Trophy Hunt

How to fish the seven spots where big bass rule.

Field & Stream Online Editors

To catch a trophy-class largemouth, you've got to forget about the places you usually find fish and think deeper.

Experienced anglers and biologists agree that when a bass grows large enough (usually between 4 and 8 pounds) to become the dominant fish in its immediate environment, its lifestyle changes dramatically. Most important to fishermen, big bass move into deeper water-on average, 4 to 5 feet deeper than smaller bass. Mature fish become wary, like mature whitetails, and use the deep water as a sanctuary. Although a big bass may feed and spawn in relatively shallow areas, the time they spend there is minimal, often under cover of darkness, and they rarely go far from access to deep water.

Here are seven key places to consider when targeting big bass. As you fish, try to find places with multiple factors that together make a spot even more attractive. And remember, the best part of finding big-bass hideouts is that they tend to produce monsters year after year.

**1. Steep-Sided Points **
Points hold bass because they offer a natural movement corridor from deeper water to the shallows used by forage fish. The presence of cover like flooded timber, stumps, or rocks also helps attract and hold baitfish. On lake maps, look for points that fall into a channel, such as those at the mouth of a tributary. If you can locate these features near a spawning area, your chances of success increase, especially during the prespawn and postspawn. Big bass are more likely to use points that drop steeply into deeper water because of the vertical freedom it gives them. Tips and Tactics: Deep-diving crankbaits can work, but also try Carolina rigs with lizards and worms. If the bottom is relatively clear of brush, consider drop-shotting.

**2. Isolated Weedbeds **
Smaller weedbeds and hydrilla patches that stand alone frequently signal a depth change. For example, they may outline a high spot or hump that has deeper water around it. Big bass are often loners and will take over a piece of prime habitat like this. The mouths of large tributaries are excellent places to check, but you can find isolated weedbeds anywhere. Think in terms of quick deep-water access. Tips and Tactics: Spinnerbaits, floating frogs, and soft weedless jerkbaits work well near the surface. For a slow presentation on the bottom, try rolling a spinnerbait or crawling a jig.

** 3. Channel Bends **
Forage fish migrate down channels, and brush caught along the outside of a bend provides good ambush opportunities. Study a lake map that shows the primary river channel. Bends of 45 to 90 degrees that come after a long, straight stretch are best. Tips and Tactics: Crankbaits and soft plastics normally cover the water most effectively. Cast across the bend from all angles; every piece of structure like this contains one key feature, which may be only a single stump, that attracts and holds the largest fish.

**4. The First Breakline off a Flat **
Breaklines, or sudden dropoffs, provide a depth change that attracts baitfish and other forage. For bass, these represent not only feeding areas but also safety zones. The best ones are close to places where the depth varies very little over a large area. A map offers you your best chance to find a flat. On the water, look for a large cove and idle straight out from it as you study your depthfinder. The mid- to lower-lake flats are usually best. Tips and Tactics: Keep your boat in deeper water and cast crankbaits or swim baits up on the flat at a 45-degree angle, then reel them across and over the edge. For slower presentations, hop heavy plastic spider jigs along the edge and over the drop into deeper water.

**5. Outside Edge of Vegetation **
The outside, or deeper, edge of aquatic plants frequently marks a depth change, a change in bottom composition, or both. Bass patrol this line to feed on baiitfish using the vegetation for food and sanctuary. Stay in the lower half of a reservoir and fish the main lake or the largest tributaries where the outside edges of vegetation, including hyacinths, hydrilla, or wiregrass, are well defined. Tips and Tactics: The deeper outside edge is best in summer and early winter and can be fished effectively with spinnerbaits, heavy jigs, and plastic worms. Look for points, indentations, or other different features along the edge.

6. Submerged Roadbeds
Old roads inundated when reservoirs were formed provide big bass with a hard bottom surface, a feature they prefer. Such arteries often have depth changes and cover, and may be the first deep-water features bass encounter once they leave spawning flats. Study a good lake map to find roadbeds, then pinpoint them with your electronics. Roadbeds crossing the mouths of major tributaries or continuing off long points are among the best. Tips and Tactics: Crankbaits are effective to about 15 feet; plastic worms and sinking swim baits also work well. Cast across the road as well as along it. You can follow it with your depthfinder, putting out marker buoys if you need to.

7. Isolated Ridges or Humps
Ridges and humps that rise above the bottom provide that magic depth change and may also offer a change of cover and bottom composition. You might be able to identify these high spots if they rise close to the surface by the presence of weeds or brush. Good lake maps will also pinpoint them. Tips and Tactics: Carolina-rigged worms and lizards can be cast to the top of the hump and crawled down into deeper water. Water depth may limit crankbait use, but jigs might be productive.