When most anglers talk of fishing around artificial reefs, they’re usually talking about fishing the nearshore or offshore reefs in saltwater. But artificial structure works just as well in fresh water, and this time of year is a great time to create them in your favorite lakes.

January is a popular time for anglers to make artificial reefs, by sinking brush piles which are mainly made out of Christmas trees. And while any structure is good for attracting fish, Marc Deschenes of V.I.P. Adventures in Summerville said Christmas trees are not normally ideal to use for this purpose.

“Your best bet is to use plants that are native to the area around whatever body of water you’re fishing in. If the banks are crowded with wax myrtle trees, then I use wax myrtle to make brush piles with. You’re always better off using a plant that occurs naturally around that body of water over another plant that doesn’t grow in the area,” he said.

Deschenes likes this time of year for building brush piles because it gives them time to develop algae all over them by mid-February, and he said that is an important time of year for bass fishing in the Carolinas.

“February is a big transition month in this part of the country. It used to be that everyone looked at March as the big transition from winter to spring, but more and more in the past decade, it’s really been February that starts off cold, then begins warming up around the middle of the month, and nothing turns bass on more than that change,” he said.

Deschenes fishes the Santee Cooper lakes a lot, but also travels around the Carolinas and the southeast to fish in bass tournaments. He puts brush piles in all of them, especially when his tournament schedule calls for a certain lake in the near future. He also builds brush piles at his series of private lakes in Summerville, where anglers can hone their fishing skills in controlled environments.

“I’ll travel to any of those lakes to put out brush piles if I know I’ll be fishing there within a month or two,” he said.

For each brush pile, Deschenes (843-708-5473) uses a 5-gallon bucket, a bag of Quikrete, and a handful of limbs or shoots from whatever local brush is present.

The biggest mistake most anglers make when making a brush pile? Making them too big, said Deschenes.

“If it’s as big as a refrigerator, the same number of fish are going to get on that brush pile if it’s as big as a car. So you’re not really gaining anything by building it bigger, not unless you’ve got some really heavy equipment and can build it as big as a warehouse. Otherwise, if you’re building it on your own, you’re better off building more of them that are fairly small, then lining them up in a straight row,” he said.

When it comes to fishing those brush piles, Deschenes likes to line up with them, cast to the farthest one, then work his lure back past all of the brush piles.

“If you don’t get a strike at the first brush pile, then you know there’s another one coming up. If you don’t get bit there, then there’s still another one, or two, or three to bring your lure by, all on the same cast. You’ll also pick up some fish that are moving in between brush piles, so I’ve found this is the most effective way to do it,” he said.

While he’d rather use local materials, as he has been doing for years, he said one thing he has experimented with lately is an artificial fish attractor called the American Fish Tree, which is manufactured in Alabama.

“It’s a whole lot faster, easier, and much less messy to deploy these, and while my brush piles need to be refreshed at least once a year, the American Fish Tree never needs to be refreshed. It is also easy to retrieve if you decide to move it for any reason,” said Deschenes.