BassWestUSA - November/December, 2009, Page 49

Kiriyama finds that having two types of fish finders on his Yamaha powered Bass Cat makes a difference. He uses one help him locate schools quickly, then another when he is fish- ing vertically. “Humminbird’s Side Imaging helps me locate the schools of bait when they move,” says Kiriyama. “Then, once I am back on the fish, I turn up the power and zoom on my Lowrance unit, because I think it gives me better detail of the bottom and the schools when I am directly over them.”

parent that the forage is holding below a certain depth, due to temperature, oxygen, or some other variable. Thus, you recognize not to waste all your time fishing above that depth. On large lakes like Erie, Shasta, and Powell, Kiriyama may actually concentrate first on structure, since features likes humps, high spots, ridges, and rock piles are clearly pin- pointed on GPS maps. Once he finds that structure, he often sees baitfish, too, since they show up well in huge schools. “You may not even actually see any bass because they’re hidden under the baitfish,” he explains, “but you can almost always bet some bass are going to be present when your depthfinder screen turns dark with baitfish. Still, you pinpoint them as closely as possible, especially if you’re over a large structural feature. The bass may only be on a small part of it.” This is where another variable, current, often enters into the equation. On Lake Erie, for instance, the prevailing wind blows from west to east and actually creates a strong current-like movement of the water. Because Erie’s rocky reefs are large enough to disrupt this water movement, calmer surface eddies can be identified, and this is where Kiriyama found the largest concentrations of his fish. Whitewater canoeists and kayakers use this same technique of reading the surface to navigate a treacherous river; underwater ob- stacles push the water up while flat bottom areas remain calm on the surface. “Even on Lake Shasta, current can be a factor for locating suspended bass,” says Kiri- yama. “Bass may be in front of the structure, on the sides, or behind it, so with my electron- ics I follow the structure to try to see where the heaviest concentration of baitfish is located, and that’s where I start fishing.” “Trophy bass fishermen working structure will always tell you there’s a particular ‘sweet spot’ on a piece of structure that will hold the largest fish, and it’s the same way with suspended bass holding over structure. When I begin, I don’t know what or where that sweet spot is, so I follow the outline of the structure with my electronics and work all over it until I find the fish. That’s what you have to do with suspended bass.” Because deep, suspended bait tends to move, the bass below are moving, as well, an- other problem anglers must face. Kiriyama solves this dilemma by constantly watching his electronics and by fishing. On big, open water lakes like Erie and Champlain, offshore bait does not really have the luxury of swimming to the shoreline every afternoon; instead, they move as current moves plankton, as light or temperature changes, or even because fishing pressure may increase. “Every day on Erie, the bait moved 200, 300, even 400 yards from where I had caught them previously,” remembers Kiriyama. “Some of the rock piles and reefs on the bot- tom there are huge and the bait never left the reef itself, only changed location on it. Other times, however, they left one rock reef entirely and moved to another one. “Whenever you’re fishing for deep, suspended bass, always be aware this can and usually will happen. I usually work a zig-zag pattern covering both the edge and part of the interior of the structure to find them. I don’t really change the depth I’m fishing, such as letting my sinker fall completely to the bottom, and I don’t slow down, either, until I actually start seeing baitfish again on my depthfinder screen.” Re-locating bass that have moved is one of the more difficult aspects of fishing for deep suspending fish, because an angler does not know if he’s fishing the wrong place, wrong lure, or wrong presentation. Kiriyama’s solution? Keep changing lures to present a different fall rate and action, and keep covering water and watching the electronics. “Water clarity dictates some of this,” he points out. “In really clear water where bass tend to suspend more, they do see your lure, so I try for both reaction strikes and feeding strikes. I’m convinced this is what makes a drop shot the ideal technique. You can use a 4-inch worm or a 10-inch worm, and you can float it down gently, or drop it quickly. You can shake it with your rod or you can just let it flutter in the current.” “I try all this, even when I can see the baitfish on my electronics, until I start getting bites, and even then, I normally have to keep changing my presentation. Suspended bass are sitting underneath all the food they can possibly eat and you have to get their attention in spite of that. “It can be difficult, but it can be done.” As evidenced by his Elite Series win at Lake Erie. BW

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November/December 2009