Standing timber dots the shorelines and backwater bays of Lake Amistad, site of the first Bassmaster Elite Series tournament that wrapped up on March 11. The woody habitat is also a frequent target for anglers who send baits into the dense branches of standing timber to lure bass from their lairs.
Is the strike zone in standing timber within the tight confines of the cover itself, or outside the perimeter where lures aren't so apt to get snagged and tangled?
The answer, according to Bassmaster Elite Series pro Gerald Swindle, is to think outside the box and specifically when clear water surrounds standing timber.
"Before I came to Lake Amistad I went to the school of thought where you cast into the middle of an isolated area of standing timber," said Swindle, who finished 33rd in the event. "That's the textbook approach. You make one or two casts into a stand of timber and then move on to the next area."
He continued, "That's OK in dingy water but clear situations give you another dimension and even more opportunities to maximize your time in a given stand of timber."
What Swindle discovered at Lake Amistad can be applied in any situation where clear water and standing timber are in the same bass fishing equation.
"If you think about it, a bass holding tight to a tree is there for one reason, and that is to use it as an ambush point," he observed. "The bait is swimming free in the open water, so it makes more sense to put your bait around the outside of the timber."
In doing so, Swindle discovered at Amistad that he could downsize lures, line tests and generally expand his lure choices to increase his odds of attracting a strike. In contrast, targeting the thick cover would have limited his choices to fewer lures fished on heavier line tests.
"It opened my eyes to their predator world," he said of the experience. "It also expanded the strike zone in a given area of standing timber when you've got a clear water situation."