In the BBZ, we've often lobbied for the uphill retrieve. It offers countless benefits to anglers, yet can be difficult to accomplish in a world where shoreline contours, cover and structure make a consistent, uphill attack unfeasible.
We feel your pain. Unless you've found an ideal 45-degree bank with scattered rock and cover – not to mention smooth contours – it's hard to stay in the shallow zone for long. It's just not efficient. For instance, a laydown would be one barrier that would force you outside because - as even the most novice angler soon discovers - the act of pulling a lure uphill (against the grain of a fallen tree) is a recipe for pure frustration.
Okay, so you've got to fish downhill to find the bite. It's not a bad thing. Not only can you catch fish this way, you can also be alerted to opportunities that lead you to spot-on-spot uphill presentations. One of the best situations is when aggressive fish repeatedly tap your swimbaits without a solid hookup. Or, in clear water when multiple fish actively pursue the lure.
In either case, the bass are telling you that something good is going on. This is when time is of the essence.
Face it, one of the underlying precepts of pattern-fishing is finding aggressive fish in specific situations and then capitalizing on the moment. The problem here is that you've already repositioned these fish. By moving the bait downhill (from shallow to deep), you've effectively pulled these fish out to deeper water. It doesn't matter if we're talking about depths of 1 to 6, or 10 to 20 feet. You've moved them.
Unfortunately, many bass anglers assume that fish simply make a 180 and quickly return to their original position. While it may happen in some instances, clear-water anglers know that strikers near the boat, or active followers, generally follow a route that takes them past the boat and along unseen paths that eventually return them to their original spots.
In deep or off-colored water, a fisherman doesn't have this luxury. It's an experience factor that keeps fishermen in many parts of the bass-fishing world from understanding how bass react after following a lure. In fact, the only palpable experience that most anglers have of bass repositioning is in super-shallow water during the spawn.
In the spring, a return to the bedding area is instinctive, understandable and totally consistent with a fish's reproductive responsibilities. The rest of the year, things are quite different.
So, when you're fishing from deep to shallow and the fish are following or ticking the lure, the first thing to do is evaluate the area. (Note: Followers need to be aggressive. Lazy followers do not indicate a wolf-pack situation or an aggressive bite.) Most likely you've found a prime "funnel" – an area that fish use to corral or ambush baitfish. The problem, however, is that you just pulled those fish out to deeper water.
This is precisely why you need to quickly move shallow and bring the lure uphill. By doing so, you attack the fish you just repositioned with your downhill cast. But time matters. Like any elevated feeding mode, this aggressiveness may not last long. If you don't move fast, when this opportunity comes knocking, your boat won't be rocking.