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Down Deep | Print |  Email
Written by John Murray   
Friday, 04 March 2011 16:47

Every area of the West harbors lakes with the potential to produce good bites in very deep water. On the right kind of lake, you can tap an almost undisturbed population of bass using depths from 40 to even 100 feet. These fish are so -deep that no one messes with them, and their numbers are surprising to a lot of people.

Finding and catching these super-deep bass is not easy, and not every lake with deep water has a population of very deep fish. To locate a deep population, look for these few key conditions.

Spotting Deep Spots

Obviously, the first thing to look for is depth. Canyon lakes that are well over 100 feet deep are excellent candidates. A good flow of water is another key condition. Look for lakes, like secondary reservoirs, with current coming in and going out. Good deep-water lakes also tend to be located in colder areas and possess shad or smelt that live in deep water. A good percentage of the baitfish in these lakes go even deeper in winter and the bass follow.

On cloudy days, most bass tend to come up, so sunny days are best for finding deep-water bass. Good electronics are essential. I run a Pinpoint 7520 on the front and back of my boat, and what I look for is baitfish activity. I look for a layer of baitfish very deep-usually 35 to 75 feet. Anywhere this layer of baitfish intersects good structure is worth a try. And remember, in winter, the bass tend to use the bases of structure, rather than the tops like they do in summer. Bottoms of cliffs, the deepest part of a channel, the base of a hump-all of these are likely places to find very deep bass.

When fishing deeper than 40 or 50 feet, my presentation is basically vertical. If I make a cast of 10 feet, that's a long one. I start out with a 1-ounce Yamamoto jig or Crippled Herring spoon, drop it down and watch my electronics closely. I'll bounce the jig in two- or three-inch hops-not to cover water, but just to get attention. The jig and the spoon are locator lures and I want the active fish in the area to go after them. The bite varies, but the first few bites in a school can be surprisingly aggressive.

At these extreme depths, fluorocarbon line really helps me feel the less-aggressive bites, and in most cases I'll use 16-pound Sugoi fluorocarbon. Also, I try to match my lure to the baitfish, so my main colors are white and smoke/sparkle. Occasionally I'll use watermelon, but I use white more than anything. At those depths, though, I don't think color is as important as putting the bait precisely in front of the fish.

The key to this whole system is varying your depth. Just because the baitfish are showing at 50 feet doesn't mean I'll live there. I'll go up and down a bit, looking for the bass and moving fairly quickly. Once I do start catching fish, I'll stay at that depth pretty much all day. If I change spots, though, I may have to start looking for the magic depth all over again. But always, find that layer of baitfish, then look for good structure at the same depth.

Dropshot Backup

If I'm catching fish and the action slows down, I'll stop fishing the jigs and spoons. Instead, I go right to a dropshot rig-my prime technique for picking up stragglers. I fish a 4½-inch smoke or green Roboworm on 6-pound P-Line right under the boat. Fishing a rig this small that deep is a very slow way to fish, so save it for when you absolutely KNOW the fish are still there, but have quit biting.

A ¼-ounce Kanji X-Metal tungsten weight, combined with the P-Line, will help you feel what your rig is doing down there. And make sure you use the best quality hook you can-a 1/0 Owner is perfect.

As a last resort when the fish have stopped biting, I'll go off-structure. Sometimes the fish move off and suspend over open water. If I think this is what's happened, I'll take a heavy-head purple or black/yellow Westy Worm and cast it out into VERY deep water, letting it fall all the way down.

They'll usually take it on the fall, and you'll feel the fish when you pick up the bait. I may hop it uphill a couple of times, too. The best way to release a really deep-caught fish is to use a metal basket or milk crate, with a long rope tied to it. With the open side of the crate down and the fish inside, lower the basket to the depth you caught the fish at. Once the fish is back down there, he'll be able to swim right out from under the crate.

On the right kind of lake, very deep water can hold good fish. I don't think the biggest fish in the lake are down there, and even though you may not catch as many fish as the shallower guys, your fish might be a ¼ to ½-pound better, and you usually won't be sharing them with anyone. Fishing this deep isn't one of the things I'll do if I'm just fun-fishing, but if faced with a tournament on a heavily pressured lake, it can be worth the effort.


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