Tips on How to Fish Rip-Rap
article by KENNY COVINGTON
Let me start off this month’s “Fishing with Kenny” article by wishing everyone a Happy New Year! May your line be tight, hooks stay sharp and hopefully throughout the year you will consistently keep putting fish in your live-wells. Now, let’s talk bass fishing!
Just about every lake I have fished has rock cover of some sort. Rock banks, or rip-rap as it is commonly called, might be the perfect year-round bass cover. On some lakes it will be sporadic, found only around certain stretches of bank or if it is used by a landowner to give additional support against soil erosion to his lakeside yard. In some bodies of water, such as the Quachita River, there are numerous areas where stretches of rip-rap in abundance, both man-made and natural, that are easily identified and fished. However, no matter where the rocks or rip-rap is located, this form of cover is a bass magnet.
For the next few minutes, I would like to discuss the seasonal patterns and lures that have proven to be effective for me over the years. The time of year can help determine the best techniques but you must also consider how the rocks are positioned under the water. What you don’t see on the bank is usually the key as to why some stretches of rip-rap are better than others. As you fish down a stretch of rip-rap, explore what is out in front and under the boat with your electronics, you will soon notice all rock banks are not the same.
Since we are currently in the winter months, let’s talk about what to look for and how to approach fishing rip-rap during the colder times of the year. The first thing I want to determine is what kind of depth the rocks are in or do they go out to. In the winter months I prefer to fish rock banks that are a bit steeper and maybe go out into a bit deeper water. This type of situation allows the fish to move vertically, from shallow to deep and vice versa, making their feeding habits much easier to predict. Once such an area is found, this can be a consistent fish producer all winter long.
This time of year, if I am trying to determine the potential of the rip-rap I am fishing, I tend to do better by keeping my lure selection simple. Over the years I have narrowed my selection to a two-pronged approach no matter the body of water I am fishing. Both lures, a jig and a flat sided crankbait, are good for numbers and big fish.
The size of the jig I use is critical. If the rocks are bigger, with more space in between them, the more your chances of getting hung up. For this scenario I will use a ¼ or a 3/8-ounce jig. When teamed with 20 lb. line the lighter jig tends to come through and over the rocks better. If the rocks are sparse and I feel I need to keep better contact with the bottom, I will use a ½ or ¾ ounce football head style jig and crawl my jig on the bottom. Irregardless of the jig, I always use either a black/blue or a Texas craw pattern.
The flat sided crankbait, for whatever the reason, is deadly for winter bass fishing. My choice of crankbait this time of year is a Bomber Flat A crankbait and I use two colors, Firetiger and Tennessee Shad. I throw these lures on fairly light line and usually will go with 10-12 lb. monofilament. I am not a fan of fluorocarbon as it tends to become brittle in colder water but it also tends to give you too much contact with the lure. One of the key things to remember is to keep your retrieve at a slow steady pace. You want to be able to feel the lure working through your rod tip.
When fishing rip-rap in the spring or early summer, I have found the flatter rock areas tend to produce better. Bass will use these places for all stages of the spawn and after bass spawn they will hang around to feed on the shad that use these same areas for their spawn. It is not uncommon to catch bass from the same stretch of rock banks from late February all the way through the end of May. As long as the area provides all the essentials a bass needs for survival, food, cover and a deep-water escape, this particular time of year, they won’t move far.
The number of lure choices for fishing rip-rap this time of year can be quite broad. I still will use a jig or a craw worm on occasion but now I prefer more horizontal moving baits so I can cover the water more effectively and catch bigger bass in the process. Topwaters such as a Spook, a Buzzbait and Pop-R are always on the deck of my boat as well as a double willow leafed spinnerbait, which has proven deadly during the shad spawn.
Another lure that is a proven fish catcher during the spring-early summertime frame is the square billed crankbait. The deflection factor during the retrieve is what makes this lure so effective and triggers the feeding instinct in the bass. While color as really a matter of one’s preference, I have found this time of year a chartreuse/black combination tends to out fish other color patterns. One thing to remember when fishing this style of crankbait down rocky banks, make every cast land as close as you can get it to the shoreline and try to keep your retrieves at a 45-degree angle from the bank.
Rip-rap banks can be dynamite when fished during the summer months at night. If the stretches of rock you are fishing happen to be well lit, even if only by street lights, you have a potential night time honey hole. Baitfish are attracted to the lights shining on the water and the bass are not far behind them. This is one of my favorite times and places to slow roll a ½ black single bladed spinnerbait or swim a 12-inch worm. This isn’t a numbers situation but it does produce more quality fish.
As summer turns into fall, as the nights get shorter and the water temperatures start cooling off, shad will start their migration to shallow water for their fall spawn. Any stretch of rip-rap or rocky bank that is parallel to deep water is a key feature that should not be passed up. Crankbaits and spinnerbaits are good choices as both will allow you to cover water and catch fish. The spinnerbait will usually catch your more quality fish while the crankbait is a good fish locator and will produce numbers.
Well, it looks as though we have run out of time and space again for another month. I sure hope we were able to share with you some information that will allow you to put more fish in the boat the next time you find yourself on your favorite lake. With the beginning of this new year, make it a point to get out and enjoy Mother Nature and the wonders of her world. If you happen to be fishing, that makes it even better.
Catch one for me and I will see you next month!