middle of cover, even if I have to throw over a lot of limbs and stuff, because I believe my best chances of catching the biggest fish living in that tree are with that first pitch," the seven-time Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year says. "If you can get a bait in there real quietly and drop it on his head the very first time, your chances are a lot better (in that shallow water situation) than if you fish it from the outside and work your way in."
Few lures are as universally productive around submerged wood cover as the rubber-skirted jig. That is especially true of underwater brush and shallow laydown trees.
"You would be hard-pressed to find a better bait than a jig with those types of cover," emphasizes Joe Thomas, an accomplished pro from Ohio. "Day in and day out, there's no better bait for wood."
For casting and pitching to submerged brushpiles, Thomas utilizes a 1/4- to 1/2-ounce Arkie jig, which sports a standard stand-up-style head with a loud external rattle. Black-and-blue or chartreuse are his usual color choices. The exception is in clear water, when he switches to green-pumpkinseed. His trailer is an Uncle Josh No. 1 pork chunk (when the water temperature is 55 degrees or colder) or a 4-inch plastic craw that has been reduced to about 3 inches in length. Thomas trims the jig's weedguard at a 45 degree angle, down to about 1/8 inch above the point of the hook to ensure a better hooking percentage.
"My first concern with fishing brush with a jig is trolling-motor speed and boat control," he adds. "To have total boat control, you need to try to fish into the current or wind. That way, you can actually govern your speed and you won't have the wind pushing you into the cover. The second thing I like to do is keep my trolling motor at a low, constant speed to minimize the noise and water displacement."