Like most, bass fishing pro Joe Holland follows the boat lanes; those established passages cutting through vast fields of vegetation. The FLW Tour pro recognizes boat lanes offer perfect bass fishing locations as well as serve as safe navigation in flooded cover lakes.
He notes 3 main attraction points for bass in boat lane fishing:
- Food funnels
- Migration routes
- Deeper access
Boat traffic chops up new vegetation and moves around plankton; two things that create feeding opportunities for baitfish. Moreover, a lane’s open water warms faster and that only increases the baitfish attraction.
“The bass will move in and hunt in those lanes; either in the middle or along the edges,” Holland said. “The edges aren’t always straight, sometimes their saw-toothed, so the fish will hang right on the edge. Or, if there’s a mat, they’ll hang in those and watch for bait coming through the lane.”
Just like anglers, bass will use boat lanes as travel routes, so noting what’s at either end can tell you a lot about fish movements.
“In a lot of the grass lakes, the boat lanes come directly perpendicular from the lake or from outside the main grass line, so fish will use the boat lanes to get into the spawning areas quicker and easier,” Holland said. “There’s water flowing in and out of those lanes and the fish recognize that as a travel lane.”
Holland recalls an Okeechobee team tournament in which he and his partner worked a couple hundred yards of a boat lane they were going to traverse before getting on plane. Nabbing two 6-pounders cued them in on a pattern and devoting their day to boat lanes yielded a victory.
When lake level fluctuates, a boat lane’s deeper water provides a vital conduit to and from spawning grounds, as well as feeding areas.
How to fish boat lanes quickly
Holland’s boat lane trio comprises a walking topwater, a swimbait and a buzzbait. Topwater walkers like the Zara Spook and buzzbaits are pretty straightforward, but his swimbait presentation is a burning retrieve right at or just below the surface with a Gambler Big EZ swimbait.
“These are all reaction baits; they’re aggressive fishing techniques,” Holland said. “The only time I’ll slow down is if I’m seeing fish or getting follows and they’re not committing. Then, I’ll go back and pitch a Fluke-style bait or a Gambler Ace soft stickbait and let it fall back to them.
“But most of the time, when you have fish in boat lanes, they are highly aggressive, and they’re not hard to catch at all. It’s an overlooked pattern, but when it’s right, you can power fish it and cover a ton of water in a hurry and not feel like you’re going to fast.”
And don’t overlook the peripheral habitat. Bass will move in and out of whatever vegetation a boat lane transects, so cover the corners and transitions in and out of boat lanes for some great bass fishing.