Living on the Ledge: Summer and Fall Fishing

Living on the Ledge: Summer and Fall Fishing

Summer is upon us and locating the schools of fish is now the challenge many anglers face. When the temperature rises fish will follow a different pattern and finding where the best schools of fish stage can be difficult. Most anglers who succeed in summertime are living on the ledge. Fishing the outside after pre-spawn and spawn is a great strategy in late summer and early fall. Developing an understanding of the ledge fishing pattern and what baits to use will increase productivity.

Information to Gain on Ledge Fishing

  • Ledge Fishing: An Unsure Feeling
  • What is Ledge Fishing
  • Locating and Picking Out a Ledge
  • Pinpointing the Area of a Ledge to Target
  • Finding Fish and Approaching the Ledge
  • Bait Selection and How to Fish a Ledge

Ledge Fishing: An Unsure Feeling

If you are finding it hard to fish ledges, edges, or breaks you are not alone. Anglers that are new to ledge fishing and pick the wrong ledge and are not sure how to approach the area can waste hours of their day. Fishing ledges is an easy technique to get into and it does not require one to go out and purchase a bunch of new equipment. Watching other anglers have productive days ledge fishing is inspiring, and makes us want to apply that style of fishing. We need to remember that it is a technique that requires time to learn and educate ourselves. Fishing is an art form and knowing what lure to use and how to apply it is just as important as understanding patterns of the species you are targeting.

What is Ledge Fishing

Ledge fishing has been used for many years to catch bass. The technique has worked on spotted, smallmouth, and largemouth bass for generations. Many anglers attempt to ledge fish but become frustrated and quickly move to other areas to find success. With the right guidance and applying the proper technique ledge fishing can be extremely productive. Ledge fishing techniques and tactics seem to be closely guarded by many, and the reason is the benefit of being able to apply them.

A ledge is a steep slope or drop-off from a flat area. Anglers simply need to look for where shallow water and deep water suddenly meet. This can occur at any depth in the water column but most typically occurs near a creek or river channel. The flat area is the top of the ledge and the slope going down is actually the ledge. The pattern of bass is to move from the shallow areas of the spawn; to the deeper water after to get rest and forage on bait fish. Bass relate to ledges for easy food access and may travel up and down the ledge like a highway. They may suspend in the water column at varying levels but they will always be able to attack prey and utilize good hunting grounds. Ledges in lakes can be short or actually be miles long. Finding the ledges bass are on is only one part of the technique, knowing where they are suspending is the other.

Bass typically migrate to deeper water after the spawn. They will be looking to eat and willing to strike anything of interest in front of them. Experienced anglers know that this is their pattern and will locate the fish position on the ledge. Anglers fishing this pattern are often rewarded and catch lunker after lunker from the schooling bass. The trick is finding the areas using the proper techniques and fishing the area properly after producing a catch.

Locating and Picking Out a Ledge

When attempting to pick out a ledge to fish there are several options for anglers to use. Contour lines on a topographic map are a great source. The closer the lines together indicate a steeper incline or descent and if the lines are wider apart it is a flatter area. Numbers placed on the lines indicate water depth, and anglers can use the information to select areas they wish to target. Locating the edges of a river or creek channel are ledges anglers can focus on. River channels usually encompass the entire lake whereas creek channels usually start in a cove area and make their way to the river. Anglers also are using technology in finding ledges to target. Mapping technology using their graphs on the boats is a great help. Some mapping software can color code ledges based on water depth and locate creeks and rivers easily. Anglers who have not invested in high-tech equipment are using Google Earth to call up maps and determine areas they would like to fish. Other areas of structure can also be seen at times on the map and help anglers locate fish areas within the ledges.

Pinpointing the Area of a Ledge to Target

Remember ledges are areas where fish congregate to eat. Ledges can be considered a conveyer belt of prey to bass. Bass can travel from spot to spot and use them as highways. If the spot provides a good opportunity to hunt and ambush prey, bass will be in the area. If the spots food source is depleted, the bass will not sit there and wait. They will move on down the highway and find another area of opportunity. Anglers should look for areas where there is a quality food source and structure for bass to feel safe. Look for cover whether it be a hump, brush pile, shell bed, roadbed, rock pile, ridge, or any other form of structure. Areas that provide food and structure will hold more fish and increase your chances of landing quality fish.

Finding Fish and Approaching the Ledge

Bass when feeding and active will usually be on top of the ledge. Inactive bass will suspend over deeper water areas of the ledge. When the bass are on the ledge an assortment of lures can be used to get them to strike. Most anglers agree that this information is accurate and is easily proven time and again. However, ledge fishing has many variables that each angler must discover and find out what works best for them.

Factors That Can Affect Ledge Fishing

  • Water Depth
  • Time of Year
  • Wind
  • Water Clarity
  • Sky Conditions- Cloudy or Sunny
  • Current
  • Boat Position and Presentation

Some anglers believe that water depth and water clarity coincide. The clearer the water the deeper the fish will push and still forage. The dirtier or more stained the water the shallower the fish will be. One key to remember though is fish are natural predators. If the hunting grounds are set at a depth on the highway the fish will locate and ambush prey.

Ledge fishing can have certain areas that are more productive based on the time of the year. Pre-spawn bass should be pushing into the shallows to spawn. Targeting ledges near creek beds and coves can be productive as the fish stage in those areas to prepare for the spawn. Post-Spawn these same areas should be targeted as the fish will be hungry and looking to rest and eat as quickly as possible. As temperatures increase and the lake moves into the summer pattern, fish will migrate and look for their best possible hunting grounds and more oxygenated water. Cooler temperatures of deeper water, more structure allowing for more cover. Recall that bass seek food and safety. River ledges tend to become more predominant staging areas.

Sky Conditions are considered to be a factor by many anglers as well. Sunny days seem to make the bass a little more lethargic. Cloudy days help keep temperatures down and the lake is often a little bit more active. Some anglers will even base the baits they present and the speed they fish them based on the sky conditions. Personal experience dominates the thought process here. Use what you have confidence in and target your fish.

Current and Boat position are vital to ledge fishing. How you approach the ledge, where you spot lock or anchor the boat should be determined on where the fish are marked. Current will always play a role in where the fish stage and how they ambush their prey. Let's first look at approaching the ledge and marking fish. Anglers should use their sonar to locate depth, structure, and how the fish are staged. A very common mistake anglers make is setting up too close to the edge of the ledge. They can bypass staged fish and end up presenting baits poorly to the fish. If there is no current simply remember bass will stage where the prey is at, it is all about the hunting grounds. Start away from the edge in the deeper water and mark the fish below.

Once located evaluate the current and the presentation you wish to use to spot-lock your boat. Fishing with the current is usually the key, present your baits to the fish flowing with the current, presenting a bait into the current is not recommended. A few fishermen do present their lures working across the current but it is a technique that is still debated. Presentations that are commonplace are working the lure down the ledge, up the ledge, or at a set depth parallel to the ledge.

Bait Selection and How to Fish a Ledge

To get the most out of ledge fishing anglers need to pick a strategy and stick with it. The frustration in ledge fishing is caused by common mistakes of approach and setup, but also not applying techniques that can lead to success. When anglers locate the school of fish on the ledge what is next? There are two proven methods that work, but there will always be continued debate on which one is the best. Many anglers believe in power fishing, casting the big baits out first and getting the big fish to be active first. Others believe to throw smaller baits and get the fish active to create competition and catch a few smaller fish in the school. Then switch to bigger baits to try and get the bigger fish to bite. Both strategies do agree that a lure should only be cast 10-15 times and if the fish do not cooperate that you should try another lure. Second, If you start of catching bigger fish and then have a run of smaller fish it is time to relocate. If you are catching smaller fish first be careful of how many you catch in the school. If the bigger bite does not occur catching too many depletes the school and the bigger fish will move on. If the fish continue to be inactive anglers can back off the school and attempt to reposition the boat and apply a different presentation. Anglers should always remember that ledge fishing is about increasing your chance to get the bite. Larger schools increase your chances of getting the bite you are looking for.

Baits that are effective for ledge fishing are often agreed upon. Crankbaits have always been a staple in ledge fishing and can still be what anglers can utilize first. However, with the ability to apply bigger soft plastic swimbaits anglers can take advantage of using soft plastics right away. Deciding on how big you start with first depends on which strategy you want to utilize. For anglers that are fishing their own created soft plastics, Angling Ai has a variety of Open Pour Swimbait Molds available in 4”, 5”, 6”, and 7.25” designs, and the DR/Bloodline Swimbait Molds in 4”, 5”, and 6” designs to choose from. Anglers can start with bigger sizes or apply the smaller size strategy all with lures that they created. If the fish continue to be inactive switch from a power fishing technique and try stroking a heavy-weighted jig with a trailer or apply more of a finesse technique. Anglers can pick any technique they choose but it is best to try one that you excel at first. It could be Carolina rigging, Texas rigging, neko rigs, drop shot, wacky rigs, or shaky head applications. Start with bigger worms, 10” or 13” Curl Tail Worms, 9” Kicker Tail Worm, or the Mag AR 7” Worm. Anglers can then downsize the baits again and apply craws, lizards, split tail shads, and drop shot baits. Anglers can make their own lures using the 4” Ecto Craw, 6” Lizard, 5.75” Split Tail Shad, 6” Bot Worm, and many others.

Making your own soft plastics is easy. Angling Ai offers a variety of molds so anglers can make their own unique soft plastic fishing lures. Anglers have the ability to create the color , add glitters, use highlights and pearls, and even select the style of plastic they wish to use. There is a saying at Angling Ai that defines creating your own plastics, ‘Make Your Baits-Your Way’ and ‘Put That On A Hook’.

Having Success Living on the Ledge

Ledge fishing is a style that takes time and practice to develop high levels of success. Learning how to develop your strategy and apply techniques to be successful will help you avoid a lot of the frustration others have experienced. Having the proper tackle and using baits that will get the fish active is trial and error while on the water, but catching a bigger bag of fish on the ledge will definitely be rewarding and increase your experience on the water. Good luck on the water and enjoy your time living on the ledge.