Kentucky Lake has to be the best known and most productive ledge fishing lakes in the United States. In 2015 at the Zippo BASSfest at Kentucky Lake presented by A.R.E. Truck Caps, Kevin VanDam nearly caught up to winner to Edwin Evers after putting on a ledge-fishing clinic bringing in 26-10 to the scales on the last day.
Watch this video as Kevin VanDam catches a hot bed of activity during BASSfest 2015, catching 5 bass in 5 minutes!
Today, anglers have the odds in their favor with the best of electronics and mapping to break down structure and all the latest rods and tackle to fool the wariest of ledge bass.
VanDam Addresses 8 Common Questions, Mistakes & Myths About Modern-day Ledge Fishing
1. Why Do Bass Like Ledges?
VanDam believes that bass relate to ledges during the summer because it’s a piece of structure that gives bass easy access to food during the summer months. The presence of current will determine how a bass positions on a ledge. In a river run reservoir that is generating power, the current will be flowing and bass traditionally set up on top of the ledge in the shallowest place VanDam says. Bass are opportunistic feeders and use current as a food delivery system to ambush pods of bait.
In a river run reservoir that is generating power, the current will be flowing and bass traditionally set up on top of the ledge in the shallowest place VanDam says as the way to ambush pods of bait. Think of current as a food delivery system of sorts.
When current is absent, on a lake not generating power or the current is turned off, VanDam looks for bas to still relate to those edges but they’ll suspend instead. “They may be off the edge, off the deeper break, up in the water column or up on top and over,” VanDam said.
2. Common Angler Mistakes
Time and again, VanDam watches anglers set up too close to the edge.
“If you’re following that break with regular 2D sonar, a lot of times they’re holding off the edge. If you try to follow with your boat, you’ll be on top of where the fish are holding,” VanDam said.
3. Myth or Fact: Ledge Fish Can be Caught Shallow
True. “I’ve caught plenty of bass 2- to 3-feet deep”, VanDam started. “You might call it a bar instead of a ledge but they do not have to be deep. Depth is relative and dictated by water clarity in terms of how deep they’ll be.”
The clearer the water, the deeper the bass will hold while the more stained the water, the shallower the ledge they’ll relate to.
4. Myth or Fact: Big Fish are Sluggish and Hide on Ledges
False. “With ledge fishing, usually the biggest ones are going to bite fairly quickly and first,”VanDam started. “If you stay there for a long time, typically they get smaller.” Sure, the larger bass can always be enticed into biting but generally, if you pull up to a spot and catch multiple small fish, catching a big’un is rare VanDam says. Now, if you pull up to a spot and catch a pair of 5-pounders on back to back casts, that’s a good indication of the quality of bass living on the spot.
If the better fish develop a case of lock-jaw and VanDam knows they are still there, he’ll back off 50-yards to let the fish settle down and reposition on the ledge. At the same time, he’s still close enough to guard his spot.
5. Myth or Fact: Using a Wider Range With Side-Imaging Allows You to See More Detail
False. One of the biggest mistakes that anglers make when using side-imaging on their Humminbird electronics to trying to see to big of an area, VanDam says.
“I’m going to scan the outside break to the river channel first and then I’ll work my way shallower and a lot of these lakes have a lot of flat ledges. If I’m looking for the bass, that’s the best way to do it,” VanDam said.
The farthest he’ll set his range is at 50-feet. If you don’t believe him, the next time you are on the water, he suggests anglers set their range to 75-feet then click on an object and zoom in to the 50-foot range and see just how much clearer the object is.
To dial in the more subtle pieces of structure, he’ll cursor to the unique piece of structure and zoom-in on the object or structure.
Watch video by HumminbirdTV about the topics of using Humminbird’s zoom feature.
6. Myth or Fact: Anglers Can Use Their Electronics to See Mussel Beds With Side-Imaging
“I’ve graphed a lot spots that hold a lot of bass and I’ve never been able to determine a live mussel bed from one that is not. And on Kentucky lake, every ledge is covered in mussels and full of shells- I’ll call hogwash on that one!” he said.
7. Myth or Fact: The Hydro-Wave is a Gimmick
False. Check out the front deck of many professional angler’s boats and you’ll find a good percentage believe in the benefits of running a HydroWave fish call unit. Heck, KVD has his own signature model!
“I’ll run my HydroWave on a 60-second delay and a lot of times I’ll change patterns to get the fish fired up. The biggest thing a Hydro Wave can do is if you have bass and bait in close proximity, sound can be the trigger for them to fire on that school,” VanDam explained.
When KVD helped design his signature series model, he made sure there were ledge sound patterns pre-built in as well as schooling patterns. He’ll change form one pattern to the next running it with a minimum delay of 30-seconds.
8. Myth or Fact: Ledge Fishing is Strictly Jigs and Deep-Cranking
False. VanDam likens picking apart ledges to “junk fishing” meaning that he’ll have multiple rods and reels with a variety of baits tied. When fishing ledge lakes like Kentucky Lake, which he deems as the best ledge lake in the country, it’s all about figuring out how to catch bass that experience insurmountable amounts of fishing pressure.
“Anglers have really learned those lakes and where the schools of bass are located because their electronics are so good,” he said.
“Where these fish schools are located, you have to utilize finesse presentations to get them to bite.”
Given the opportunity, he’ll target largemouth feeding on gizzard shad as not only are they the focal point but larger than average largemouth bass target then.
At times, he’ll throw a drop shot rig and nail-weighted baits when the largemouth are particularly disinterested.
Make no mistake, given the chance, VanDam’s favorite ledge fishing bait is a crankbait.
Watch this video as Kevin VanDam explains the best way to tweak your fishing lures to ensure they run straight in the water and present a more natural action.
“It’s a bait that gets to the depth zone of the ledges very efficiently and it allows me to cover a lot of water,” he started. “Most all of the best ledge spots and schools I’ve ever found have either been with a crankbait or Humminbird Mega Side-Imaging.”
On the deck of his boat he’ll have a variety of baits lined up that include:
1. Strike King Sexy Spoon
2. Strike King Tour Grade Tungsten Swing Football Head with a Strike King KVD Perfect Plastic Bullworm attached
3. Both silent and rattling Strike King XD crankbaits that reach the targeted depths
4. Strike King Rage Swimmer Swimbait
5. 1-oz Strike King Bottom Dweller
6. Strike King Tour Grade Football jig with a Rage Craw trailer
“I throw the kitchen sink at them and once I know where they are sitting at, I’ll throw 10 to 15 casts with each bait and try to get them to react again,” he said.
Typically, he’ll use 17-pound Bass Pro Shops XPS KVD Signature Series fluorocarbon fishing line for football jigs, worms, and when cranking shallower ledges to keep his bait higher in the water column but will opt for 12-pound line when deep cranking.