Davis' Deep-Water Tactics
Editor's Note: Mark Davis, 38, of Mount Ida, Arkansas, who won the BASS Masters Classic in 1995 and the Angler-of-the-Year title in 1995, 1998 and 2001, never has had a career outside the fishing industry. "My dad said I've never had a real job," says Davis, who is known today as one of the top bass fishermen in the nation and ranked 3rd in the world for bass-fishing expertise, according to www.BassFan.com, which rates anglers according to events won in the past two years with bonus points given to winning the BASS Masters Classic or comparable events.
Question: You said one of your strengths is deep-water bass fishing. What do you mean by deep-water fishing, and how do you do it?
Answer: In most parts of the country, deep-water fishing for bass involves trying to catch bass in water that is 15 feet or deeper. In some areas, deep-water fishing may be deeper than 30 feet.
I think learning to fish deep water and then learning to fish shallow water is easier. If you understand the bass' habits and how the fish relate to structure in deep water, then taking what you've learned when fishing in deep water and fishing shallow is easier than learning to fish shallow water and then having to learn to fish deep water. Shallow-water fishermen often feel lost when they can't see the bank or the structure they're trying to fish around.
Question: Which fish are the easiest to find -- shallow or deep-water bass?
Answer: The deep-water bass are more difficult to locate because you have to rely more on your electronics and your fish-finding abilities. When you're fishing shallow, many times you can see where you should be fishing, for example the cover, the shade, the current, the baitfish and often the bass you're hoping to catch. But when you're fishing deep, you can't see any of these features.
The real key to finding fish deep is your ability to cover water efficiently. A depth finder won't locate the bass for you, although it will help you find the fish, the structure and the cover. But ultimately you have to find those fish with a rod and reel.
Question: What are your favorite deep-water bass lures?
Answer: If I'm fishing down to about 18 feet or less, I'll be fishing a crankbait. If I only can choose one crankbait, I'll use a Strike King Series 5 crankbait. By changing my line size and the length of my cast, I can fish this bait with great success from 5 feet to 12 feet. That depth encompasses a lot of bass fishing.
My favorite color is watermelon shad, a pearl-colored lure with a light green lime back. Because of its back, this lure is visible in stained water, and the Series 5 crankbait makes this a good clear-water bait since it has white pearl belly.
Question: How are you fishing the Series 5 in deep water?
Answer: There are several very important ingredients to fishing a crankbait successfully. The further you can cast a crankbait, the lighter the line you use, and the deeper you hold your rod in the water, the deeper the crankbait will dive.You have to have the right equipment.
I've found the most-effective way to fish a crankbait is on some kind of breakline, either an underwater creek channel, an underwater grass line, an underwater stump row or some other type of break-line. The real secret to deep-water fishing for bass is to not catch one bass here and one bass there. Instead attempt to discover a school of bass. You want to catch your limit of bass out of one spot. If you're fishing in a tournament, you hope to catch your limit in that spot every day for three days.
Question: What type of retrieve will you use?
Answer: During the summer months, I'm going to use a fast retrieve. When the surface temperature is 80 degrees or higher, the bass' body metabolism is high, and the bass want to chase a fast-moving bait. You use a faster retrieve to get a reaction strike.
However, you need to remember that bass don't read the same magazine articles and books we read. Some days a slow retrieve is what you need for the bass to bite -- even in hot weather.
But during the winter months, I almost always use a slow retrieve. I may even want to add a little weight to my crankbait to make it suspend. Then when I stop the bait, the lure will sit there for a long time so that the bass can see it and decide to eat it. I may work it really slow through cover.
Question: Do you have a secret to successful crankbait fishing?
Answer: Yes, I do. Don't get comfortable when you're crankbait fishing. Most fishermen will cast their crankbaits out and retrieve them slow or medium-slow. They'll hold their rods in a way that's comfortable, and they'll fish so they're really comfortable. But to consistently catch bass with a crankbait, you need to vary your retrieve, changing the angle of your rod.
When bass want the bait digging in the mud, you'll have to put the tip of the rod down in the water so that the bait will leave a mud trail. At other times, bass want the crank bait to barely hit the bottom, which means you'll have to hold the rod tip up. Try lengthening and shortening your cast. Be conscious of changing the way you're fishing a crankbait until you hit on a way the bass wants to take the bait.
Question: Why do you want to change up your retrieve so much?
Answer: You have to remember if there's a group of bass sitting on a point, the fish will see dozens of different lures over a weekend. If you come by that point and you work that crankbait the same way other anglers have retrieved theirs, the chances of your catching those bass are very slim.
However, if you're doing something different, something erratic, something everyone else is not doing, you'll greatly enhance your chances of catching a bass. The bass on many waterways are conditioned to lures. Therefore, to be successful, you have to fish different from other anglers. The way you retrieve the crankbait will determine if you get the bite.