LAYDOWNS TO AVOID
When a fishery is loaded with laydowns, Browning shuns fallen trees that are extremely bushy or extremely bare. He also disdains fishing softwood laydowns, except in the early spring and during the spawn, when bass seem to prefer hiding in the spindly limbs of cedars or pine trees.
“There are no bad laydowns,” Crews claims. “I have caught fish from dirt-shallow laydowns, even in clear water.” However, the eight-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier does avoid a laydown with long, thick strands of algae growing on it because his lures ball up in the goop.
Hite tries all laydowns during practice and then relies on a process of elimination to separate the good from the bad. “When you pattern fish you can certainly determine which ones to avoid,” he says.
BEST MOSS GROWERS
“A cedar tree [laydown] grows the most amount of algae, but when all that algae grows on it, it is kind of hard for the fish to live in that tree,” Hite says. “The fish have to be beside it.” So a cedar laydown turns into a giant moss ball that attracts baitfish to feed on it, but bass have nowhere to set up ambush points and must cruise along the perimeter of the laydown to pick off prey.
Hite’s favorite laydown species for producing the right amount of algae and fewer hangups are mesquite trees in Texas and sweetgum trees in the East. “Oak trees have a very gnarly, tough bark on them, and you get hung a lot easier in those trees,” he says.
Browning and Crews also believe hardwood trees offer the perfect combination of algae growth to draw baitfish and thick branches for bass to use for cover and shade. They concur that the flimsy limbs of conifer laydowns fail to provide much cover for bass and make it difficult to run lures through without snagging.
“I like hardwood trees more so than the pine trees year-round,” Browning says. “Oak trees will hold fish year-round, compared to other types of trees.”
Hite believes whether he is fishing Santee Cooper in South Carolina, Falcon Lake in Texas or Clear Lake in California, there is one type of laydown he can find fish holding on year-round. He describes this blowdown as being about a year old with large-diameter limbs to provide good cover and sitting on a sloping bank where bass can be found along the tree anywhere from 6 inches to 15 feet deep.
Some laydowns seem to hold fish better during various seasons. “There are a lot of times you can pattern fish on certain laydowns,” Browning says. “It seems like early in the spring when the fish start moving up and getting in that sunning mode, they can be on just about anything, but they like the limbs of that tree to be kind of high in the water column, even up above the surface, more so than the branches all being submerged.”
The Arkansas pro has actually seen prespawn bass hanging in the treetops of the laydowns on sunny, early spring days. He theorizes that the fish might be seeking the comfort of some heat emitting from the treetop.
During the winter and summer, Browning prefers fishing laydowns along bluffs or channel banks. He targets downed trees and old logs on flatter banks in the spring and fall.
Crews also prefers laydowns on bluffs or 45-degree banks either on the north or south side of the lake during winter. Any blowdown situated in an area leading to a spawning pocket, either off the main channel or three-quarters back into a creek, draws Crews’ attention in the springtime. He also looks for nesting fish in shallow laydowns along the flat spawning banks.
When he is fishing a reservoir in the summer, Crews searches for laydowns in the upper riverine sections where the water is stained and the fish are more active in the shallows. Crews favors a laydown with current flowing around it when he fishes on a river during the summertime.
Laydowns hanging over channel drops on the main channel or in the back of a pocket become prime targets for Crews in autumn.
Whether it’s a fresh blowdown from a storm, a broken-down tree uprooted by bank erosion or an old log washed up on a sandbar, a laydown is always worth a cast or two to catch the quality fish living there.