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holding under bridges is not news to anglers. Many are familiar with
their fertile ecosystems and fish-holding capabilities. However, I
challenge those anglers to move away from the rip rap banks and
describe in detail the bridge supporting structure beneath the water.
Understanding bridge foundation types, angling applications, and
seasonal patterns can be the key to selecting the most effective
presentation for the structure-minded bass.
starters, a foundation is a term used to describe all the structural
components required to support a bridge deck. Foundations can be
grouped into two basic classifications: spread footings and piles. As
its root word insinuates, a footing resembles a “foot” placed upon
the river or lake bottom. A pile, on the other hand, extends beyond
the subsurface to a predetermined depth. Most anglers have seen both
foundation types, whether it was consciously recognized or not. From
the perspective of the bass, the various foundations represent a
multitude of habitats.
is More to a Bridge than Meets the Eye
footings are one of the oldest bridge foundation types. The relative
ease of construction has made these foundations commonplace in
historic applications. There are a few distinctive characteristics to
these supports. A large concrete “base plate” is constructed upon
a stable subsurface. That plate is generally rectangular in shape, and
can extend across the entire width of the bridge deck to support
single or multiple piers. Since the spread footing is thick, current
breaks are created at the bottom corners of the structure.
bridge piles are relatively hydrodynamic in shape. They can be
identified as a series of steel cylinders. Piles, however, may not be
immediately visible above the water when a group is assembled to
create a pier. From above, a pier may look like a single support to
the bridge. While below, rows of piles bear the load of the structure.
Bridge piles are commonly drilled or driven, and the cylinder is often
used as a form for the poured concrete. While a single pile creates
less turbulence than spread footings, multiple piles are required to
carry the same loading. This provides additional locations for bass to
Current to Your Advantage
zone at the base of a bridge foundation can provide additional targets
for the bass angler desiring to put more fish in the boat. The drop
shot rig, popularized by national touring professionals, is a top
choice for effectively presenting lures at the bottom. In this
technique, line size plays a critical role. Lines that are too great
in diameter will pull the lure out from the current break and away
from the fish. To minimize the effect, selecting one with a smaller
diameter is not a bad idea; the challenging process of landing a big
fish on light line can only occur after it is enticed into a strike.
As a second factor, increased drag that accompanies larger lines will
make strikes more difficult to detect. Use of an ultra-sensitive,
light-weight rod is paramount when attempting to maintain feel with a
lure in current. Rogue Rods of White City, Oregon has three rods
specifically tailored to the drop shot technique. The DS 693S is one
spinning model that handles light line with ease. With small,
featherweight Recoil line guides, it is one of the lightest and most
sensitive drop shot rods on the market today. With the proper
equipment, the drop shot can also be effective around bridges where
current is not commonplace.
all bridges are constructed over rivers or streams. Many will cross
over channels separating bays or additional lakes in a chain. Those
geographic constrictions can have flow generated by factors other than
gravity. Wind is the most recognizable. A body of water exposed to
differential wind speeds creates “artificial” current. In those
situations, bass can be much more aggressive than their
current-acclimated counterparts when baitfish are caught off guard.
With a spontaneous flow, easy meals are at hand for hungry bass. The
temporary current can also occur in opposite directions within a
relatively short period of time. When a storm approaches with strong
winds, a tidal effect is created under the bridge as water surges from
one area into the other, and subsequently recedes to a stable level
after the event. In those circumstances, the movement is most
prevalent at the top of the water. The wind provides the force which
acts upon the top of the water column. Again, surface lures will be
effective; however, alternative bottom techniques that cannot be
utilized in rivers are also good choices. The new Gambler Giggy Head
jig excels in chunk rock and light bite situations. Coupled with a
semi-buoyant finesse lure, the jig will stand straight up when it
comes into contact with the bottom. In addition, the unique lure
keeper extending below the head is designed for easy weedless rigging
and prevents rotational bait fouling during light pick-ups.
Bridge Fishing Nuances
Another factor not to overlook when fishing bridges is shade. The
position of the sun in the horizon shades different areas around a
foundation throughout the day. Bass will use the shade to their
advantage in ambushing prey. The presence of shade, or lack thereof,
can be used to further refine bridge patterns for the time of day.
The fall season brings migration of both bait fish and bass. Migration
routes through a lake chain or river system are often intersected by
bridges. Bridge system habitats that may only support a few bass
throughout the year can be fortified by migrating baitfish. This
influx of supplementary forage will attract additional bass, and often
in great numbers. In addition, the seasonal end of the aquatic
vegetation life cycle encourages bass to search for temporary habitat
prior to wintering. Chunking spinnerbaits and minnow–mimicking lures
are a perfect choice around bridges in the fall.
Rap. Finally, rip rap along the base of a foundation is often
overlooked in lieu of the obvious rocky banks leading to the bridge
deck itself. Rip Rap is often placed to provide additional protection
against erosion at the foundation base. The placement of foundation
rock is most common for older bridges and those structures that cross
natural flowages of water. Diving Crankbaits ricocheted off rip rap
can elicit reaction strikes where other techniques cannot. Carolina
Rigged creature baits and Ugly Otters retrieved upstream can be slid
over and presented tight to the rocks.
Simple for Some