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Catt

Demystifying Structure

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After reading numerous posts and comments it has became apparent that most members here do not understand what structure fishing is. If you are an angler after any species of fish you will need to understand structure. It is very important because knowing what structure is, how to truly identify it, read it, and then fish it effectively, is the quickest, surest means of consistently putting fish in the boat.

When the subject of structure fishing comes up many people incorrectly assume you are referring to deep water fishing this is partially untrue. It doesn't matter if you are fishing bank shallow or 40' deep your are fishing structure that is if you are catching fish.

Never will fish be found that are not related to structure in some manner; this is why it is said that 10% of the water holds 90% of the fish.  

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I also feel that "structure" is most often thought of as "unnatural" physical obstructions like docks, trees, and other things in the water...and that is true, but structure can be natural as well...

the "structure" of a point...

the "structure" of a rock pile...

the "structure" of a weed bed...

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In its pure form, structure is defined as relating to those permanent topographical differences within a body of water. Things that are temporary differences such as docks, trees, and grasses are considered as cover.

A point whether main or secondary, humps, canals, underwater levees, and ridges are all structure.

However, there are times when a temporary difference will relate to your fishing experience exactly as structure will. A solid grass line that presents a wall is a good example.

Both structure and cover present excellent locations for bass. Cover that relates to structure is even better in most instances.

There are many theories about why fish spend time in and around cover, but more than likely the most accurate would be because their prey uses that cover to hide in.

Why fish relate to structure is a bit more complicated. Water moves as a unit so the volume moving is constant. As the flow meets a restriction to its flow, the movement accelerates to accomodate the the volume. So for example, as flow meets a hump in the water it will accelerate over that hump as the volume moving cannot change. This increase speed of flow brings with it an easier flow of food as the accelerated flow disturbs the floating food chain. The increase in the flow of diatoms as an example bring the baitfish which in turn attracts the bass.

An excellent way to observe this is to study a weir. As the water flows toward the weir no current is obvious, however at it nears the weir the current increases and is visible. As the water flows over the weir the current increases dramatically.

How this all relates to fishing besides of course location, is the selection of bait. One fishing structure would do better to use faster moving baits than one fishing cover. A bait that will appear to being tossed about by the current would be another excellent choice which is why the Carolina rig is a highly preferred bait of choice on structure. Remember that the current increases in speed passing over the structure so look to the lee side of the structure for the most activity.

Another interesting note to this is water flow in itself can emulate structure. Looking at a simulation: we will assume a inflow of water coming from the west and a wind generating current to the south. Where might be an excellent location to find some fish in this situation?

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Cover:  obstacle in the lake. (Brushpiles, docks, stumps, weeds..)

Structure: actual contour of the lake. ( creek beds, points, dropoffs...)

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Kudo's to Catt for posting what is turning into one the more interesting threads on the boards right now.

George.  Your knowledge is always impressive, but the reasoned, keenly intelligent post you wrote is among your best.

Better be careful GW.  Your "good ole boy" rep, may take a hit if you keep waxing philosopical.

Personally, and I say personally because I base this on nothing but my experience, and intuition.

I think that for some reason it seems to be very important to us bass anglers to differentiate between "cover" and "structure"

I don't think the bass care much.  The relate to "things" because that is their nature.

Whether it be for shelter, ambush, or comfort, it is pretty well accepted by most bass anglers, that the bass will be relating to something, or possibly several somethings.  Figuring out what they might be on any given day is the difference between KVD and say a guy like................................................me.  

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Thanks for this post it really clears up a lot of confusion for me, along with your other post in the deep water fishing thread. I the biggest thing I need to tackle now is associating the features of the lake with a topo map. I can read maps, but some of things I think I am seeing on a map aren't there on the water. I think I am seeing now that my past fishing trips that I thought I had planned out really well were just gunnin and runnin. Maybe there is some hope for this jarhead.

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Thanks for this post it really clears up a lot of confusion for me, along with your other post in the deep water fishing thread. I the biggest thing I need to tackle now is associating the features of the lake with a topo map. I can read maps, but some of things I think I am seeing on a map aren't there on the water. I think I am seeing now that my past fishing trips that I thought I had planned out really well were just gunnin and runnin. Maybe there is some hope for this jarhead.

Contour maps show the contour of the terrain below the water and important features that change the contour like channels, river or creek beds but it doesn 't tell you if there are structural features such as old dirt roads, sunken bridges, contructions, rock piles. A contour map helps but still you have to read your finder, structural features sit on top of the bottom contour. Want to see an example ?

post-369-130163007477_thumb.jpg

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Two years ago the lake where I took that pic dropped to it 's lowest point ever ( not enough rain ), the only time I 've seen it so low was almost two decades ago, those ruins are usually under 30+ feet of water, those don 't appear on a topo map, the only thing that appears on a map is the contour of the bottom and the river channel not far from those ruins, those ruins are an important structural feature, while everybody is beating the bank I go and fish upon those ruins.

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Now we have y'all thinking in the right direction

George & Raul actually added the next part of what I'm trying to convey to the least experienced anglers. Only now I'm going to have to rethink how to take this to the next level.

Here's some more fuel for thought  ;)

Breakline: A breakline can have more than one meaning. It can be another word for a drop-off/ledge, or a point of any quick change in depth. It can also be used to describe the edge of a vegetation line. For example, a "weed break" is the area of the weed bed where the weeds meet up with open water; or, where one type of weed meets up with another. The last example happens when bottom composition changes, as different weeds prefer different types of bottom composition. In rocky impoundments, a breakline can also describe a line where rock meets mud, pea gravel, etc. In other words, the most correct definition for a breakline is "Any distinct line that is made by cover or structure which leads to an abrupt change in bottom depth, composition, or cover transition".

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Catt and George,

This was a fine example of why this site is so informative. It gets all of us old hats to put our two cents in and really helps the young guys out. It also makes the older guys like me rethink some things. My instinct and the way I fish is this. I try to keep it very primal. Many variations such as wind, current, season, water temp, a slight variation in bottom structure or depth, a break, etc, etc, comes into play. But, as we all know, the bottom line, or base line for bass is procreation, food, and cover. Again, fantastic post, and great thoughts from all. :)

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Excellent description of what a breakline means Catt.

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Bass must have a visible path of breaks and break lines on a structure from deep water all the way to the shallows; which is where the bulk of food is available to bass. As bass move along a structure they pause or stop at "things"; breaks and break lines on the bottom. It is at such breaks that anglers can expect to make consistent contact with fish as they migrate along structure. This is why a certain stump or flooded tree, dock piling or submerged rock consistently produces bass for anglers. Most of the time such a spot is merely a break or bass stopping point on structure. Find more such breaks on the structure or break lines or even the deep water sanctuary near the structure then you'll find more and bigger bass more often.

There can be many structures, breaks, and break lines in a body of water. But only a few of them are so well related to deep water that schools of large bass consistently use them. The search for good fishable structure can be a quick one with much of the work done by simply studying an accurate contour map of the water.

Many of the best structures in a lake or river will have large fertile weed beds on them that harbor an abundance of minnows, crayfish and other bass forage. A weed bed a long distance from deep water with no "structure" linking the two will not be as productive as the weed bed on a structure having breaks and break lines near the deepest water in the area.

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Great info CATT and others who have added.

Just to clear something up,do you feel this info holds true on all fisheries in all sitiuations?

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This is some great info.  I do have one question though.  What brand lake maps do you find to be the most accurate and detailed??  Also, I primarily fish in and around the Omaha, NE area.  Most of the lakes I fish aren't very big.  Are there any companies out there that sell maps of smaller lakes??  I haven't run across any yet, so I would assume not, but I thought I would ask anyway.

Thanks for the info!

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Terraserver.com or Topo Zone.com has topo maps & aerial photos of most of the world including lakes.

Bass relate to structure, breaks, & breakline regardless of the size of the body of water; in smaller bodies of water the size of the structure, breaks, & breaklines will also be smaller.

If some one truly wants to learn how to locate & catch bass on a consistent bases they would copy & paste this information along with Matt Fly's thread on bait fish into Mirco Soft Word & study it daily until it became second nature.

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Catt, great post!!!

Many people assume structure and cover are the same when they are not, simply because the 2 of them are used so interchangeablely. this is why a post such as this is so important in defining what structure really is. Any Bass angler worth his salt will know the differnce between these 2, but the true test is figuring out the hows and whys that bass relate to cover as well as structure. this alone seperates the good anglers from the greats such as bill dance,hank parker and so on. 2 heros of mine of course.

from this post we can determine that structure is

1. weed beds, rock bottoms, old sunken bridges, rip rap, drop offs, limestone cliffs, bridge supports, bank points, old road beds, flats,  creak,and stream entry points from rivers and lakes, sunken trees or fences, are just to name a few.

Now lets take a look at cover which can relate to structure but in it self is not structure at all.

2. shady areas that provide camoflauge along the bank, docks, lilly pads, old boat garages,  sunken timber such as lay downs (trees that fell in), boulders, brushpiles,  are a few just so you get the idea.

There are times however when cover and structure do come together and those can be most excellent for bass, as well as other species of game fish.

Now what is best used as a bait on structure. This is where i like to use faster moving baits such as burning a worm or lizard which works now and then,also  crankbaits such as lipped and lipless, swiming jigs with trailers, i also like swimbaits please remember to match the hatch, also football headed jigs and trailers, carolina riggs excell here, as well as grubs, dont forget rat l traps, and buzz baits here.

For cover its takes more finesse i belive. The lures you want to use are primarily weedless such as texas rigged worms, flukes, lizards and creature baits. i belive skin hooking is best. Tube baits and weedless swim jigs can work wonders also providing you match the hatch, another thing i like to use are swimbaits texas rigged or weedless, as well as grub baits, spinner baits ,also long lipped crank baits.

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Great reading Catt.

One thing that I do just to try to help me visualize, is pick an area on land. Something familiar like a place you drive by going to work everyday. Then I think what it would look like under say 10 feet of water. Where would the structure or cover be that would hold bass? Then imagine where those places would be under 20 feet and so on. It helps me to see how that a point would run into a creek or how a ledge will transistion into flat areas. When I get to the lake(after looking at a topo map) I try to see how the structure blends into the shore. Then look for the cover on that structure.

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I noted the reference to a Post by Matt Fly but I have not located it... can you point me to it? This thread was extremely helpful! and so I anticipate that one wil be too... and I need all the help I can get!

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Worth Repeating the key to consistently catch bass on page 2  ;)

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Since some refuse to search the site let me see this will kick to the forums ;)

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