Brush strokes

Late fall work planting brush piles can make for great bass-fishing success throughout the year.

It’s no secret that largemouth bass love to hang around submerged brush piles, especially early in the year before they are ready to head for the shallow spawning grounds. While many anglers sit home during these months, others probe the shallows, hoping for some early spawners. But savvy anglers key on brush piles, understanding that locating them is a huge step in boating their limit of bass.

Wait a minute, this is November, so why do we care about catching bass on brush piles in March? Because it’s a great time to locate those brush piles, and locating doesn’t mean finding them on your depth finder, it means placing them yourself.

It doesn’t take long for a productive brush pile to get targeted by anglers searching for that next big bite, and those who focus most of their fishing time on brush piles can get frustrated when their go-to spots are crowded or fail to give up bass due to overfishing. So what can you do to avoid this problem? You can mimic the actions of Summerville’s Marc Deschenes,and build and sink you own.

November is a great month for this task because fewer anglers, as well as jet skis and other pleasure boats, are on the water. This gives you the chance to place brush piles relatively unnoticed, as well as lets them work without being rocked by the wake of other boats.

While this seems like a simple solution, it does involve a lot of labor and time, but anglers looking for a productive spring don’t mind putting in either. To Deschenes, building brushpiles is a part of his business at VIP Adventures, as well as his own fishing success. Deschenes has a number of brush piles in the numerous ponds that make up his trophy fishing waters VIP Adventures, but he builds his share of them on the Santee Cooper lakes as well.

“The ones at VIP Adventures are plainly visible to my clients. This lets them find out what lures and tactics are most effective, and shows them the importance of having brush piles available for their own fishing,” he said.

At Santee Cooper, Deschenes keeps the locations of his brush  piles a secret between himself and his depth finder.

“I like to build them during the most-miserable weather; that’s when I’m most likely to have the lake all to myself,” he said. “And I don’t build one big brush pile. I build a number of smaller ones, then line several of them up in one spot. I repeat that process throughout the lake.”

Deschenes places six or eight wax myrtle branches in a 5-gallon bucket, dumps a bag of Quikrete in the bucket, adds water, then repeats the process with several other buckets. After adding the water, he lets them sit for a day or two, loads them onto his pontoon boat, then places them in his desired spots. The buoyancy of the wax myrtle leaves and the weight of the Quikrete ensures they land upright. He lines up five or six, placing them each about a dozen feet apart.

Last November, Deschenes (843-708-5473) spent a lot of time building new brush piles and refreshing old ones throughout  Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie, which gave him plenty of places to fish that no other angler knew about, unless they’d stumbled on them while cruising around. Last year, Dechenes and his partner won six of 10 tournaments they fished on Santee and finished in the money in three of the other four, and they did it largely by fishing on the brush piles Deschenes had built and sunk.

How does Deschenes pick a good spot for a brush pile?

“I look for an area that has a sudden (depth) change — maybe a 4-foot deep flat that suddenly drops off to 6 or 8 feet. Or a large, wide area that narrows drastically. Or maybe just a big, deep hole surrounded by shallower water,” he said. “If more than one such change is present, then that is even better. Where I won’t build one, is in a large open area with a constant depth and no changes or very gradual changes in structure or depth.

“One thing that can spoil it is you never know if or how far the water level will drop after you build brush piles. If someone spots the tip of a brush pile in the middle of the lake, he’s going to know it holds fish, so you build them and hope the water stays at a level that keeps them hidden.”

Deschenes has placed more than 100 brush piles in the Santee Cooper lakes.  They all hold fish year-round, but he said they are best in the spring, when they attract fish that are staging to spawn, as well as fish that have already spawned.