Fishing northern natural lakes for largemouth bass is usually all about fishing weeds. Shallow weeds. Emergent weeds. Weed flats. Deep weedlines. Weeds, weeds and more weeds.
Except when it isn’t.
Because sometimes, even largemouth bass move outside their beloved weedbeds, prowling atop rock and boulder areas in search of prey.
If these sound more like good spots for catching smallmouths or walleyes, think again. Much of the time, the lakes where this happens may not even contain smallies or ‘eyes, because the water becomes too warm and fertile to support them.
Mostly, we’re talking farm country lakes, with dark, nutrient-rich runoff. Weeds may grow distressingly thick in the shallows, yet only down to perhaps 8 or 10 feet, because sunlight can’t penetrate the dingy water beyond that level.
In these lakes, rock-and-boulder humps, spines or extensions within or adjacent to weedbeds see their fair share of largemouth activity. Bass may not always be there. But when they move out of the weeds to the rocks, they are there for one reason only: to feed. That means they’re biters. If you don’t get a bite the first few casts, come back a couple of hours later to see if anyone’s home.
And the other thing: The bass that use these areas tend to be the biggest bass in the lake! So when you get bites, they’re going to be serious ones.
The nice thing about fishing these areas is, you don’t have to deal with weeds clinging to your hooks. You might occasionally snag a lure in a crevice between rocks, but most of the time, the rocks in these waters are rounded boulders, with a fair amount of sand between them. So you can bounce lures off bottom, smacking rocks, digging sand, but seldom snagging.
When searching large areas for biters, cast a deep-diving crankbait across the top of the rocks. If it’s a sand and rock spine (crest), angle your casts to get the most bang for you buck, maximizing bottom contact throughout the length of your retrieve.
Smaller areas, like clean high spots within a weedbed, might be better cast with a jig & plastic trailer, letting the bait descend, settle, pause, then hop or crawl a bit to mimic a crayfish scurrying amidst the scattered rocks. Such spots often appear on a good onscreen lake map; look closely, and you may discover subtle rises where the bottom is too hard for weeds to grow, forming an open hole within the weedbed.
For rocky extensions protruding off a weed bed into deeper water, position your boat to cast along the entire length of the structure, retrieving lures either shallow-to-deep, or deep-to shallow—whatever works best. It’s a great place to drag a football or rugby head jig tipped with a soft plastic trailer, scraping bottom as it wiggles and jiggles over and around every rock protrusion.
When you get a bite, hang on tight. Big largemouths will thunk it, bulldog down at first, then suddenly rocket toward the surface and leap for the sky. It’s no place for light tackle. Medium heavy casting tackle with perhaps 14- to 30-pound-test superline is about right to control the battle and win the fight.
While this pattern predominates in darker-water lakes, be aware that it may occur in clearer waters as well–just a bit deeper. And should you happen to encounter a wayward school of walleyes or smallmouths, by all means, rock on!