A hollow-bodied frog worked tight to a moss-covered shoreline lured this bass to a showdown with the author.

Shallow Water Structure Can Be Easily Overlooked

By: Mike Pehanich

Lots of anglers claim to be “structure fishermen” today, but often they leave their “structure” fishing mindset in their libraries when they fish small waters.

Too bad! The same principles that catch fish on the channel ledges of Kentucky Lake often apply on the development lakes, quarries, strip pits and reservoirs near your home even if you are just fishing them from the bank.

And often the “structure” is — quite literally — right there under your nose!

Structure is a concept that Buck Perry, the father of structure fishing, introduced to the angling lexicon in the middle of the 20th century. He defined structure as a change in the lake bottom such as a hump, bar, creek channel, sunken island and dropoff in a natural lake or a change in bottom content such as from sand to boulder or boulder to chunk rock or gravel to soft bottom. 

Today anglers often refer to standing timber, brushpiles, sunken cars and shopping carts as “structure” to muddy the technical jargon. Such objects were “cover” to Perry, and I still like to think of them as cover, particularly when I get into “small waters” discussions.

Common small waters structure

Big reservoirs feature riprap, rock strategically positioned on shoreline areas particularly vulnerable to erosion. Check out development lakes in residential areas or industrial parks. Many of them feature less conspicuous rock along the shoreline — set there for similar purpose. Sometimes the rock extends only a foot or so into the lake or pond. At other times, the rock extends several feet into the lake.

As inconspicuous as it may seem, that line of rocks along the lake bottom comprises classic structure. Never mind that this “structure” is right in front of you and not “out there” in the middle of the lake. It is structure nevertheless, and fish will use it extensively. 

Not only does that submerged line of rocks house insects, crayfish and baitfish. It also serves as a highway for hungry bass. 

Find cover or a curve or a line of rocks extending deeper into the lake, and you have a potential fish magnet!

Keep this shallow water structure in mind wherever you find it, on lakes big and small. 

Presentation is key. When you find such structure, fish it carefully. If you are fishing from a boat, it often pays to cast right to the shoreline or even up on the bank so you can carefully bring your bait right into the bass’s kitchen.

If you are fishing from shore, cast parallel to the shoreline and bring your bait along the structure’s length.

Jigs, frogs, swim jigs, and plastic worms can all produce big. My favorites are jig-n-pig combinations and hollow-bodied frogs. 

These fat bass hit a Rat-L-Trap worked along a submerged line of rock in this Midwest reservoir.

Matted vegetation growing over and around such structure can make the structure all the more productive even if a bit harder to fish.

If you are shore fishing, tread quietly and carefully so you do not spook the fish using the structure. The “downside” of fishing this structure is that fish using it can sense the footsteps or commotion of an approaching angler with their lateral line and leave the area before you have even had a chance to present a cast.

Keep “structure” in mind wherever and whenever you fish. It’s not always located “out there” in the middle of the lake. Sometimes it’s right beneath your very nose.

About Mike Pehanich:

Mike Pehanich is a nationally known outdoor writer and owner of Small Waters Outdoors consulting and communications. He is a frequent contributor to Bassmaster magazine and Major League Fishing and has bylines in more than 20 outdoor publications including Fish & Fly, Great Lakes Angler, North American Fisherman, Cabela’s Outfitters Journal, In-Fisherman, Outdoor Life, Game & Fish, Wired2Fish, and Fishing Tackle Retailer among others. He is a former editor of the Redbone Journal and a frequent contributor to outdoor television and radio shows and the You Tube channel.

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