(Editor's note: The following is the latest installment in a series of fishing tips presented by The Bass University. Check back each Friday for a new tip.)
When other anglers are plying thick wood cover with single-hook lures like jigs and soft plastics, Kevin Short has no qualms about throwing a square-bill crankbait with multiple trebles right into the heart of the jungle. When he finds a stretch of bank or a tributary with lots of laydowns, he works hard to hit them all and hit them thoroughly.
“The key is to hit a lot of pieces of wood,” he said. Later he added that “You’re going to get hung up. That’s part of the game. The payoff is worth the little bit of time you get hung up.” While he sometimes has to go in after his lures, often he’ll be able to free them from a distance and then continue to dissect the cover.
As he approaches a laydown, he analyzes it with his mind before making a cast. How is it positioned? How thick is the trunk? How many branches does it have?
“The perfect laydown, especially in a creek situation or in a tidal situation, will have the base of the tree laying up on the bank and obviously the tip will run down into deeper water.” When he finds one that looks promising, he’ll hit it with 8 to 10, or even more casts.
“Your bait has to hit the cover,” he explained. When he feels it hit, he’ll stop reeling and use his rod to work the lure over the cover. By giving it slack, the bait wants to go backward and float up, and often that change of direction will trigger strikes.
This is close-quarters combat, and Short said that “it surprises people sometimes how close I’ll get.” While he doesn’t typically make long casts, he doesn’t make a lot of noise, either. He’ll Power-Pole down to avoid running the trolling motor or hitting unseen underwater cover, and oftentimes he’ll turn his electronics off as well.
Once he gets a bite, he tries to piece together the puzzle. How deep was the wood? Was it on a shallow flat or on a channel bank? When a second bite confirms those suspicions, he’ll often expand that into a pattern.
In between likely targets he’ll often fish a different lure, like a buzzbait, hoping to “uncover a different bite that will work hand-in-hand with your crankbait bite.” There is frequently a wealth of underwater cover – either isolated or extending out from visible targets – that can’t be seen as you approach, and by fishing the entire bank without fixating too long on low-percentage areas, he often adds a number of key fish to his livewell over the course of the year. While the buzzbait garners aggressive strikes, especially when wads of bait are present and flipping around, the crankbait serves as a seeing-eye dog, allowing him to understand the makeup and positioning of those hidden targets.
If you want to gain additional insights into Short’s mastery of square-bills, including how he sets the hook and how he keeps bass buttoned up, check out his full video, available only by subscribing to The Bass University TV.