With the Texas big game hunting season drawing to a close, now is the time to start limbering up those fishing rod and reel outfits with thoughts towards the nearby creeks, rivers, lakes, and stock ponds. Naturally, with the Texas late winter dove season, and quail hunting lasting until February 26th, let’s not forget to pack those shotguns for some great shooting while the opportunity presents itself.
To lead into this it’s best to remember the father of deep water and structure bass fishing, the late Elwood L. “Buck” Perry whose middle initial actually stands for Lake. It was he who recognized that while bass, especially big bass, utilize shallow water for feeding and spawning, they actually use depth as escape and travel routes, in addition to using it to find sanctuaries. It is also a fact that bass move more vertically than horizontally in the water column.
By his own initiative knowing that bass, and for that matter all fish, use deep water, Perry designed a lure he named the spoonplug. Having that inquisitive engineer’s mind (Perry was a high school, later college, math, mechanical engineering, and physics teacher) he decided that since most casting/trolling fishing lures of that time (1946) – not discounting topwater lures, jigs, nor the pork rind, – were wooden plugs (now called crankbaits) or metal spoons, he would incorporate both lures’ intricacies, hence the name spoonplug. While this “new” lure would be metal, the overall look would resemble that of a plug – crankbait.
The spoonplug was manufactured in different sizes and weights with the idea to troll this lure to determine the different depths and structures on which bass, or other game fish, would be holding. Once a fish was caught the notion was that other fish in the area would strike as well thus making a more successful fishing trip for the angler.
Naturally, discovering where bass would be holding and on what structure or underwater cover was really the first step in learning more about fish and their movements. Modern bass anglers have depth finders, a device now almost taken for granted, whereas before sonar units, and they were large devices to say the least, were found only on Navy destroyers and submarines. Success was not immediate and the lure was used primarily around North Carolina, Perry’s home state, and a few other southern states. It wasn’t until 1954, when airline pilot, Don Nichols, learned about the lure, while vacationing in Florida. Nichols success propelled Perry to national recognition when he was invited to Illinois to test his lure and ideas about deep water structure bass fishing on Lake Marie, a supposedly “fished out,” body of water.
Well, the opposite proved true and from there Buck Perry and the spoonplug lure became a natural part of the angling world’s lexicon. Perry was featured in the print and electronic outdoor media; giving demonstrations, lectures, and seminars throughout the United States, as well as publishing his findings and teachings in books and periodicals. To him “knowledge is the key to fishing success,” and no lure including his was magically going to catch fish. Lures are tools and nothing else. Only through learning fish movements and how they relate to deep water and structure could the angler hope to gain success.
So just what is structure? Structure is a body of water’s physical size, shape, or configuration. This includes coves, water depth, depressions, drop-offs, flats, humps, ledges, and points, as well as submerged creeks and springs – even the water’s surface. Note that deep water is relative in terminology. Should a body of water feature at its deepest part 20 feet, then that is deep water. The definition of fishing cover means vegetation, wood, and rock. Vegetation can be either emergent, meaning their stems and roots are on the water’s surface or submersed (lily pads or musk weed) with their stems and roots growing underwater. The most common vegetation in the Central and South Texas waters are the following: pond leaf, coontail moss, lily pads, and musk weed. Wood covers the whole gamut from blowdowns, flooded timber, logjams, stumps, to tree limbs touching the water. Rock is anything from boulders to pea gravel, shoals (rocky, shallow water areas) to dam riprap.
In a sense an angler could classify structure as geological, whereas cover is biological. There is always an exception to the rule. While rocks are geological, the algae or any vegetation that grows on them will be biological, naturally attracting the small prey upon which bass feed. Structure and cover can also be manmade such as boat docks, bridges, large broken concrete chunks, duck blinds, flooded old roads, old tires or wooden pallet reefs. For better and more hook-up opportunities, anglers should target their casts to those areas where structure has some type of cover on it or where two different pieces of cover occur together (i.e. vegetation and wood or two different types of vegetation). This is often referred to as a transition zone. Some of my biggest bass have come from such transition zones. Look for those subtle and unusual changes in structure and cover such as slight indentations in a weed line or shoreline, a single stump, isolated weed patch or sudden depth changes.
Many people often confuse “Buck” Perry with George W. Perry, the angler who caught the world record 22 lb., 4 oz., largemouth black bass on Sunday, June 2, 1932, at Montgomery Lake, now almost completely silted, in Georgia. The two men were different individuals and to this writer’s knowledge were not related and probably never met. George W. Perry was born in 1913 and died in plane crash on January 22, 1974. “Buck” Perry was born July 10, 1915 and passed away on August 12, 2005.
Meanwhile, keep in mind what noted comedian, Jeff Foxworthy, says, “You just might be a real bassin’ redneck, if your idea of a dream home is a bass boat.”