BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Tournament anglers often debate the merits of fishing “community holes,” an area of the lake in which fish are caught on a consistent basis and is well known to many local anglers. While local anglers may know about these productive spots, the world’s best anglers still know how to out-fish the competition on these areas.
Hank Cherry fished a well-known bridge on Lake Guntersville to take home a victory in the 2020 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk, while Seth Feider built a big lead on a Lake St. Clair community hole en route to catching over 77 pounds of smallmouth at the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship last year.
“There’s no doubt community holes get a lot of fishing pressure, but they tend to always produce catches,” said Bassmaster Elite Series pro Chad Pipkens.
In a column for Bassmaster.com, Pipkens offers advice on making the most out of a “community hole.”
Obviously, a tournament angler is better off finding an overlooked school of fish away from community holes that haven’t seen every lure and technique in the book, but, sometimes, you just have to tough it out and out-fish the other anglers in the area. I’d venture to say that someone finishes in the Top 10 of every Bassmaster Elite Series event by fishing a community hole.
You do that by paying attention to even the slightest detail, be it the specific type of cover or structure the fish are on and how they are positioned.
Here is how to do it.
On the Great Lakes, for example, you will encounter a community area that always has smallmouth around it because it has all the right kinds of structure.
Many anglers will drift or drag across an area, catch a fish and then drop in a waypoint on their electronics. The problem is that waypoint could be 50 feet from where the fish — and potentially others — was sitting.
Smallmouth will roam when it is windy and cloudy, but most of the time they will sit on a specific spot. Knowing this, I spend a lot of time idling community holes and marking every high spot on the bottom. It might be broken rock, gravel hump or a big rock, but it is the kind of stuff smallies love to relate to.
When it’s time to fish, I will run from one waypoint to the other, putting my bait exactly in the sweet spot, catch what is there, and run to the next spot. You can really save time that way when fishing such vast areas on the Great Lakes.
When I finished fifth at the Chickamauga Lake Bassmaster Eastern Open last May, I found schools that were hard to locate, but I also caught some of my bigger fish from community areas.
During practice, I would fish through a community area and, when I got bites, would idle around that spot watching my Humminbird side-imaging feature to determine how it laid out.
Try to separate waypoints by marking where you got bites on the front graph with one symbol and keeping hard structure on the back graph with another symbol. I use this trick to keep precise perspective of the structure’s location and boat positioning when I got the bite. If the wind changes directions, I will know how to reposition the boat.
That’s what happened in 2019 at Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on Lake Fork. On Day 4 of competition, the fish had repositioned on the structure where I caught them on Day 2 — probably due to the pressure it received when we had a day off between competition days. On the last day, the fish weren’t on the structure but had moved to the edge. Most anglers who didn’t know what was there would have assumed they left or weren’t biting, but my homework beforehand clued me in on the structure and how the fish might reposition with changing conditions.
Spend time really assessing the sweet spots on community holes with your electronics to learn specifically what is there and how the fish use it. You may have to share the area with other anglers, but you will fish more efficiently and likely come in with a bigger bag.
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The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens Series, TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Series, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Series presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors, Bassmaster Team Championship, new Huk Bassmaster B.A.S.S. Nation Kayak Series powered by TourneyX presented by Abu Garcia and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk.