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Effectively Fishing Rip Rap

Rip Rap is chunk rock or concrete slabs that have been dumped on the shoreline and near shore waters to prevent erosion. This rock usually continues down into the water providing ideal habitat for bass.

Not all rip rap shorelines are created equal. The best fish habitat falls into the lake or river at a 45-degree angle. I have found that in addition to the angler, the best rip rap structure drops down into deep water. You will find some fantastic shorelines on the faces of dams in reservoirs. “I look for steeper shorelines that are close to the main lake with easy access to deeper water,” states Mike Mueller, bass tournament angler from Illinois.

The second element I look for in a perfect shoreline is the size of the rocks. I have seen some rip rap in Lake Michigan harbors where the rocks are the size of small cars. Of course, bass will hide in the crevices between these rocks, but they are easier to target around smaller rocks. My experience is that the best rocks are about 2 feet in diameter. This size is large enough for crawfish and minnows to hide, and their predators are easier to locate as well as target.

“The biggest thing to look for in a rip rap shoreline is irregularities. That can be a point, an area where current hits the rocks, a pinch-point between two areas or just a wind-blown bank,” states Hunter Baughman, a bass tournament angler from Arkansas.

Baughman brings up a good point here. What he is pointing out is the need to find the “spot on the spot”. Once you have found a stretch of rip rap you want to fish, you need to decide where to begin targeting it. You don’t want to take the time to target an entire two-mile shoreline in its entirety, you need to find the areas along the shore with the highest probability of holding fish.

Baughman also brought up another excellent point. Don’t be afraid of the wind. It is not fun to target a shoreline when the waves are crashing up against it, but the fish will be there. I am not telling you to put your boat and yourself in danger, but bass will be feeding on the rocks when the waves are crashing into them and stirring up the bait.

You will find bass cruising near the rip rap shoreline searching for a meal both in the early morning and again once the sun drops in the evening. This is prime time to target rip rap because you will find the fish in the shallow near-shore waters. The fish will slide down the incline into deeper water as the day warms.

Of course, a mile-long shoreline can look intimidating when you are searching for fish. Ken O’Malley from Illinois states, “side imaging and forward-facing sonar can help locate those high percentage areas where fish will concentrate.” O’Malley first looks for irregularities, just like

Baughman, then takes it to the next level by searching with his electronics before deciding which lures to throw.

There was a time when we would use a spinnerbait or a crankbait as a search tool. Now most searching is done with electronics. That does not eliminate the need to have several rods rigged with go-to baits readily available on the deck of your boat. “If it’s early in the day, especially in the spring, take advantage of a shad spawn on the shallow rocks with a buzzbait or a shallow crankbait.” states Mueller. I often throw a wacky rigged Senko-type bait, like Missile Baits' The 48, if a concentration of fish is found shallow. This bait sinks a little more quickly, is more durable, and has a distinctive wiggle action. I use the wacky worm if I am targeting a “spot-on-the-spot”, but if I find a very good-looking stretch of a shoreline with scattered fish, I prefer to use a square-bill crankbait. Be sure to cast the crank parallel to the shore and bounce it off rocks. I like to cast an area, then turn around and work the same area again with a deeper running crankbait to see if I missed any active fish. I work the area at several different depths with a few different presentations before moving.

As the day heats up the bass will slide down the incline into deeper water. This is when you need to switch your presentations. A football jig or a drop shot is in order depending on the depth you are dealing with. I use my electronics to find fish and then set up to make a cast. I like to cast out and work down the incline. This is tricky because the jig must be in constant contact with the bottom. This is done best with short casts. A wobble head jig attracts lots of attention as it wiggles around the crevices between the rocks. The wobble head jig has an additional bonus, it is not as prone to snagging like a traditional jig.

If I have pinpointed where the bass are I will slowly slide the boat closer to them and use a drop shot. I enjoy drop shotting because I love finesse presentations. Cast past the fish and allow the rig to sink to the bottom. Then slowly work it toward the fish twitching the drop shot as you move it. You will attract more attention if you impart more action to your drop shot bait. Don’t go crazy

with this but do give the bait some wiggle.

There is no doubt that rip rap shorelines concentrate fish, but you need to understand that not all rip rap shorelines are created equal. Hopefully I’ve given you some insight to this and pointers about what to look for and what to use to catch the fish once you have identified where they are hiding. Now, get out there and target some riprap! Rip rap techniques will be a great addition to your fish catching arsenal!

Jay Angel is a lifelong angler and professional guide who has been writing, blogging and spreading the word about his passion since 1997 in many of your favorite fishing periodicals. While bass fishing is his first love, Jay also enjoys tangling with redfish in his home state of Louisiana. Jay has a weekly podcast- Let's Talk Fishing- where he interviews the industry's biggest stars and brightest innovators. The LTF podcast can be found on the Lets Talk Fishing Facebook page.


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