“The jig has to have a short hook,” Card said. “If the hook is too long, it kills the grub’s action. I slow roll the jig down the seam, kind of like I’m fishing a spinnerbait. Every 10 cranks or so, I stop winding and let the bait swim back down to the bottom.”
After the spawn
Card finds few bass on rock seams when the spawn is in full swing, but the bass return to the seams after the spawn. If the water is clear and the bass are no more than 15 feet deep or so, Card goes after them first thing in the morning with his favorite walking topwater stickbait, Yo-Zuri’s 3DR Pencil. On cloudy days, the topwater action may continue all day.
In many areas of the country, smallmouth, largemouth and spotted bass that relate to rock seams can be duped with topwater baits in May and early June. During the summer, jigs and drop-shot rigs work well on deeper seams. The topwater bite picks up again in autumn.
Pipkens shines when he fishes current seams for smallmouth bass in the Detroit and St. Lawrence rivers. One place where current seams exist is where a hump in the bottom forces the current to move faster around the high spot than it does over it. Such current seams on the Detroit and St. Lawrence rivers can be hard to see on the surface because they are typically over water deeper than 15 feet.
“I’ve caught smallmouth as deep as 67 feet while fishing current seams on the St. Lawrence,” Pipkens said. “When it’s calm, you can see the smooth water flowing over the high spot and ripples where the current is moving quicker next to it.”
The bass hold in the slower current, often in an eddy, just off the edge of the faster flow. The most effective presentation, by far, is to bring the bait right along the seam where the opposing currents meet. The bait should look natural, like something that’s being pushed downstream with the flow.
Pipkens keeps it real by drifting backward with the current while using his electric motor to keep his bow pointed upstream, to slow his drift and to stay positioned right on the seam. As he drifts backward, Pipkens drags a drop-shot rig or a tube over the bottom. The weight of the drop shot or tube jig should be heavy enough to prevent a big bow in the line, but light enough to let the bait skate over the bottom.
On the St. Lawrence River, Pipkens has drifted down current seams as long as half a mile. The current seams on the Detroit River tend to be much shorter. Some are so small that the drift may last only 30 seconds. In this situation, Pipkens circles back upstream on the slow current side of the seam with his electric motor and repeatedly makes the short drift down the seam.
Shallower current seams
Card also stresses the importance of retrieving your lures with the flow when fishing current seams in shallower water for largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass. This often happens in river systems and in upriver sections of large reservoirs and in the tailraces of dams.
Rather than drift backward, Card holds his boat facing upstream in the seam on the very edge of the faster flow. In most instances, the current is too strong on the swift-water side of the seam to hold the boat effectively with the electric motor. Once his boat is in position, Card casts directly upstream and retrieves his bait with the current.
“It’s crucial to bring your bait downstream right in the seam,” Card said. “A lot of people cast into the eddy, but the seam is where the active fish are.”
In dingy rivers, Card relies heavily on crankbaits when fishing in water no deeper than 10 feet or so. If the bass are actively feeding, they will come up off the bottom for a tandem willow spinnerbait, which he retrieves just fast enough to keep the blades turning. In deeper water, Card goes with a 3/8- to 3/4-ounce football jig dressed with a Yamamoto PsychoDad. The strength of the current dictates the weight of the jig.
“You want the jig to make bottom contact, but you don’t want it to stay glued to the bottom,” Card said. “When you lift the jig off the bottom, it needs to flow a little bit with the current, like a real crawfish being swept over the bottom.”
Originally published Bassmaster Magazine May 2018