Single out cypress

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Andy Crawford

In most southern bass fisheries, targeting cypress trees makes as much sense as putting the plug in the boat. However, unlike that water-intrusion device, cypress trees are not a one-dimensional deal. Fact is, the when, where and how make a lot of difference.

“Cypress trees grow all over the country, and they’re a key factor in many Southern watersheds, from Texas and Louisiana, all along the Gulf Coast to the east coast of Florida and up the Eastern Seaboard through the Carolinas and parts of Virginia,” said Florida pro Bernie Schultz. “Cypress trees are key forms of cover for holding bass at key times of the year, or under certain conditions. The key is understanding what the fish need in different scenarios.”

From spawning to feeding, these water-tolerant trees offer loads of cover with undeniable aesthetic ambiance. It might “all look fishy,” but a handful of logical preferences merit consideration.

What a fish wants

Cypress selection starts with seasonality. With the assumption that feeding always factors into bass behavior, let’s look at the foundational elements.

Spring: Cypress tree root structures offer prime spawning areas — either amid the hard structure when the bottom’s clean or on top of the wood if there’s too much detritus. After the spawn, cypress swamps hide millions of fry and their guarding papas, all of which will move progressively outward as the babies grow.

Ideal areas are the typical shallow flats, oxbows and sheltered pockets, but cypress trees lining ditches and drains will interest the arriving prespawners and departing postspawners.

Summer: During the dog days, Schultz knows it’s all about the cooler water, so he likes the trees that are farthest from the bank with good current exposure. Along with deeper positions, Schultz pays attention to subtle depressions around individual trees, as such random variances are fish magnets.

Texas stick Frank Talley agrees and adds this perspective: “Typically, cypress lakes are shallow, so a depth change of 6 inches to a foot can be significant. You don’t have to see a ­­4-foot drop for it to hold fish.”