Rip-rap created by piling rocks and boulders is an effective, popular way to protect a shoreline from erosion. Luckily for anglers, that rip-rap also attracts fish. The countless nooks and crannies provide hiding places for baitfish and crustaceans in all types of waters, and they also provide a substrate for critters such as barnacles and mussels in saltwater environments. As a result, there are nearly always predators patrolling those rocks. Take advantage of these tips to work them effectively.
Read the Rip-Rap First
Look for oddities in the rip-rap that stand out, which may indicate hotspots. As a general rule, a long stretch of rocks could hold fish just about anywhere or they may be scattered along the rip-rap. But usually, there will be certain spots where the fish congregate.
Points are often hotspots, since they almost always extend out underwater. Chinks and partial holes in the rip-rap are excellent indicators of a hotspot; these often reveal areas where some of the rocks fell off the main wall and will be lying on the bottom nearby, creating some additional structure separate from the bulk of the rip-rap.
Another good oddity to scope out is an area where the rocks are piled higher than usual, which may indicate a section of the barrier where there’s deeper water close by, and the landowner needed to give the shoreline additional protection.
Prioritize Direction According to Wind and/or Current
With a few potential hotspots sighted, work your way along the rip-rap while casting up to it. It’s usually best to cast as you creep along outside the structure, spending extra effort in any potential hotspots. Obviously, this means choosing a starting point and moving in one direction. Before deciding which way to go, however, take careful note of the wind and/or current.
If the boat has a bow-mounted trolling motor, working into the prevailing force provides the most control. If it doesn’t, however, trying to work into the wind or current means you need to constantly apply power and steer, or the bow will blow around in the wrong direction. In this case, having that prevailing force behind the boat allows the wind or current to continually push it in the right direction and the bow will stay pointed the right way. Then, brief applications of power will make small course corrections.
Stick with Artificial Baits
There will be exceptions to this rule, but generally rip-rap is best worked with artificial lures, allowing everyone to cast and retrieve repeatedly without having to constantly freshen baits as they are beaten up. Plus, if you toss a lively bait up to rip-rap, it will likely attempt to swim into a crevice or hole to hide — and you’ll end up snagged.
Yes, I know this is easier said than done. Here’s the thing: The predators aren’t usually facing the boat; they’re facing the rocks, where their prey is. And in most cases, they won’t be more than five or six feet away from the rocks. So if casts fall short and splash down eight or 10 feet from the rip-rap, the fish may never see your offering. This is particularly important to keep in mind when hitting one of those potential hotspots you identified earlier. If you make five or more casts without getting a hit, you’ll be tempted to move on, right? But if four of those five casts fell short, you’ve really only had one effective shot. Stay there and keep making casts until you’ve dropped a bait or lure within a foot of the rocks several times.
Check the Troughs
Depending on the geography of the area and whether there’s current, in some places troughs get scoured out near rip-rap. Quite often, large fish will sit in this deeper water between attack runs. Always keep track of the depthmeter as you work along a rip-rapped shore, and mark any troughs or holes. After hitting the rip-rap itself, it’s always a good idea to try working a lure or placing a bait down near bottom in these deep spots. You may find the bites a bit lethargic, because the fish in these places often aren’t in a hard-charging feeding mood, but they’ll produce the biggest fish of the day with some regularity.
Are you ready to hit the water and work that rip-rap? Here’s a bonus tip: Prior to fishing a new body of water, spend a few minutes on Google Earth. Rip-rapped shorelines are easy to identify, and in some cases the images will reveal rocks that were misplaced during construction and lie just beneath the surface off the main body of rip-rap, providing yet more fish-attracting structure.