No matter where you are in the country, when the baitfish start moving to the rocks the bass fishermen will be close behind. Whether you target summer ledge fish in the Southeast, fall ledge fish in the West, or Winter bluff fish everywhere in between, a time of year will come when dialing in your approach to fishing vertical cover will come in handy.
I have the unique opportunity of fishing with anglers from around the globe and in doing so, I've noticed a pattern. The vast majority of anglers struggle to effectively target bass when they move from their shallow haunts in favor of more vertical cover.
Fishing vertical cover presents some unique challenges that are not often encountered with other styles of fishing. In no particular order those challenges include staying in the strike zone long enough to get bit, knowing if you're on bottom, feeling the bite, and missing the bite because you're out of position. These problems are even more severe if compounded with fishing at night.
Almost all of these problems are caused by adjusting your baitcasting reel correctly. Yes, I said correctly. For every other application your adjustments are perfect but if you want to fish vertical cover, its time to make some incorrect adjustments that will make all the difference!
Through trial and error I've found a very simple way to eliminate all of the above mentioned problems at once. By backing off the spool tension knob (found next to the star drag) you can eliminate the resistance the reel has on the line. This allows the bait to fall vertically instead of drifting away from the cover like a pendulum. Additionally, the free-floating spool will spin freely enough that you can feel the line falling, stopping, or even getting bit, without having to look down.
I've found this technique to be most effective when fishing jigs, worms, and swimbaits. If using a smaller reel like a Core 50MG you can get away with weights as light as 3/8 oz without experiencing the pendulum effect. If you're going to use standard tackle (I prefer a Curado 200) its important that you step up to a 3/4 oz jig (this works great with swim jigs as well) or heavier in order to keep the presentation as vertical as possible.
Using these quick tips will make you a more effective ledge fishermen overnight. I've seen clients go from getting no bites at all, to catching fish after fish by just backing off the tension. Its a simple solution to a very complicated series of problems that plagues us all at one time or another.