How To Fish Riprap

Detailed tutorial on How To Fish Rip Rap year 'round. What baits, equipment, techniques, and strategies are covered to help you catch more fish off riprap!
Loading the player ...

Having difficulty playing this video? Watch it on YouTube.

View Transcript

Hey folks! Glenn May here at and today I'm out here fishing riprap! Why would you think I want to fish a bunch of rocks? Well, let me tell you what. Rocks, riprap, can be productive year-round. It's a simple fact. The rocks...algae collects on the rocks and organic material will fall down in between the cracks and crevices of the rocks. This in turn attracts crawdads, insects, bait fish. It's a buffet for the bass. And it'll happen year-round, even in the winter time. You get a few warm, sunny days, it'll warm up these rocks and that'll get the whole ecosystem going even if the water temp is in the 40s.
Okay, so riprap, if you have it in your lake, you gotta fish it. As a matter fact, you can find them anywhere. You can find them in dams like this, or you can find them along roadbeds. You can find them...homeowners will use riprap to prevent erosion of their property. Even marinas and other areas, you'll find riprap pretty much everywhere. So if you find them, stop and fish them. Definitely.
The different ways to fish them, I want to get in to that. I'm gonna talk about how to fish them effectively and how to find the hot spots within riprap. Before I put my boat into the riprap...a little bit of waves here coming in.


First of all, how are we gonna fish it? The most effective way, or the most common way to fish riprap is with crankbaits, deep diving crank baits. What you want is the crankbait to bounce off that riprap. You want it to hit it and ricochet off of it. What happens is that when that crankbait hits it it, stops momentarily, and then fires off in an odd direction before it slows down back to its normal speed. That odd behavior, that erratic behavior, that's often what triggers a bite. See bass, they're pre-programmed by nature to attack injured and disoriented bait fish. And that's exactly what it mimics when you're bouncing it off the rocks.

That's the primary way of fishing riprap. There's a couple other baits that work really well though. Spinnerbaits, for example. Love fishing spinnerbaits on riprap. And here's the thing, see I' I said, I'm standing in 12 feet of water, sure, throw a spinnerbait in 12 feet of water, that works fine, but don't be swayed by that. Look at this, you can see this riprap here has sort of a gradual slope to it. Makes total sense if I'm standing in 12 feet of water to fish a spinner bait, but don't be swayed by that. A lot of riprap that I fish also is just straight up and down, almost straight up and down. I'll be standing this far away from the shoreline, but I'll be standing say in 20 or 30 feet of water. Spinnerbaits still work really well for that situation. 
Here's why. First of all, I throw the spinnerbait right up near the rocks as close as I can. You want to though a short underhand cast, nice soft presentation. The reason being is bass, so they're ambush. They like to ambush bait fish and if you can get bait fish near the surface of the water, then they can't escape. So that's a place where the bass will want to go. Well, if the water, where the water meets the shoreline, now you've got the surface and a physical barrier, now the bait fish are trapped. So even if I'm standing in 20, 30 feet of water, if I can get that spinnerbait right up to that intersection, often times the bass are there, they're in 6, 8 feet of water, 6, 8 inches of water, excuse me. I'll cast up there and I'll get whacked within 2 to 3 turns of the handle even though I'm standing in deep water. So don't be afraid to throw spinnerbaits, but you got to get them right up near the rocks. Don't throw overhand casts, because if you hit the rocks you'll be liable to bust up you're spinnerbait. Nice, soft underhand cast, that's the presentation you want. 
Now, line. Let's talk about line for a second. I like to use Seaguar Tatsu fluorocarbon line for those types of baits because it's abrasion resistant. This bait that...the lines gonna be draped over the rocks. It's gonna get nicked and frayed, but with fluorocarbon it's much more apt to withstand all of that abuse. Even in, you know, monofilament, copolymor doesn't stand up as well. Braid on the other hand, sounds like a great choice. I wouldn't use it. Braid is funny. It's really strong when you're throwing it in vegetation, throwing it around wood and pilings, that sort of thing. But riprap is braid's kryptonite. Braid tends to get tore up and shredded by the riprap, so it's not a good choice to use. That's why I'm using fluorocarbon. It's strong, sensitive, it's gonna handle the abuse. 
Other baits that are really good to use on riprap, top water. Definitely you want to throw top water, especially in the warmer months in the low light conditions. Buzz baits, poppers, you know, anything like that. Those are the baits you wanna be throwing that can be a heck of a lot of fun. You can have a hay day catching fish off top water during those times of the year.
Let's talk a little bit about baits that fall. We've talked about horizontal baits. They work really well. The vertical baits, that's a little bit different. Sometimes the bass, they don't want those horizontal baits, but to fish vertical takes a little bit more patience and work in riprap. The easiest one to throw is like a Senko type bait or a Savage Gear Armor tube. Those work really well. They're weightless, they glide across the top of the rocks, they're not going to get hung up in there. But if you're fishing something with a weight on it, say a jig...Texas rig baits is a good example, with that bullet head sinker. I'm telling you what, man, that's like Velcro to rocks. That bullet head, as soon as it touches the rocks, it gets wedged in between those crack and crevices and it's not coming out. You're going to get really, really frustrated fishing those, you know, darter heads, anything with that kind of cone shaped weight to it. Don't even bother using those in riprap. Even shaky heads can get stuck in the rocks. 
But football head jigs, those are a little bit better. They don't get hung up as much, but it depends on the type of riprap. They get hung up on more types of riprap than the other. I find that in the smaller chunk riprap they get hung up a lot more than in the bigger boulders like this. You're just going to have to experiment. 
But what works really well? There's a couple of rigs that work really well, with weights on them, that I find that don't get hung up as much. First off is a split shot rig. Split shot rig, by it's nature, you're not lifting and dropping it down like the other rigs. So it's not going to settle down into the rocks as much. You actually are gliding that along. You're moving that bait along the top of the rocks. And this weight, you see the shape of it? The weight is cylindrical. and it's between you and the bait. So as you're bringing it across the rocks, it's actually gliding horizontally across the tops of the rocks. That's what you want. It's not going to get hung up as much. It will get hung up, but not as much as some of the other rigs. Also, another bait that works really well is the tube jig, but specifically if you have the tube rigged like this with the jig inside the tube. That's what you want. That doesn't get hung up as much. I don't know exactly why. I really can't tell you why, I don't know for sure but I've fished it a lot in the rocks. It gets hung up every now and then but not as much as some of those other rigs.
Alright, we've talked about some of the baits to use, some of the rigs to use, now let's talk about how to find those hot spots in riprap. Look at this! Look at how long this is. This is a long, long stretch of riprap. This is only a piece of it! I'm actually fishing on of the largest man-made dams in the U.S. It goes for over 3 1/2 miles long. So how do you find the hot spots in a long stretch like that? Well, if you take a look, look see, we're not looking 3 1/2 miles down this stretch. It actually turns at some point. Well, that's the first thing you wanna look for. Look for any sort of anomalies where it bends, it turns, little points come out, little curves. Those little stretches, those can be hot spots. Also, you know, this isn't completely even all the way across. They bring in these big dump trucks and drop all of these rocks into place. So it's uneven. There are little small points and pockets along the way. Those can be hot spots as well. 
There will also sometimes be big chunk rocks intermixed with little ones. So the big rocks, the bass like to sit up on those rocks and ambush the prey that I told you about. So if you find anything like that with big rocks in there, definitely you want to fish them. 
Other spots. Sometimes on riprap, not on this one that I'm fishing but in other places that I've fished, water is on each side, each side of the road. Well, the engineers will put culverts in between. Well those culverts, they act just like little highways. The bass will sit up on those and they'll ambush the bait fish coming in and out of those culverts.


Think about the bottom, too. The bottom contour, it's not even. Along riprap, this one gets really deep in some spots, up to 100 feet deep, but on other areas it's shallower where actually, where the rocks meet where the bottom is. Watch that. Sometimes you'll see the different shift from, say 8 feet to 6 feet or 9 feet to 4 feet. Those bottom shifts, those can be hot spots as well. And on the shallower ones, sometimes weeds will grow up right up to to the rocks. Now you've got an edge. You've got a place where the rock meets the bottom where the weeds are at. Nice. Okay, you want to fish that. Especially if you've got a contour change right in with that. Definitely can be a real hot spot. 
So, how do you find these things? Well, like for example, the culverts like I mentioned. You're not going to see that under water. But sometimes bank fisherman, what they'll do is they'll take a can of spray paint and they'll mark the rocks with spray paint, or here there's a road on the top and sometimes what they'll do is they'll mark the inside of the guard rail with some spray paint or they'll stick a stick in the ground with maybe a coke bottle of top of it, something to mark it. Look for those things, they're there for a reason. If you've never fished a stretch before and you see that type of thing, well someone marked it there for a reason, so fish that area. But also you're just going to have to look at your depth finder too. And watch for those changes. 
What I like to do is this. I'll go fish a stretch of bank like this, and when I see anything like I just mentioned, I'll mark it on my GPS. Also, whenever I catch a fish, I'll mark that, too. The more I keep fishing that stretch over and over, I'll keep hitting way points, and pretty soon what you'll see on your GPS is these little clusters of way points along long stretches of riprap. Those are gonna be your hot spots. Now I know if I wanna go fishing again I just hit those hot spots, and I skip all the unproductive water. That way I know that my bait is always gonna be in the productive zone, and that's especially useful when I'm fishing tournaments. I'm going to be very efficient during that day. 
Anyway, that's how I approach riprap. That's the way I find all those hot spots. I hope that helps you. For more tips and tricks like this, visit

Watch More How-To Fishing Videos