There was nothing subtle in the bass’ attack on the crankbait, which had been thrown down the seawall behind houses on the subdivision lake and retrieved parallel to the bank.
The fish grabbed the Bandit 200 and took drag as it raced toward deep water.
“It’s a good one,” I told my partner, Elite Series bass pro Pete Ponds of Madison. “He’s headed out to the middle of the cove, and he’s got some muscle in his pull.”
Ponds never answered. He just rocked the boat as hard as I just had.
Another big bass had struck his lure, a Bandit Squarebill a few yards further up the seawall.
“Oh yeah, it’s on,” Ponds said. “They’re up against the walls.”
A few moments later we were holding a pair of big post-spawn female bass, mine 4 pounds and his 5.
“If this holds true, we’ll have a lot of fun today,” the pro said. “Once they move out of post-spawn lethargy and start feeding, it is hard to beat. They are aggressive and they will eat.”
For the next two hours, we hammered big bass on the 500-acre lake. None were caught in water deeper than two feet, and few were taken more than five feet from the walls. Ponds used the time to talk about his techniques for fishing both wooden seawalls and riprap banks behind waterfront houses.
“Pay attention to what happens with each fish,” he said. “Where was it holding? Was it relating to the wall, a pier, a drain, a boat slip or other irregularity like where a wall ends and riprap or grass starts?
“Sooner or later a hot pattern is going to emerge, and then you just want to cover as much water as you can, zeroing in on that kind of cover. That’s when you can start testing lures, too, even going on top. Is the squarebill better than the diving crankbait? Do they want a lipless rattling crankbait or a spinnerbait? Maybe a swim jig? A frog? Swimming a lizard?”
Unless he’s away on the B.A.S.S. tour, Ponds is quick to experiment and go through all types of lures in a morning, even leaving one the fish are hitting to see if he can find one even better.
“Heck, I’ll even try to find one they won’t hit,” he said. “There’s always a way to learn something.”
He’ll do the same thing with different areas.
“There will always be some kinds of walls they like and some they don’t, and it may just be one kind either way,” Ponds said. “One of the key things is depth. I always prefer, and I say that thinking the fish prefer, walls that have deep water to the bank. I look for walls with 2 feet over walls that have 5 or 6 inches.
“And I also look for walls where the homeowner has put rock out at the base to protect the wall. You find a seawall with big rock around the base and your odds of finding fish rise significantly.”
Ponds is always studying fish, and one of the main things he is looking for in fishing a seawall is the strike zone.
“There is always going to be a zone, a certain distance from the seawall, where the fish are most active, where the most bites come,” he said. “Once I find that, then I keep the nose of my boat that distance from the wall and cast parallel, allowing me to keep my lure in the strike zone the longest.”
Early in the morning, late in the afternoon or on overcast days is when Ponds sees the best action against the hard walls in the spring. When the sun is high and bright, he knows the fish won’t stay in the open long.
“You can still fish shaded seawalls, but what I usually do is move to the nearest boathouse or pier where the fish can get underneath cover and in shade,” he said. “Then I grab a spinning rod, soft plastic lures, skip the lure as far back into the shade as I can, and ...”
Hey, that’s a lesson for another day.