Good afternoon brothers.
Fishing starts Monday. I’m hitting the water rain or shine, enough waiting – tomorrow we’re headed to Southern Illinois for Prison Ministry. I am excited for both of these things.
The other day we talked about Fishing Borrow Pits. What they are, where they come from, and how they can be repurposed:
Today, we’re going to talk about my Top 8 Borrow Pit Baits. I went back and looked at the spreadsheet from last year, and tallied up all of the most productive ways that I fished these clear-water, steep bank, high visibility lakes. The name of the game is natural. Stow the buzzbait, huge rattles, giant jig with massive trailer that has unnatural pincers straight from the depths of hell, and the 10″ high-vis Senko – start natural.
Plan to work the entire water column, and explore. If the pit doesn’t have cover and structure that the fish can relate to, they may roam. This means that temperature and water depth will be the main variables you’ll want to focus on. Look for areas with slightly warmer and cooler water at different depths, and prepare yourself mentally – it’ll be tough, but worth it!
Start with a Quality Topwater
Start by working along the bank with a topwater to see if you can find any active biters. This allows you to cover water, and let’s be honest – topwater strikes are just downright fun! Downsize your offering and try out a walking bait like a Zara Spook Puppy or a Mann’s Baby 1-Minus in natural colors, worked at different speeds. If you reel slow, you can work the Mann’s like a wakebait or speed it up to go slightly subsurface. On windy days with chop, I lean towards the Spook for a bit more splash & visibility.
Next: Go Subsurface
Another couple baits that will allow you to cover water and work slightly deeper are the Rapala Husky Jerk Minnow, and the Donkey Tails by Mule Fishing Supply Co. The latter is a small paddletail swimbait that catches everything, and the jerkbait will attract bass of all species and all sizes. Bomb the paddletail on light line and reel it straight & slow. If you feel weight, set the hook. No need to twitch, jerk, bounce – just keep it simple. If you want a slightly more active presentation, toss the jerk.
Nothing yet? Sun high in the sky? Time to Finesse…
Chances are at some point throughout the day, you’ll catch more with a finesse presentation. I love to work a Pop ‘n Drop whenever possible – but in clear water like this – having a popper chugging along isn’t always the attractor we hope it would be. Instead, suspend a 4″ Strike King Ocho underneath a float, and cast it up towards the steep banks. You might want to leave this bobber trailing behind you as you work an active presentation (if 2 rods per angler are allowed in your state). This allows you to put a plastic in front of their nose for an extended period of time, and on light line this can look very natural. The Ocho also has more salt than a Dinger and sink without requiring lead splitshot on the line – making it even less visible.
Speaking of Dingers, If you want a sinking option to float down by the steep banks below any overhanging trees, play with the Neko Rig. Rig a 4″ or even a 3″ YUM Dinger wacky style with a small o-ring (this is critical as it gives you more exposed hook / increases hookups) and place a light nail weight in one end of the bait. This is a subtle sinking presentation that can add a bit of erratic behavior on the fall, triggering strikes. It can also “fall back into” trailing bass, depending on the position of the weight.
Two other presentations I’ve caught fish on that deserve your consideration include the Z-man EZ Tube rigged up on a jig, and the Berkley Powerbait Twitchtail Minnow, also on a jig. I use fluorocarbon with both. The tube spirals on the fall when you cast it up to a bank, so it can generate a reaction strike. The Twitchtail Minnow has a straight, vertical fall, and I like to hop this along the bottom, mimicking a small baitfish pecking through the sand & rocks.
Both will work on largemouth bass and smallmouth bass if they are present. The tube in particular seems to work well next to steep banks, but I have seen fish swim up and back off at the last second in open water where they can get a really good look – might just be my experience though… and in those same situations, the smaller stickbaits seem to coax more strikes. Test this on your lake.
Another note on tubes and vertical walls – notice the brush that overhangs the steep bank in the photos below? This provides overhead cover, and just like a creek with overhanging trees, it is possible for bass to get conditioned to caterpillars and other bugs falling in on windy days.
Two Other Tools You’ll Need
Finally, there are two other tools that you’ll want to make sure you have, even if you’re in a smaller boat. The first is a quality fishfinder like the Garmin Striker Vivid 9sv (a killer little unit that won’t break the bank but allows you to create your own contour maps as you fish – very important for little lakes without any Navionics charts), and a quality trolling motor. I’m seriously considering picking up a Minn Kota Powerdrive… which would be more expensive than everything in my little jon boat combined, but also allow me to work a bank hands-free.
This would be a gamechanger for me as I often fish alone, and fighting the wind ripping across a big flat pit is a full time job…
These tools help you with stealth, and they help you find sunken treasures, depth changes, holes and other contours that can hold fish in these crystal-clear borrow pits.
For me – these are must-haves!
Did I miss something you love to fish with? Let me know!
Get out there and start to comb these areas. It can be tough, but again, that also makes it extremely rewarding!
Tight Lines & Godspeed, Patriots.
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