While offshore ledges become more crowded as the summer goes on, Fletcher Shryock prefers to stay shallow. Photo by Phoenix Moore
By Dave Landahl - July 7, 2020
During the summer months, any lake that has offshore ledges, humps, drop-offs, etc., will also have a load of bass fishermen attempting to score big on the deep bite. Deep-water ledge fishing started gaining popularity a couple of decades ago, and with the advancement of electronics and the skills of anglers in general, the once-secret hot spots on places like the Tennessee River are now garden variety community holes.
Just the type of place MLF pro Fletcher Shryock likes to avoid.
“Advances in electronic, information gathering and the individual angler skills have all made the ledge fishing thing very popular, so there are a lot of people fishing offshore now and it’s become a zoo,” Shryock says. “Every group of fish you find, someone else has found, too. Anglers are fighting all the time. People out there idling all of the time for the glory. It still can be your best bet, but I like to fish away from the crowds when I can.
“I recall fishing Kentucky Lake in 2015. The offshore ledge skills I learned at that time were pretty advanced; now, I think most anglers fishing there and similar fisheries have those ledge skills. I mean, what I see on my Lowrance units in 2020 compared to my units from 2015 just blows my mind. No wonder anglers are so much better at fishing offshore.”
Because fishing offshore shoulder-to-shoulder with other anglers isn’t Shryock’s cup of tea, he prefers to fill his cup with another elixir: shallow-water fish.
“An awful lot of fishermen pass over shallow water fishing during the summer,” Shryock asserts. “They ignore the cover where you need to cast and cover water to find fish. Places like grass beds, boat docks, etc. Sure, even though you may have a majority of fish move deeper, the shallow water fish get less pressure during the summer, and that can often equate to catching more. I like to take that route when I can.”
Shryock’s Three Summer Setups
Shryock breaks down his shallow water fishing to essentially three outfits and a handful of baits.
“My first and foremost target to fish is grass,” said Shryock. “It can be submerged, matted, blown in against dock, pretty much any of that. I pick up a frog a lot. It replicates a bluegill, and that is a primary food source for a lot of the shallower water bass. Those bluegill might be spawning or hanging out under the docks and matted weeds all summer.
“When it cheeses up, the grass will hollow out under it and the bass can get to the frog. By cheeses up, I mean when the scum weed, that yellowish stuff, is on top. When that occurs, it’s a good time for a frog. I also like to flip soft plastics and skip docks as well. All of those techniques work great in the shallows during the summer.”
His flipping gear is an 8-foot Abu Garcia Ike Series rod, 40- to 50-pound Spiderwire Stealth Braid, and an Abu Garcia Revo AL-F 8.1:1 reel. He fishes the frog with 40-pound Stealth, and the Senko on spinning gear with 15-pound Stealth and an Abu Garcia MGX reel.
The best time of day varies. Shryock suggests paying attention to when you get bites and what weather conditions are at the time you catch them.
“There really is no definitive time to catch the bass during the summer up shallow,” said Shryock. “It can be a timing deal with grass and docks, so pay attention to it, it can vary. Also, don’t buy into the idea that docks are only good later in the day when the sun is up. If bluegills are under them spawning or schooling up you should be fishing them. The bass will likely be feeding.”
Shallow water fishing is clearly not the only option for summer bass action. Offshore fishing can be very productive as well. Shryock advises you to sharpen skills over the next few years if you want to pass on the shallow bass.
“Unless you’re really good at offshore fishing, you may have a tough time catching bass on ledges,” Shryock said. “You need to become really, really good at it. Like, Jacob Wheeler, good!
“Electronics are so good now and so are bass anglers around the country. I try to fish away from people, and many of our popular lakes for ledge fishing are terrific shallow-water summer fisheries. Less people fishing the shallower cover making it a real viable option for your summer fishing. I say go with the flow.”