Ugly fishing habitat, beautiful results

Let’s face it, not everywhere we fish is the 1,000 Islands, Lake Champlain, Havasu or Clear Lake. Sometimes, you’re staring at some pretty dreadful looking scenery while trying to focus on the right cast.

Industrial waterfronts, docked barges, crumbled piers and algae-strewn seawalls – not exactly tourism brochure material. But let’s not be shallow here; even the homely wallflowers deserve a dance or two. You might even find yourself pleasantly surprised with what the most humble of habitats has to offer.

Especially, for the cold-season bass angler, these wallflowers offer attractive traits that can make them the belle of the ball. Heat retention, abrupt depth changes, forage concentration; find these elements and you'll find bass.

“On a natural lake or reservoir, you have this very traditional natural cover like grass and laydown trees, but in an industrial river — places like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, the Ohio River, certain parts of the California Delta — you don’t have that,” Elite pro Mike Iaconelli said. “But the fish use the available cover the same way that they’d use natural cover. The little subtleties are what you look for.”

On his Delaware River home waters, Iaconelli favors what he calls “Industrial Squares” — abandoned shipping ports once trafficked by vessels of yesteryear, but now frequented by wintering bass that appreciate the lack of current.

“I’ll circle those areas, and I’m looking for spots that have broken down because I know that the concrete or whatever the wall was made of is in the water below,” he said. “There’s a little pile of rubble, the crawfish are there and that’s where the fish are setting up.”

Pointing to the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers as some of his favorite visually-challenged fisheries, Alton Jones makes a couple of important observations. First, aesthetically pleasing downtown waterfronts, while not necessarily devoid of bass, typically offer less opportunity than industrial areas.

“Cities aren’t in the water, the industrial stuff is in the water,” Jones said. “The industrial areas are ugly, but they offer better fishing because of all the seawalls, barge tie-ups and pipes coming into the water. The good thing is what’s below the surface generally is a continuation of what’s above the surface, so there’s no guessing.”