A wise man once said, “When you are fishing the bank, 90% of the fish are behind you.” The wise man that said that was Bill Dance, and the new improvements in fishing electronics have truly confirmed that statement!
As I’ve progressed as an angler, I’ve become much more aware that the majority of bass spend very little time on the bank. Now that doesn’t mean that beating the bank or shallow cover fishing isn’t an effective strategy! What that does mean, is there are always fish behind you, and more often than not – the largest population of fish that live in the lake, river, or reservoir you are fishing!
When I grasped hold of that concept, I immediately started to expand my skill set to deep water bass fishing. Places such as deep points, rock piles, road beds, offshore grass, and even deep water current breaks were areas that I would focus on, and I became quite good at maximizing those opportunities. While those areas can be very productive, I still experience brutally tough fishing throughout the year – both in the shallow and deep areas. Where did those dirty rascals go?
The answer – The fish went out to what seems like the middle of nowhere to our simple minds, but what is a natural buffet line to a hungry bass population! Bass that are suspended are typically not relating to anything but bait, and there are almost always more shad or other small baitfish in the middle of the lake than anywhere else. How to target and catch those bass is the trick! Forward facing sonar has truly allowed me to understand and pinpoint these roaming open water fish and it has allowed me to identify two key baits that work the best for triggering bites.
Bait number one is a bait that most bass fisherman are very familiar with – the suspending jerkbait. Few baits in open water have the ability to draw a fish to it like a suspending jerkbait. With subtle rattles and a very erratic action, this is a must have if you are targeting suspended bass! One of my favorite aspects of the suspending jerkbait is that it’s an incredible search bait – whether you have forward facing sonar or not. Find open water baitfish using your electronics that have larger dots in, above, or below them and go to work with the suspending jerkbait that targets the depth range you are trying to cover. While I use both deep diving and shallow diving jerkbaits based on the average depth of the fish I’m seeing, I’m using the same TFO rod for both!
The two specific baits are the 6th Sense Provoke 106X for shallow suspended fish and the Provoke 106DD for deep suspended fish. One of the most important factors to jerkbait fishing is using the right equipment so you are able to maximize the action you give the bait, as well as being able to fish long hours without wearing out your body!
I always jerkbait fish with a 7’0” Medium Power TFO Tactical Elite Bass Casting Rod (TLE LW 70CB-1). This rod is extremely light, easy to handle, but still has the length that I need to make long casts while being fast and agile – which adds to the action I can make the bait achieve. I pair my TFO with a Bass Pro Platinum 6.8:1 ratio baitcasting reel and 11lb Vicious Tora Fluorocarbon. As a rule of thumb, the farther you cast and the lighter the line you use, the deeper you can make a jerkbait dive. This setup executes this method perfectly!
While this next technique is definitely not as well known, I have to admit it is my favorite! The Nedmiki (or Damiki Rig) is a technique that was truly designed to target deep water baitfish eating predators, and it is hard to beat for suspended bass fishing. There are two ways to fish this awesome bait. First, is straight dropping or vertical fishing under the boat, and the second method is casting and retrieving the bait back to the boat. While straight dropping/vertical fishing can be done with traditional sonar technology, casting/retrieving takes a broad understanding of forward facing sonar to maximize its fish catching potential. To be able to pinpoint a predator in open water and hit him in the nose with a bait is truly mind blowing, but the fact is – it’s the day and age we live in.
My exact Nedmiki setup is a 7’6” Medium Light TFO Tactical Elite Bass Spinning Rod (TLE MBR S 763-1) with a size 3000 spinning reel spooled with 10lb Vicious No-Fade Braided Line to an 11lb Vicious Tora Fluorocarbon leader. I’ve grown to love this longer fishing rod for the cast ability, as well as the way the rod flexes when you stick a fish. While this rod was designed for fishing with hair jigs, the bend and the balance between backbone and tip is perfect for the Nedmiki method as well. The exact bait I use consists of a Z-man StreakZ 3.75 Elaztech Plastic to a 3/16oz 1/0 Z-man Finesse EyeZ Jighead.
Get the right baits, right equipment, and open your eyes to the world of suspended bass! I promise you won’t be sorry!
I’ll see you on the water!
Joey Nania (@joeyfishing)