Cherry Picking

Go out on a limb for late-summer largemouths.

Field & Stream Online Editors

Finding reservoir largemouths from midsummer through September, when bass follow schools of baitfish moving unpredictably around the lake, can be maddening unless you know two things: (1) The fish usually suspend 8 to 12 feet deep over much deeper water; and (2) Isolated clumps of flooded timber near dropoffs and points serve as rest stops and snack stations for these roving bass. Work such trees at the right depth and you'll consistently catch heavyweights when nobody else can find the fish.

CONIFERS The maze of branches that extend from cedar and pine trees give bass a dense sanctuary. Fish tend to cling to the odd type of cover in a given area, so look for a lonely cedar surrounded by a cluster of hardwoods.

BUSTING BRUSH Flip or pitch a 1/2-ounce jig-and-pig to the trunk of a cedar tree with a stiff flipping rod and 25-pound monofilament or 50-pound braided line. Let the line drape over a branch and work the jig down, a few feet at a time, to a depth of 10 to 12 feet. Jig the bait up and down several times at each level to coax strikes. When a bass nabs the lure, set the hook with all your strength and horse it out before it can wrap the line.

DROPPING PLASTIC Cast a 10-inch worm rigged with a 4/0 hook and a 3/16-ounce bullet sinker to the center of the limbs with a medium-heavy baitcasting outfit matched with 15- to 20-pound monofilament. Count the worm down to about 10 feet on a semislack line, figuring a sink rate of about 1 foot per second. Most strikes come on the initial drop. If not, hop and swim the worm back through the limbs. Do not let it sink to the bottom.

HARDWOODS The upper branches of many hardwoods spread out and offer bass numerous hiding places. Trees with more horizontal limbs generally attract more bass than trees with vertical ones. The thickest limbs tend to hold the biggest bass.

THE SHADE FACTOR Fishing standing trees is usually best when the sun shines. The bright light drives bass into the shade beneath the branches. Cast your lures to the shaded sides of trees and limbs to get more strikes.

WHERE TO LOOK: Search for trees poking just above the surface in water 20 feet or deeper on main-lake areas and in the lower third of major creek arms. The most productive are located on the ends of points, near creek-channel bends, and on the edges of deep flats and dropoffs. What to look for: Sometimes a small limb that sticks a few inches above the surface is the tip-off to an overlooked tree. Wear polarized sunglasses to help you spot underwater timber.