Across the country fish use many different types of structure or cover to live and feed in. Weather it's rocks, docks, lay down logs, or brush piles, as the year goes on and the seasons change you will notice certain ones being more productive then others. And trust no matter how random it can sometimes seem, there is a rhyme and a reason to why they are using cover in a specific area or more importantly depth range. It is based on factors such as time of year, weather conditions, water color, water temperature, and last but not least the amount of baitfish in the area. Most species of fish are predators and if there is no food there then obviously the fish will go elsewhere if they have the option. In this article I really want to focus on brush piles. Whether they are man made or natural from trees and debris falling in the water the simple fact is that most times of the year there are fish holding on some sort of brush.
Brush piles are a perfect place for baitfish such as bluegill, and shad to live around and hide in. With the presence of the bait fish the predators such as bass are going to be close by. Now throughout the year like I said some brush piles will be more productive then others. As the water temperature changes the fish move, and this is related to the thermocline level. This is the level where the water temperature is the most comfortable to the fish and where the water is the most oxygen rich. The hotter the water temperature the deeper the thermocline will be. In lakes that have clear water the thermocline will also be deeper so don't be surprised to find fish in extremely deep water in the summer on a clear lake or reservoir. To find the this productive healthy water depth having good quality electronics such as the Lowrance HDS Gen2 Fishfinder is important. Just idle around your local lake or reservoir and pay attention to what depth you see the majority of the baitfish. Next check suspecting areas where brush piles might be placed that are close to that same depth range and there is a good chance that baitfish and bass will be near by.
So now that you have the proper depth figured out the next step is actually physically locating the brush. People will sink man made brush piles in a variety of different places such as points, creek channels, river channels, or probably the most common, docks. In my opinion the easiest to find brush piles are near docks. They are easy to find because of a few keys that are normally a dead giveaway that a fisherman lives there and has possibly sunk brush around his dock. Two things I really like to look for are lights, and rod holders. These are definitely things that should be paid attention too when looking for brush. The next step to this simple method of finding brush is physically stopping and casting a weighted soft plastic and feeling around the bottom with the bait. This is a no electronics fool proof way to find brush. Now if you have side imaging technology then this process is much easier. All you have to do is idle by the front of a row of docks and your graph will show you which docks have brush around them within 200 ft of either side of your boat. In order to find brush on the points and dropoffs having electronics is critical and will really make your search easier and more effective.
Once I have brush located no matter where it is there are a couple really important things I like to do. The first is marking the piles physically before I start to fish them which is very important for brush that is way out on points or sometimes in the middle of the river on a ledge. To do this I use a Bass Pro Shops Marker Buoy. There are a couple ways to do it, you can drop the buoy right next to the brush or one of my favorite methods dropping it where you want the boat to be positioned, and then using a reference point on the shore to line up and cast at. Normally when I'm fishing brush for bass I will use slow moving baits such as Jigs, Carolina Rigs, Texas Rigs, and Shakey Heads. Fishing these slow on the bottom I will crawl and work my bait through the cover letting it lift and then fall in the limbs. I always try and do this on a semi tight line, if you have to much slack in your line the fish will often pull you deep into the brush which makes them almost impossible to get out. So be ready to set the hook quick and get the fish moving up and out towards the boat. I like to use pretty heavy tackle when fishing my jigs, texas rigs, and carolina rigs for that reason exactly. I like to use Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon line from 17lb to 25lb test, on a heavy action rod and a high speed reel. The only exception is when I'm using a shakey head set up and in that case I will use either 8lb flouro, or a 20lb braid mainline with a fluorocarbon leader. At certain times of the year baits such as Spro Little John DD crankbaits and heavy 1oz spinnerbaits can be very effective when bumped into the brush. I would suggest going to Bass Pro Shops and picking up a weighted lure retriever or retrieving pole for getting your baits free from deep brush.
So go out on your local body of water and look for the key ingredients. First find the depth the baitfish are using whether it is 2 feet or 30 feet, next locate and mark the brush, and finally present your lure properly to the waiting fish. Always be patient and if you are getting frustrated and having limited success just keep searching because you never know when you might run into the right brush pile that is holding the mother load of big fish. I'll see you on the water!!!