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Tips for fishing shell beds

Shell and rock are oftentimes mixed together, and the bank’s composition may hint to what’s below your boat. Trees sweeten the spot. Photo by Gary Tramontina

Bass don't eat mussels, as far as we know.

But for some reason, bass and mussels go together like oysters and Louisiana hot sauce. In most lakes around the country, if you find shell bottom, you find bass for a major part of the year. It’s likely that the hard stratum is the base of a food chain that attracts crawfish and minnows, which in turn attract gamefish. In any case, shellbeds are go-to fishing spots for many top pros across a wide swath of bassing America. The 2014 Progressive Bassmaster Angler of the Year Greg Hackney routinely seeks out shellbeds anywhere from south Florida to northern Tennessee for tournament competition. Hackney had a big win in a major tournament last year on Pickwick, producing a notable four-day catch of 97-7, entirely from a single shellbed. Here’s what Hackney has to say about the “shell game.”

“There were so many bass and shad on that 75-yard stretch of bed that I could see an oil slick, like I’d see back home on saltwater sometimes, and all the fish in there weighed 4 to 6 pounds.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime spot, but they were right on that shellbed in 5 to 7 feet, a little way off the main channel.”
Hackney caught most of his fish on a Strike King KVD HC 2.5 square bill crankbait and a Strike King Shadalicious swimbait on a 3/4-ounce jighead. He also used a 3/4-ounce Strike King Denny Brauer Structure Jig when the shad bite slowed a bit under pressure. Hackney said the areas that were most productive appeared to have live mussels on them, rather than the usual shell remains from dead mussels.