Building A Better Brush Pile
By Steve Masters
If you really want to get serious about setting out brush piles prepare yourself for some hard work, but it can pay off big later. Bass will use brush piles throughout the year but the heat of summer and winter are the prime times to fill your livewell with brush pile bass, or turn that 14 pound limit into a 20 pound sack with a big brush pile kicker.
I want my pile to be about the size of my boat. It's large enough to hold multiple fish but I can fish it in 15 minutes or so.
As far as location there's the obvious creek channel intersections, and bends, but my favorite is to place one in 8- to 10-feet leading into a shallow pocket that has little natural cover, especially light on vegetation. Think about whether or not it will be seen, or cause a hazard when your lake is at its absolute lowest level. I like to have some small brush piles close to the bank for when the shallow bass as relating to wood, of course these are usually discovered. For the rest, I want about half to be around 10 feet, and the other half 15- to- 18-feet. I like to have some deep piles for the hottest, and coldest days. Location could be an article by itself. As for when, winter is no doubt the best time; fewer eyes, and all the leaves have fallen.
A lot has been said about Christmas trees, both good and bad. Personally I use them, but they only make up about 20% or less of my pile. A bass isn't going to sit around starring at a Christmas tree all day. They need some bulk, something they can get under for shade or cruise around in looking for food. Just like the bass, the bait fish need something they can hide and move around in if they are going to hang around. A couple of Christmas trees or bushes placed beside the main pile will give bait fish somewhere to gather. Think of these as the bass' dinning room.
What to use for the main pile? To me nothing works better than a real tree, preferably any hardwood, but I won't turn my back on a big pine if I catch one floating along. Before sinking a tree think about getting hung up in it. Trim all the twigs and smaller limbs. The more forks it has the better. Point the treetop towards where you'll be fishing from. Just before I untie and let it sink, I tie a concrete block to the under side of the trunk to keep it up off the bottom. A tree trunk lying flat has little to offer a bass.
Trees may be messy to handle, but I can put up having to vacuum my boat afterwards if it means more fish in the boat. I've tried the pvc pipes sticking out of a bucket with concrete in them. I don't see these as good brush piles, but are a good addition to the main pile.
I'm not advocating breaking any laws but the ol chain saw and pruning shears method is hard to beat. About the best way to legally get and sink trees is asking someone who is clearing a lot off for construction for the ones they cut. They would rather give them to you than have to deal with it themselves almost every time. For me at Lake Mitchell, it was after a tornado had gone through. There were prime hardwoods of all sizes along the bank blown over. In addition, a lot of my brush piles are large trees I've found floating down the river. If I'm just out fishing for fun I usually have a few concrete blocks in the floor of my boat just in case. You'll probably be surprised how much you can find to sink if you get in the habit of looking for it while on the lake.
Construction sites are also great for finding brush pile material. There's a gold mine in those dumpsters, and it's free. You may get some strange looks but I've never had anyone object to me getting something they have to pay someone to haul off. One thing I like to do is use Liquid Nail to glue few pieces of 4 inch black drain pipe into a large landscape bucket, let it sit a few days, fill the pipe about half way up with concrete, and then (while wet) flip it all over so the concrete falls to the bottom of the pipes. What you wind up with is a stump sitting a foot or so off the bottom with 4 inch roots around it that will all last forever.
See what you can find and let your imagination go to work, just keep in mind shade, security, and ambush.
Speaking of lasting forever, I use only copper wire scrapes for tying my blocks to brush. Nylon rope and treble hooks are not a good match. One of the few things I never use is palettes, too many pinch points to get hung in. My most productive brush pile has a good size tree, a 10 foot fiberglass column with blocks on each end to keep it off the bottom a bit, a couple of Christmas trees, and five landscape buckets with a three foot pvc pipe sticking up from the center. I cut slits in the pipe and glued small real-estate signs into them.
Like I said be prepared for some work, and use your imagination. Also prepare yourself to fail. I've placed brush piles in some really good looking places that have never produced a fish. If fish aren't using an area, don't expect them to use your brush pile.
Good Luck and hope to see you on the lake, especially if you're dragging brush piles.