Whenever you see Yamaha pro Jay Yelas with 10 or 12 rods on his boat deck this time of year, chances are he’s planning to fish sea walls. These man-made retaining walls, designed to prevent wave erosion, rank as some of his favorite bass fishing hotspots, and for good reason: largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass all use sea walls, and the fish will hit everything from topwaters to tube jigs.
“They’re great ambush points for bass because they can trap baitfish against the walls,” explains Yelas, the 2007 FLW® Tour Angler of the Year, “which is probably why they’ll hit so many different lures. Sea walls can attract and hold bass throughout the year, too, but they’re especially good right now from spring into the summer.
“I think the very best sea walls are those on the main lake, rather than those in the backs of quiet coves. Wave action caused by current or wind will wash plankton against a sea wall and the baitfish will follow. Then, when the bass arrive, the baitfish are trapped. When it’s cloudy, or if the water is dingy and slightly off-color, you can catch bass along a sea wall all day.”
The Yamaha pro chooses his sea wall lures according to the conditions. If the water at the base of the wall is three to four feet deep, Yelas often uses a small swim bait; if current is present, he prefers a jig or a tube; and if it’s early morning and calm, his choice is usually a topwater popper.
“I like to make long casts parallel to the sea wall, and retrieve my lure within a foot of the wall,” he explains. “Bass hold very tight to this type of structure, and they normally do not chase lures moving away from the wall. You can try different retrieve speeds, but it’s crucial to keep your lure close to that wall.
“I really like to fish sea walls in rivers because current is usually present, and for these, I try to position my boat so I can retrieve my lure with that current. I also pay a lot of attention to sea walls that may have a point or change of direction in the current because it can create a type of eddy of calmer water where bass like to hide.”
Sea walls on lakes with heavy urban development, such as Lake Norman near Charlotte, Minnetonka in Minneapolis, and Logan Martin near Birmingham, often offer excellent fishing, says Yelas, because other forms of cover may be rare.
“If you are fishing a lake like this, look for a sea wall that may also have a boat dock on it,” the Yamaha angler explains, “because it will provide additional habitat. Anytime you can find two different types of cover or structure together, I think your chances of finding bass improve, especially larger bass.
“During the final FLW Tour event of the 2007 season on Lake St. Clair, I fished a sea wall on the St. Clair River with a swim bait and caught a big smallmouth that really helped me win the Angler of the Year title.
“If you have a chance to fish Clear Lake in California in the spring, you’ll usually see bass over 10 pounds spawning right at the base of the sea walls, and they’ll remain there through the post-spawn, too.”