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Wild About Wood – One of the things I stress when doing personal appearances is that fish aren’t hard to catch, they’re hard to find. Oh, sure you can always go back to the shoreline and catch a few fish. We all have a few spots that will produce a bite, consistently give up a bass, bluegill or crappie. The trick is on new water, a vacation spot or through all four seasons where can you go and find big fish or make multiple catches of “keepers?” Bass thrive and gravitate to certain places for very specific reasons. The obvious needs are oxygen and food, followed by cover and a deep water escape route. The additional natural items that draw interest from fish (and fishermen) aquatic weed growth in the form of several kinds of mosses, lily pads, grasses, leafy vegetation like arrowheads and cabbage weed plus rock, boat docks and of prime interest is wood. The wonders of wood are abundant, a unique element, wood draws underwater interest from fish of all sizes and varieties. Chronologically submerged wood, trees, stumps, overhanging limbs and even man-made structures eventually sprout algae growth, this in turn brings baitfish, bugs and other creatures to feed on the algae and microscopic life that goes with it naturally.

Enter the gamefish. Bass, bluegill crappie, catfish as well as multiple species of fish fed on the minnows and smaller fish that enter the woody world. An added bonus is the presence of another attractor like weeds alongside the wood. Bonus for the bass and others. Now you have more cover, oxygen and the other forage lining up to take advantage of the properties of the natural sources. During the spring some fish will even spawn on the wood. In the eventual summer, the wood provides shade and an ambush point for fish. In the fall again shallow water wood draws food for the heavily feeding fish. Deep water wood in winter is home to object oriented species. Another example of the advantage of wood is the redirecting of current in moving water. The creation of a sanctuary from the flow, fish will position themselves downstream and avoid current and allow food to come to them.

Best Baits- When working wood it becomes immediately obvious that weedless rigging and baits do well. Top of the list jigs, next Texas rigged soft plastics followed by baits that can be retrieved around many potential snag spots. Squarebilled crankbaits will “jump” the wood, or bump the wood and create deflection bites for bass. The “feel” baits, jigs, worms, craws and creature baits can be worked in, through and around these same spots. If you’re feeling brave tossing a topwater over the downed trees, bushes and natural structure is a productive technique often drawing strikes from massive bass. Fish will blast through to attack the intruder invading their hardwood hideout. Bumping spinnerbaits in and around wood is also effective. Single hooks and willowleaf blades glide well in the water around this dense cover. For more explosive action a floating worm darting and diving around weeds, wood or permanent structure is a good bet to draw interest form a bass and time of the year.

Catchin’ Crappie – notorious for an affinity toward wood are the crappie, wide spread, schooled up and tops at the table crappie are often as easy to find as quick stop at the next submerged tree or brushpile in your local lake, river or stream. Again the plus is the cover and ever present minnow that keeps the crappie snuggled up to wooden cover. Long rods and small soft plastic tubes and grubs are dipped into tree tops to catch limits of white and black species of the crappie. When they are aggressively feeding cast past the cover and use a variable speed retrieve to coax the crappie out to eat the phony minnow imitations. With muddy water almost every fish will move closer to cover which may require repeated presentations, brighter colored baits, slower more deliberate movements and in the case of the bass, a rattling lure to make it easier to locate in dirty water.

Every season in almost any geographical location wood is a prime target. Shallow water to deep water makes no difference the fish inhabit places that provide objects for the many reasons mentioned. Wood also is a key factor to developing patterns that are consistent until conditions change. Ideally finding some sort of wood in three to eight feet of water in surface temperatures ranging from 55 to 85 degrees and with water clarity from clear to heavily stained is a great set up for probing the branches in the spring and larger trunks of trees in the summer months. Make sure to work all the angles making castes and presentations paralleling trees, going across perpendicularly, hitting shades and defined depth changes. Commonalities and patterns emerge but can change quickly with cloud cover, wind direction or additional water flow. In shallow water environments kayaks excel with the ability to navigate skinny water and approach cover within mere inches to further the use of finesse techniques and up close approaches. I rely on the Jackson Big Rig almost exclusively. The deft use of your paddle to position you silently and, safely and successfully comes with the right size and weight paddle. My choice is the carbon lightweight Bending Branches Angler Pro at 260 cm, and is almost camouflaged in the Radiant Blue pattern. A word of caution bumping any part of tees alerts and sends fish scurrying and also causes any boat to come to an abrupt stop. Lifejackets are a must and if you’re like me if you choose to stand choose clothe that blend into the sky color or background in clear water on clear weather days. There are no absolutes in fishing, and wood is wonderful but as is the case often, not a sure ticket to a limit or tournament win but does almost always guarantee a few fish. You may find out you can whack em’ in the wood!