8 tips for fishing seawalls and riprap

Here's how the pros exploit often-ignored covers that consistently hold fish

About the author

Tim Tucker

Tim Tucker was a legendary bass journalist and longtime Senior Writer for Bassmaster Magazine. He authored seven books on bass fishing. Tim died in 2007, but his work and legacy live on.

Tired of relying on your GPS to find that offshore spot? Eyes weary from trying to interpret the hidden world beneath your boat? Worn out from dragging that Carolina rig all over the lake bottom trying to come across that one magic spot?

If you are ready for a change of pace, try your hand at fishing rocky riprap and seawalls — those obvious shoreline-hugging features found on lakes, rivers and reservoirs across the country. These hard forms of cover can harbor bass throughout the year.

They are simple to locate and usually easy to fish — two aspects of angling that work to the advantage of even the most inexperienced basser. But knowledgeable fishermen know the little tricks and tactics that make these places pay off on a consistent basis.

Here, then, are eight tips for fishing riprap and seawalls:

1. Bernie Schultz's doormat seawall pattern

"This is something I always look for," veteran pro Bernie Schultz says as he maneuvers his boat through a maze of canals. "This can be a bonanza situation."

The Elite Series pro is referring to a spot where a large surface mat of water hyacinths has blown up against a long stretch of concrete seawall. He immediately ties on a Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits 3-inch Fat Baby Craw (with a big bullet weight) and begins picking the floating vegetation apart.

"Anytime a mat has floated up against a seawall, there's usually clean water underneath it all the way to the wall," he emphasizes. "It's a good situation because it combines horizontal cover with vertical cover and it's open underneath. That crawl space will attract a lot of fish.

"I flip right through the top of the mat, starting at the deep edge. But I never discount the seam between the mat and the seawall itself. I always fish that before I leave it."


To illustrate his point, Schultz catches (and releases) three keeper-size bass before heading on down the canal. In the process, he also proves that there is an art to exploiting the shoreline walls that bass call home.

2. Shaw Grigsby: Give a seawall a hug
 

Paralleling a wall with hard plastic lures or a buzzbait is one of the cardinal rules of fishing seawalls. But what about bottom bumping soft plastic baits?

Hugging the wall with a tube, creature, worm or lizard is just as important, according to Elite Series pro Shaw Grigsby.

"If I'm pitching to it, one of the most important things is to get the bait to fall as close against the wall as possible," the eight-time BASS winner advises. "There are two things that you can do to accomplish that presentation.

"With a baitcaster, you have to feed line to allow the bait to fall up against the wall. You do the same thing with spinning gear; don't close your bail until it gets to the bottom. The other thing you can do is pitch the lure toward the wall and have it hit 1 to 3 inches before the wall. This forces the bait to go to the wall, and then peel off line. It tends to fall more toward the wall."

3. Timmy Horton's fall pattern
 

In the fall when the bass are migrating into and out of creeks, Alabama Elite Series pro Timmy Horton has found that bridge riprap provides an easy, dependable way to intercept bass.

"Throughout the fall, fish are either moving shallow or coming back out, and they have to go through bridges to do that," the former BASS Angler of the Year states. "So riprap along bridges would be a prime pattern."

To exploit the situation, Horton relies on shad-colored crankbaits like Rebel Wee R or 5A and 6A Bombers to crank the rocks (a Bomber Long A jerkbait is another good choice). He makes parallel casts to the line of rocks and concentrates on deflecting the lure as often as possible.

"In the fall, one of the biggest keys is repetitive casts," Horton adds. "Late in the season, the bass on that riprap have seen lures all summer long. So I think repetition with your casts to a good looking area like a point of the riprap or a little tree laying down along the riprap is important."

4. Ron Klys: High water hot spots
 

In times of high water and flooded conditions, Florida pro Ron Klys focuses on the vertical cover provided by seawalls.

"For some reason, bass in high water situations tend to gravitate toward those concrete or wooden seawalls," the Bassmaster Series competitor notes. "I think it's because a seawall is a hard edge that the fish can relate to.

"The fish will stop there instead of roaming out onto a flat."

Klys, who doesn't believe bass have a preference between wooden or concrete walls, usually starts with a Berkley Frenzy Popper or Walker in the morning before switching to a Frenzy Rattl'r lipless crankbait or shallow diver once the sun gets high in the sky — operating on the premise that bass are most likely to be tight to the wall early and then back off later in the morning.

5. Peter Thliveros: Parallel parking for bass

There are very few hard-and-fast rules when it comes to bass fishing. But with both seawalls and lines of riprap, one rule rings true: Take a casting angle that enables them to be paralleled with a lure.

"Seawalls are one of my favorites," says veteran Florida Elite Series pro Peter Thliveros. "Generally with seawalls and/or bulkhead and riprap type situations, I like to throw a topwater and a spinnerbait in the morning, then a lipless crankbait or shallow diving crankbait later in the day.

"But regardless of the lure, I parallel them as much as possible and at least 45 (degree) them, depending on the water depth and position the fish are in. It is important to bring the lure as close as possible to the wall as it comes back to the boat. You can even trigger strikes by banging the bait against the wall as it comes back."

6. Marty Stone's riprap savvy

North Carolina Elite Series pro Marty Stone, the runner-up in last year's CITGO Bassmaster Angler-of-the-Year race, shares some wisdom about riprap fishing:

"Boat positioning is absolutely critical," he says. "I like to make quartering casts where I'm almost paralleling, staying maybe 15 feet off of the rocks and making long casts that keep the bait in the strike zone a long time. Invariably, the big stringers I've caught on this sort of cover have been from the edge of the rock bank to about 6 or 7 feet.

"It seems like when you're catching fish on riprap, you'll find that a certain stretch of riprap will be better than anything else in the lake for that day. When the bass really move up, there will be plenty of fish there to last that day — until conditions change.

7. Terry Scroggins: Look for the break

Seawalls are such obvious bass cover that the average angler tends to concentrate his or her efforts exclusively on the concrete or wooden face of the wall. But that is a mistake, according to top pro Terry Scroggins.

The Florida Elite Series angler has enjoyed some of his most productive days by targeting walls that have a nearby depth change.

"The seawalls I fish have good breaks in front of them," he says. "I fish the deeper water in front of the walls because the fish will move up to the shallower area to feed, and then pull back down.

"I normally have my boat in 20 to 25 feet, and the edge of the seawall might be 3 feet with a little ledge coming off it. That little shelf could be loaded with bass."

Scroggins' most productive tool for seawalls is a Texas rigged Zoom ribbon tail worm teamed with a 3/16-ounce weight.

8. Roland Martin's riprap roadmap

Recently retired all-time BASS winner Roland Martin believes that rocky riprap can actually intimidate fishermen. Whether it is the foundation of a bridge, current break or erosion control for a stretch of shoreline, riprap can look overwhelming in some situations.

"For example, a stretch of riprap might be two miles long and it all looks exactly the same," Martin says. "So where do you start?

"You start by understanding that what lies beneath the surface is not all exactly the same. It's important to locate irregular features in an otherwise uniform line of riprap.

"That could include a lot of things. Any visible log, treetop or flotsam that has drifted against the rocks or an unusually large rock is worth fishing. But there can be any number of concealed irregular features that will hold a lot more bass. On many lakes, a small ditch or creek may run into the riprap and come to a stop. Usually, a bridge crosses a channel, and there will be a culvert nearby on one side of the riprap foundation. This can be an outstanding spot."

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