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Testing Your Vertical Limit
Curt Strutz / "The Bassmeister"

When ever we hear the word "Vertical," we automatically think of the various Extreme Sports out there. Skateboarding, rock climbing, freesyle biking, and surfing all use the term "vertical," but we can now add the sport of bass fishing to this list of Extreme Sports. After all (and I am sure that most of you reading will agree), what could be more extreme than setting a hook into the mouth of a seasoned bucketmouth? How about the extreme fight that a smallmouth can give us? Hey, bass fishing ranks up there with the best of them! Now, how can "vertical" fit into the bass world?

The type of vertical referred to in bass fishing is that of vertical structure fishing. In definition form, vertical structure is a piece of either man-made or natural material that is set with the bulk of its body rising perpendicular to the bottom of the body of water. A lot of the time, these vertical structure forms are completely submerged under the water, but more often than not you can find them exposed above the surface of the water. The visual structure is where I would like to further this article, and help you to understand how to locate the structure, how to fish the structure, and what tools will be needed to land bass off of the vertical structure.

Some examples of the different kinds of visual vertical structure would be bridge pilings, marina walls, standing timber, docks, wells, and concrete walls that often surround dams, industrial areas, and marinas. I have even had the opportunity in recent months to fish a new type of vertical structure (to me) on Maryland's Potomac River during the Citgo Bassmasters - sunken barges. Each of these different types of vertical structure attract bass in large numbers, and they should never be overlooked as great resources for locating bass of all sizes and weights.

Bridge pilings have become one of my favorite types of vertical structure to fish. The main reason revolves around the fact that bridges tend to cross narrow areas of water that will usually hold a current. The bass will generally rest along the base of the piling looking straight into the current. And we all know that a fish who is focusing his attention into the current is a fish who is stalking his lunch! Just a simple cast along the structure will take care of business, and a steady retrieve while jerking the rod tip upwards ever so often will keep the presentation alive. You will find, though, that the fish will grab the bait on the drop.

There are many different types of lures that are used in fishing vertical structure, and my personal favorites are blade baits, spoons, and plastic worms. Each lure generates a different type of presentation that should be carefully considered during each fishing trip you take. Make sure to do what ever you can to ensure that the correct size and color are being used. This would include using the traditional color concepts of chartreuse and white in stained water, more metallic color patterns in clear water, etc.

Blade baits, sometimes referred to as "Zip" lures, can be an excellent source for jigging in a vertical structure environment. A blade bait is nothing more than a piece of either silver or gold metal (in the crude shape of a baitfish) with a tin or lead ball soldered to the nose. These fishing tools create a vigorous wobble that is created when the lure is given a quick jerk up and down along the vertical structure. The trick is to get as close to the structure as possible (without scaring away the bass) and send a steady cast directly down the piece of vertical structure. Let the blade drop down to the desired depth and make steady jigging motions up and down along the vertical side of the structure. If you are doing this correctly - you will be resembling the movements of a panic ridden baitfish. Make sure that you are trying to replicate the color pattern of the species of bait fish located in the area. They can be purchased in everything from crawfish patterns to varied perch and shad color schemes. A company by the name of Bitzer Creek produces these lures in a variety of colors and patterns sure to match the needs of the avid angler on any day of the week. You can learn more about these lures by visiting their web site at www.bitzercreek.com<.

The spoon can work in a similar manner as the blade bait. The difference in using a spoon instead of the blade bait is that the spoon will not have as much of a vibration as it descends to the bottom of the lake or river. What the spoon can add, though, is a more flashy appearance (that is what spoons are known for, anyways), and it will look like a dying shad making its final drop to the bottom. The spoons are made by a large variety of manufacturers, and come in a large assortment of colors and shapes. Lucky Strike Bait Works, in Ontario, Canada, is one of the more well known producers of fishing spoons. Their web site, www.luckystrikebaitworks.com<, can show their collection of spoons to the Internet tackle buyer.

Finally, the good 'ol plastic worm can be a productive tool to flip and pitch along vertical structure. The options are endless with what types of rig or worm style you would like to use. My personal preference is to throw either a 5" or 7" Mojo Fire Moccasin rigged on either a Texas or Carolina rig. Other professional anglers have been known to rig a worm "wacky" style (spearing the hook directly into the middle of the worm) while vertically fishing structure. The trick is to do a distant cast, hitting the structure head on. You then allow the worm to slowly fall down into the depths of the water - almost sliding directly along the piece of structure. Jigging up and down can be a proven method, but most worms are hit by the bass on the drop, so by casting over and over again you can maximize your fishing productivity without having to get too close to your target.

A drop-shot method can be utilized in an effective way, as well for the worms. Mojo makes an ingenious drop-shot weight kit that can make this method of fishing quick, productive, and easy to retrieve from underwater weight snags.

As you can see, there are so many ways to utilize vertical structure, as well as many different types of lures and presentations. By trying all of the different methods, you can find what will work best for you and the body(s) of water you fish the most. The most important thing to remember, though, is not to overlook vertical structure, and the many bass that can be held along side of it. After all, you are an Extreme Angler, aren't you!

Curt S. Strutz

"The Bassmeister"