When fishing the bank generally you are looking for individual fish catching one here and there. Now when fishing off shore you are searching for the honey hole, a spot or area holding sometimes hundreds of fish. Some keys to look for when searching for deep water fish are points, humps, ledges, rock piles, shell beds, or man made brush piles. Having a good depth finder and GPS unit is very important to mastering deep water fishing. When I am looking for a school of fish offshore I generally will use my GPS on my Lowrance HDS-8 Gen2 Fishfinder to study and locate where drop offs or humps are located. Once I've chosen a couple different places to look I will drive my boat over the hump or drop off, while using my fishfinder to look for brush piles or rock piles. While searching I always have my Bass Pro Shops Marker Buoy in my hand ready to drop it where I see structure that looks promising. This will give you a perfect reference point so you can properly work the structure. The final key to look for while searching is bait fish, if you don't see balls of bait near the bottom you are probably not going to get bit and should search for a different area.
So all of this preparation and searching takes place before an angler has even made a cast. Deep water fishing is really more like hunting, where the preparation and searching is just as important as making a good shot. Once your preparation is complete and you have found an area with all of the proper ingredients then it is time to go to work. There are many different ways to catch offshore fish once you have them located, such as a, carolina rig, football jig, or a texas rigged worm, but my very favorite is a deep diving crankbait. Crankbaits allow you to make relatively quick casts fanning around the area searching for the proper angle to trigger a strike. What I mean by proper angle is, every fish has a certain presentation or cast that will be the best for triggering it to strike, and this can very from day to day or week to week, so keep an open mind. With your marker buoy in place a circle the wagon technique is hard to beat. Simply begin on one side of the structure and work your way around the buoy throwing casts from many different directions and at many different angles. Once you have triggered a fish to bite always throw back with the exact same cast. More often then not you will find that one specific cast through an exact spot will get you bit over and over again.
When deep cranking I like to use a 7'9" TFO Gary's Tactical Series Rod accompanied by a Bass Pro Shops Pro Qualifier Baitcast Reel with a 5.2:1 gear ratio. This slower gear ratio will make cranking in big billed crankbaits easier as well as allowing your bait to reach deeper depths with still a good amount of line out. With high speed reels by the time your bait hits the bottom your bait will be half way back to the boat. The slow winch type reel is the way to go. The bait that I have the most confidence in is the SPRO Little John DD Crankbait. Others such as the Strike King 6XD Series and the Bomber Fat Free Shad will also catch fish, and sometimes the fish can be very picky changing which one they prefer from day to day. To make the baits achieve their maximum depth potential, long casts and light line are very important. Generally I will use 10lb or 12lb Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon. And don't forget the key to catching crankbait fish whether in shallow water or deep water is to make your bait hit the bottom and contact the cover.
Keep your bait down where the fish live and are feeding and find the proper angle, and then hold on tight. Deep water fish are generally big and healthy and i'd be willing to bet that the very biggest fish on your lake lives on deep structure in the summer months. Remember starting today May 28th and ending June 16th Bass Pro Shops Father's Day sale is going on. One of my favorite items on sale is the Bass Pro Shops Crankin Stick which is a perfect affordable rod to get started with crankbait fishing from deep water to shallow. This would also make a perfect gift for a fisherman looking to expand his arsenal and grow as an angler!
I'll see you on the water!