Summer Patterns & Ledge Fishing on Pickwick Lake
By Trey Schroeder
We headed to Florence Ala., again the last week of June for the High School World Finals on Pickwick Lake. We were hoping with the cool June weather we would be able to fish shallow. We found out quickly that there are not enough quality fish up shallow to sustain a four-day tournament. Fish are hard to make bite this time of the year let alone with the pressure from 300 boats.
There had been a lot of tournaments the three weeks prior to the worlds and Pickwick is a very recognized body of water that is famous for its large stringers of bass, which in turn makes it a hot spot for bass tournaments. Because of the crush of fishermen we could only catch 1- and 2-pounders shallow with an occasional big bite. The offshore fish had much more quality and numbers to offer. They are much more difficult to catch, but when we got bit it was more times than not a key fish.
You must learn to position your boat in the right place at the right time when fishing offshore. Most of the time you are fishing a place the size of the deck of your boat. When fishing offshore, you are looking for something hard to break the current whether it is a shell bed, rock pile, grass, brush pile, a dip in the ledge, etc. Sometimes when the fish are not looking to eat you must finesse them into eating by using something like a drop shot or shaky head. It takes a lot of patience. If the fish are actively feeding you can start to throw crankbaits, deep divers, swim baits, football jigs and spoons.
One of the challenges is that these fish are positioned because of current, so it is important to pay attention to the water flow. Watch for schooling fish, and always have a topwater bait ready to throw. Once you have surface activity you can grab a limit of fish quickly if you are ready and have the right bait.
Bass also can school under the surface so just because you don’t see the fish busting the surface doesn’t mean they aren’t actively feeding. It is essential when you are positioned on a school to make repetitive casts into the same spot to keep the fish fired up. Don’t be discouraged if you catch other species at first, those fish are there to eat too. Bass are probably close by, and just as willing to eat. My favorite baits to target offshore fish with are a deep-diving crankbait, and a swim bait. Those two seem to get both numbers and quality bites that you need on a lake like Pickwick. If the fish stop schooling, eating, or I go three to five minutes without a fish I will try a jig or worm to try and coax a fish on the bottom into biting to fire the school back up.
The fish are off shore for a number of reasons this time of year. Water temps are cooler with a higher concentration of oxygen in the water, which means bait fish are there too. Due to this year’s weather I believed a shallow bite could play a role in getting into the finals, but it proved to be all of the quality bass were offshore on Pickwick’s notorious ledges.
Fishing offshore can be aggravating but very rewarding whether the fish are schooling or have lockjaw and need to be finessed into biting. Pickwick also taught me to always be persistent and never give up casting until the last second because the winning fish could be just a cast away.