You come off plane and allow the boat to settle down at the edge of a large stump flat. There are stumps both above and below the waterline in every direction. Where do you start?
Arkansas pro Mike McClelland's answer to that intimidating situation is to look for any oddity among otherwise uniform stump rows.
"You have to look for stumps that have more to them than just a stump sticking out of the water," the professional angler says. "Be observant about stumps that are on the edge of the river channel or the edge of a break that has some root system exposed. Those are definitely the stumps that are going to produce on a daily basis.
"Fishing stumps is a lot like targeting laydowns. You want to fish the key stumps — the ones that are positioned right. That is always a good starting point."
Elite Series pro Jeff Kriet has a lifetime of experience when it comes to fishing stumps, which are the unofficial state bass cover of his native Oklahoma.
For him, success on these forgotten tree trunks begins with an initial decision.
"The big key on stumps is whether to throw a reaction bait or a flipping bait," Kriet notes, "I would rather flip than throw a reaction bait, but the bass have to be holding tight to the stumps for that to work.
"The most important thing with stumps is to figure out what side the fish are on — the sunny side or the shady side. If you're fishing a lot of stumps, understanding where the bass will be positioned will allow you to cover a lot more water. To me, the most important thing in fishing this type of area is efficiency. If you have 500 stumps and 85 percent of your bites are on the shady side, then you won't waste nearly as much time."
"Stump fishing is all about deflection," the former Classic winner says. "Stumps for me are a killer place to get a reaction bite by deflecting a bait as many times as you can. To get that deflection, the ideal bait is a shallow running, wide-wobble, square-billed crankbait like the old Bagley versions.
"I learned that from reading articles in Bassmaster Magazine and watching (Rick) Clunn on TV. He would hit a stump at a different angle every cast, which gets a different angle deflection, and eventually he'd trigger a fish to bite.
"But it's not just lipped crankbaits. I think a reaction bite in general comes when the bait changes direction. So I like ripping a Rat-L-Trap so that it brushes off the stump enough to kick the rear end of it out."