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Ledge Fishing 101
By Eric Foister

 

I know from past experience that nothing is more intimidating or frustrating than trying to find fish “offshore”.  We all have that comfort zone of wanting to throw to that log or willow bush.  It’s a confidence thing.  Most of us can go right down a bank or grassline and even if we don’t get bit we feel like at least we are in the strike zone of a fish.  I know in my case early on I struggled fishing offshore or away from the bank because I felt like I was lost and my bait was not anywhere near a fish let alone close enough to get a bite.  Over the years I learned to get over that feeling and hone down to what I look for before I ever even throw bait.

First off a ledge can be never ending and overwhelming especially on big bodies of water.  Where do you even start?  I always look at the creek channels.  I start looking at the big creeks and find where the channel is and really look for where it changes.  When I study my maps or GPS chip I am looking for inside turns or outside turns or where it intersects a point.  I look for the nearest flat adjacent to turns in the channel.  When I find the flat I idle around and watch my Lowrance 332c.  That unit has without a doubt increased my offshore catches. The color really stands out and it’s pretty cost efficient compared to some other units. I look for two main things 1) The highest spot on the flat closest to deep water access and 2) the sharpest break off the flat into deep water.  Ideally for me I look for ledges that are 5-12 on top that tumble down into at least 15-30 ft into the channel.  That’s what I look for first.  If I find a concentration of fish then I will look for gravel or rock areas on the lip of the flat close to the previous areas. Those fish will be constantly moving up and down the flat and will hold on any changes on the bottom.

This may sound a little obvious but it is my belief that we catch fish in “feeding areas” more so than “living areas”.  How many times have we pulled up to a point and caught 3 nice fish and then come back hours later or days later and never get a bite.  That point is a feeding area.  To me the tops of ledges are feeding areas and the lips or side of the ledge is a living area.  From my experience I usually catch “keeper fish” on top with a c-rig, T-rig worm, or even a Crankbait.  Almost all of the big fish I have caught on ledges has been right at the lip or even on second tier on some rock or stumps or a combination of both.  That’s why I always look for the steepest drop because that’s where I catch my biggest fish. Everybody talks about the “sweet spot”.  What is it?  It can be anything from a change in bottom content, Stumps or other types of cover, or even grass.  It’s something that concentrates the fish.  Just like a laydown or log on the bank. 

I am a big C-rig fisherman.  I know people complain about not catching good fish with a c-rig.  Gerald Swindle hates using a C-rig and even commented that he feels like he is out of it if he throws it.   I love to use a 1 ounce tungsten weight with a Prowler Baby Brush Dawg for almost all of my applications.  It helps me feel better and I can cover a lot of water if I need to. It really helps me locate that sweet spot so I can throw other baits on it later. I will say I got a lesson from my co-angler on KY Lake during a recent Stren Tournament.  I pulled up to one of my spots and was throwing my typical 1 ounce weight and could not get bit.  My co-angler was throwing a 3/8 ounce and whacked a 3.5, 2.5, and another keeper and I never got bit using the same bait.  There are times when a lighter weight is needed.  I think the biggest reason people catch a lot of short fish is WHERE they are throwing the bait.  On top where the feeding areas are you will get a lot of short bites. If you fish it deeper and on the drops, you can catch quality fish.

On the sides of the ledge my favorite bait has been a 5/8 Eakins FB jig in Missouri craw or PBJ.  Without a doubt this bait can flat out catch them.  I use a 4 or 5 inch twin tail grub as my trailer.  I like to keep my boat out in the channel and throw up to the flat and bring it down to the sides.  At times I will even work it uphill for a different angle.  When I do get my bait near stumps I try and hop it and make it hit a stump.  The fish crush it.  It’s like the bait is invading its home and its really mad and just kills it.  I think it’s more out of instinct than hunger.

Timing is a huge deal.  Sometimes I will have to pull up on a spot 4 or 5 times in the tournament before I get a bite.  Don’t get discouraged.  In a typical one day tournament I like to have 6-8 spots and rotate them all day. In a 3-4 day tourney I like to have 20 spots.  With all the pressure on our lakes today I think ledge fishing is a must for anyone serious in trying to catch more and bigger fish. So next time out look for some “ledge fish”!!

Eric Foister
Huntington , IN