What once stood tall and proud as a bird sanctuary now lies lowly in the water, providing food and shelter for bass.
A tree fallen from the terra firma into the aquatic world is known to bass anglers as a laydown, blowdown or simply a log, depending on how long it has been in the water. The large trunk and heavy branches of a laydown offer ample shade and cover for bass to set up an ambush zone, while the algae buildup on the decaying tree attracts baitfish into the bass’ trap.
Laydowns in bass fisheries across the country come in all shapes and sizes. Some still have tall tops attached that might only have a limb or two showing above the surface, but under the water is a bass haven full of thick branches. Others might be slick logs with only a few stubby boughs left.
Its fish-holding qualities make a laydown a prime target for Bassmaster Elite Series pros, no matter where they fish throughout the country. Elite Series pro Stephen Browning of Arkansas exploited logs washed up on a sandbar at the Red River to catch a 16-pound, 10-ounce limit on the final day of the 2013 Bass Pro Shops Central Open and climbed from 12th place to a victory.
THE PERFECT LAYDOWN
Since this type of cover can be found just about anywhere on a lake or river, which laydown is perfect for fishing in the eyes of the Elite Series pros?
Browning defines the perfect laydown as having a straight, medium-size trunk and six or seven branches with limbs about as wide as a man’s arm or leg. The fallen tree should extend from the bank out to 15 to 20 feet of water. “It gives the fish different depth ranges that they can possibly use,” he says.
The perfect laydown to Virginian John Crews is a toppled hardwood tree that has been in the water for a while. The Elite Series pro prefers for the laydown to extend about 20 to 30 feet off the shoreline and sit over a depth change, such as a channel swing that nudges up to the end of the tree lying along a flat bank.
Cover availability determines which type of laydown is perfect for eight-time B.A.S.S. winner Davy Hite. In sparse cover situations, Hite’s ideal laydown is an old log that has been sitting in the water for a long time and has only one or two pieces of branches still sticking out of the trunk. “That sounds crazy because if you have better laydowns with more cover available then that is not going to be a good one,” says Hite, who believes the sparse log is best because it allows him to land fish more easily without worrying about snagging in a bunch of limbs.
“In our business, the fish that we are able to land and put on the scales are the ones that count,” he says. “Those big ones that get away just make great stories.”
If he fishes an area full of blowdowns, Hite keys on the tree with lots of thick limbs because it will hold the biggest fish in that area. The South Carolina pro also looks for the laydown with the best depth under it when fishing an area loaded with fallen trees.
LAYDOWNS WITH POTENTIAL
Whether on the main lake or in a cove, a laydown extending out to the first drop has plenty of potential to Browning. “I just want it to be where the first major contour break is,” he says. “I want that tree to be at least hanging over that area.” The Arkansas pro notes the drop could be only 3 to 4 feet deep for laydowns on a river, or as deep as 10 to 15 feet for a reservoir blowdown.
Freshly fallen trees knocked down during a storm are also good bass attractors. “It doesn’t take the fish but a day or so for them to get on some really good, heavily foliaged green trees,” Browning says. “I have seen some days when you can run that pattern a day or two after a storm, and it is lights out.”
Isolated laydowns are potential targets for Crews wherever he fishes. He also tries any blowdowns he finds on a point or in a cut.
Hite believes all laydowns have some potential, so he fishes just about every one he finds. “I have caught big fish on the very old, sparse ones with just the trunk there and all the limbs have decayed, and then I have caught fish on ones that are green and very new,” he says.