An Alternative To Sight Fishing

I’ve never been a big fan of sight fishing for bedding bass.  

Sure, there is the moral dilemma of catching a fish that is trying to spawn- which I tend to avoid at all costs during fun fishing- but in a tournament perspective, I would say my distaste for the tactic is more deeply rooted in the fact that I am an impatient person, and I don’t like putting time into catching a single fish, when I could be covering water in search of more aggressive fish.  

With this in mind, I am also aware than during the spring it is often a necessity to target fish in some phase of the spawn, and thus I have formulated a strategy for catching spawning fish without sight fishing for them.  

Fishing For Ghosts

Just because you can’t see a bed doesn’t mean that you can’t effectively fish for bedding fish.  This is why I like to focus on dirty water areas where I know the fish are spawning, yet other anglers likely avoid the areas because they cannot see the bottom.  

In many cases fish that spawn in dirtier water are much easier to catch, as they are ultra aggressive and less picky.  Also, in dirty water, fish will generally spawn in much shallower water, so shallow water power tactics are effective.

Essentially, I look for areas of a lake that have dirtier water, but also have the other qualities of a suitable spawning area, such as hard bottom, shallow flats and protection from harsh wind.  Once I find an area like this, I then start using my imagination to guess where the fish are bedding.  This is actually very simple, since bass are very predictable.  

Bass like to spawn around isolated cover, like stumps, laydowns, dock posts or types of isolated grass.  They like to have something to make their bed up against so they can be more effective at protecting it on all sides.  

With this in mind I will use a two-pronged approach, based on speed and precision, to catching these invisible bedding bass.  

Speed

As I mentioned before, bass in dirty water tend to be less picky, and much more aggressive than visible bass.  

For instance, at a recent Florida tournament I had a dirty water pattern fishing for bedding fish, casting a Grass KickerZ around the shallow cover they were spawning around.  The fish were literally rushing from over eight feet from their beds to attack my Grass KickerZ, while the fish I could visibly see would barely give a small bait expertly pitched into their beds a second look.  

The Grass KickerZ is an excellent option for searching for spawning bass.  

The Grass KickerZ is an excellent option for searching for spawning bass.  

This is why I believe that when they are less pressured, bedding bass are easily fooled by fast moving reaction baits.  

In situations like this, I like to choose baits that I can cover water quickly, but also drop vertically into likely spawning areas.  This is why I like to use either a Grass KickerZ or a Project Z Swimjig.

Both of these tactics allow you to cover water for reaction strikes, but also allow you to stop on a dime and drop the bait down to a spot where you imagine a bed to be.  

With both of these baits, I stick with color patterns that imitate bass enemy #1- bream, sunfish or bluegill.

Precision

In situations where reaction techniques aren’t working for bedding fish, this is when precise tactics are essential.  

Depending on the thickness of cover, I have a variety of baits that I use to make precision casts to likely bedding areas and slowly work a bottom bouncing technique until I’m confident there is not indeed a bed there.  

If I am fishing around grass, or heavy cover, I like to pick up a flipping stick and start pitching either a Boar HogZ or a Palmetto BugZ around likely areas.  I like to focus on isolated pieces of cover that have enough room at the base of them to have a bed.  I will generally make a quiet pitch into the area and slowly drag in a few feet.  If I do not get a bite, I then make another presentation to the next piece of cover.  

If I am fishing light cover, such as dock posts, the occasional stump, or a laydown, then one of my favorite presentations is a Ned Rig with light line.   I make the same presentation, dragging the dainty bait through bedding territory.  

Between fishing with speed or fishing with precision, you can easily catch bedding fish that are invisible to other anglers and keep up with the “looking” crowd.

Seek the bite!

-Sonar

 

Picking The Right Flippin' Rod

Without a doubt, Flipping and the variations of the technique- Pitching and Punching- are my favorite techniques to target bass.  In my book, there’s nothing more exciting than getting up close and personal with bass that are dug into their heavy cover lairs and forcing them into submission in my livewell.  

Flipping is a technique that requires very specialized tackle in order to be successful getting your presentation in, and getting big fish out, of heavy cover.

Here are my rod choices for various types of Flipping:

Light Flipping & Pitching

In my book, “light” flipping is also what I would consider “pitching.”  

When you are faced with flipping hard cover, such as shoreline brush, laydowns, stumps or docks, these are the situations I consider to be light flipping situations.  I would also consider flipping sparse grass and reed stalks to be light flipping and pitching on many occasions.  

Usually fishing this type of cover you want a rod that is both suitable for braid and heavy fluorocarbon, without being too stiff as to cause break-offs with the later.  Most of the time I am also fishing small creature baits, like a Zman Palmetto BugZ, or Boar HogZ, as well as a small flipping jig between 3/8oz or 1/2oz.

With these two things being considered, I prefer to use a rod with a very fast action and a Medium-Heavy powered backbone.  The rod that I have a ton of confidence in is the Fitzgerald Vursa Series 7’6” Medium Heavy casting rod.  This rod has an excellent backbone for guiding big fish out of cover, but it also has a tip that flexes enough on a powerful hookset to help reduce break-offs when using fluorocarbon.  It also is a very nimble, light, and comfortable rod that helps me maintain efficient and precise pitching and flipping throughout the day.  

All Around Flipping

Anytime you are on a lake with lots of grass, more than likely you will be using a traditional flipping tactic to go after fish in moderate to heavy cover.  

Faced with matted submergent grass, heavy reed lines, light hyacinth mats and pads, you need a rod that has a strong backbone but is also easy to use all day long.  

The standard for all around heavy cover flipping has been the 7’6” heavy-action Flipping sticks that are the industry standard, and this is no different for me.  I have really come to trust the Fitzgerald rods “Okeechobee Rod,” which is a heavy-action rod that is easy to use all day long, but can handle lure weights from ½-ounce to 1-ounce very easily and is perfectly suited for braid up to 80-pound test.  

I have come to like this rod for almost all my heavy grass techniques, such as for the Zman Grass KickerZ, frog fishing over mats, and using buzz-style toads.  

The Slop

For the most extreme heavy cover environments- such as dense junk mats, hyacinth mats and thick submergent grass mats- you must have an equally extreme rod to handle the task.

When I’m forced to use the heaviest braided line and weights ranging from 1 ¼ ounce to 2-ounces, that is when I select a 7’8” to 7’11” heavy power rod that gives me the ultimate backbone to pull a juiced-up “bear-man-pig” of a bass out of the slop.  

I have entrusted my punching endeavors with the Fitzgerald “Big Jig/Mat Flippin’ Rod” which is a 7’8” xtra-heavy power rod that handles these situations perfectly.  

I cannot emphasize the importance of selecting the right rod for flipping tactics.  Matching any of these three rods with a Quantum Smoke HD reel and you will have the perfect setup to help you catch more fish in the bass jungle!

-Sonar

The Secret To Fishing Success

One of the most frequent questions that I receive from anglers looking for an edge is "how can I become a better angler?" 

Well, although this can be a difficult question to tackle, here is my perspective on the subject.

Fish Your Strengths

When you look at all the greatest anglers, they all may be versatile, but they all have certain strengths that they are known for.

In my own fishing I have recently looked back on all my best finishes, as well as my poor finishes, and the common thread has been that when I do well I am using techniques I consider my strengths, but when I do bad it is because I'm using tactics that may traditionally do well on a particular lake, but I am not as familiar with.  

So, my primary advice is to always focus on your strength techniques- the ones you have confidence in and have the most experience with.  In my own fishing, I have found that when I'm fishing my strengths I not only have more fun, but I fish with confidence, and I am able to make better decisions.  

Build Better Strengths

Although my personal approach to fishing is to always make my strengths work under all circumstances, the only way I can truly be an angler that catches fish under a variety of conditions and seasons is to build a portfolio of different techniques that work in different situations.  

I love flipping and pitching, and would say it is my primary strength, but there are certain situations that those techniques won't work, so I have built strengths that can help me fish other situations.  

For instance, I really like throwing a Carolina Rig, so when I have to fish deep I have the C-Rig to help me catch more fish in that situation.  I have grown strong at finessing fish in clear water with the Ned Rig, shakey head and a wacky rig, so although I am not strong with a drop-shot, I have those other finesse tactics to help me succeed in clear water situations.  

To me the key to success in fishing is not being decent at all techniques, but rather being truly great at a handful- or even just one technique that is able to be used in different situations.  

I will end this word of advice with a quote from one of the greatest in a different arena, but who's wisdom fits very well here too:

"I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who had practiced one kick 10,000 times."  -Bruce Lee

Seek the bite!

-Sonar

 

 

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