Situation/Area #1 – The Shallow Weeds
Generally when fishing in the shallow weeds, fish will be holding in there to get a little extra oxygen from the grass, and to also act as opportunists by feeding on the poor saps that felt it would be a good idea to hide in predator territory.
When I'm fishing the shallow weeds, I stick to Flippin', Pitchin', and Punchin'.
Flippin', Pitchin', and Punchin' utilizes the use of soft plastics, such as: stickbaits (worms), and creature baits (beavers, lizards, crawfish, etc). Your goal/objective when Flippin'/Pitchin' (I'll get to Punchin' in a minute), is to search for the tiny holes or 'pockets' in the weed beds and send your bait right into it. This will take some accurate casting ability to effectively execute, but with some practice I strongly believe all anglers are capable of this simple, but effective technique!
Flippin' 101 - Flipping consists primarily of a weightless presentation, though the use of a light bullet weight can sometimes be used. Like I mentioned above, you will simply 'flip' your bait into the pocket/hole, and wait for your bait to slowly and gracefully 'flutter' to the bottom. 9 times out of 10 a fish will grab it on the drop as it's fluttering down, which means that you need to keep a close eye on your line; if it jumps, pick up the slack and drive a solid hookset! If a fish doesn't grab your bait on the drop, be patient – let it sit on bottom for a few seconds, give it a few light 'pops' and see what happens.
This presentation works very well in the dead heat of the summer – it allows hungry fish to be 'lazy' and take advantage of what looks to be a very easy and slow meal.
My favourite set-up for Flippin' consists of the use of a medium-fast action rod, paired with a 2500 series spinning reel loaded with 20-30lbs moss greenPowerPro braid. I crank my drag fairly tight, and tie my braid directly to the presentation to ensure zero stretch on the hookset. I like to use a Gary Yamamoto 5-6" Senko (I experiment with colours, but if I had to pick I'd use a natural earthworm colour or a Motor Oil coloured Senko), wacky rigged with a Gamakatsu Wacky Rig hook (I've found that these hooks have the best hook-guards to ensure that your presentation is completely weedless). I'd also suggest using a rubber O-Ring on your bait to help it last for more than a few fish at a time, but it isn't a necessity. Below is a picture of the presentation.
You can also follow this link for a quick video on how I flip senko's for bass:
Wacky Rigged Senko
Pitchin' 101 - Pitchin' consists of the exact same technique as Flippin', except you'll utilize a heavier weighted presentation; and rather than letting the bait 'flutter' slowly to the bottom, you let it crash into the bottom, and twitch/jig it to entice a strike! Once the fish strikes you absolutely horse the hookset, and bulldog way to pull the fish to the surface. So really, the difference between flippin' and pitchin', is that one utilizes more of a 'finesse' technique, while the other utilizes brute force.
My setup for Pitchin' generally consists of a Heavy-Fast action baitcaster rod, paired with a baitcasting reel – same as before, the drag will be cranked down very tight for this technique (the reason for this being that you don't want the fish to swim its way into the weeds making it impossible for you to horse it out of the water). I throw 40-50lbs moss greenPowerPro braided line on my reel for this technique, and like to direct tie my line to an Eagle Claw: Trokar flippin' hook, with a Tungsten bullet weight pegged directly above the hook. My favourite soft plastic for this presentation is the Berkley Havoc Craw Fatty, in black with blue flakes.
Punchin' 101 - Punchin' is the same set-up as Pitchin', except you are going to peg a very heavy tungsten weight right above your bait. Generally you won't utilize the Punchin' technique unless you're fishing areas that are so weedy that they literally have a 'carpet' of weeds covering the surface of the water – your goal is to seek out the weak/thin spots on the surface 'carpet' of weeds, and blast your way through it! To do this, you will cast your presentation (vertically) high into the air, and let gravity pull it back down and literally punch a hole through the carpet of weeds – simply let your presentation hit bottom, and jig/twitch/'yo-yo' it up and down until something whacks it!
Situation/Area #2 – Open Water/Deep Water Structure
Fishing open water and/or deep structure is another good producer for the summer months – this one is a favourite among anglers that frequent Lake Erie in search for their next trophy smallmouth. This technique works best on the great lakes, in the late summer or early fall.
Like mentioned above (in regards to situational fishing), there are a million different techniques to utilize for this situation, but my favourites include: jigging Tubes, Drop Shotting, and tossing Spinnerbaits.
Tube Jigging 101 - This is a favourite technique among any angler that fishes the great lakes for trophy bass. The reason I select this technique as one of my favourites, is because the tube jig is extremely versatile; you can swim it, jig it, drag it, drift it, and you can replicate pretty much any food source a bass feeds on (crayfish, gobies, small baitfish, etc).
To utilize this technique you will need specific tube jig hooks, which are similar to a normal jighead, but rather than having a sphere-shaped weight, they have more of a tear-drop shape to the weight molded on the hook. There are two types of tube jig hooks – one that has the eyelet on a 90 degree angle, and one that has the eyelet on more of a 45 degree angle... I will discuss how to best utilize these differences in a moment. To rig the bait your simply slide the tube jig up the soft plastic tube, pierce the eyelet through the top of the tube, then they're ready to tie onto your line. I like to use a medium action rod, paired with a 2500 series reel loaded with P-Line (in 8lbs test). I like using P-Line because it eliminates the need to tie a fluorocarbon leader.
My favourite tubes to use for this presentation are Venom Tubes. I like these tubes because they come in a wide variety of colours, they're durable, and they've got a natural scent to some of their higher-end tubes. I prefer the 4" Salt Series Tubes, in the Green Pumpkin pattern.
To fish this presentation, you can simply let your bait drop down to the bottom, and keep consistent contact; simply lifting or vertically jigging your bait, and letting it spiral back down to the bottom – bass love striking this presenation on the downward drop! This style of presentation is best utilized with a tube jig that has the eyelet on a 45 degree angle, which forces the bait to 'spiral' in a circular motion on the drop (which drives bass nuts!).
Another way to fish this presentation, is to 'drag' or 'swim' your bait. For this presentation you will either keep constant contact with the bottom (to 'drag' your bait), lightly stroking your rod tip downward in a 'sweeping' motion. To 'swim' your bait, you will simply cast and retrieve your bait slowly. Using a tube jig with a 45 degree angle eyelet is needed for this presentation, to avoid having your bait getting lodged between rocks/debris, and to ensure that your bait will swim in a natural motion.
Green Pumpkin w. Red
90 Degree jighead
45 Degree jighead
Drop-Shotting 101 - Drop shotting is one of my favourite techniques, and can be utilized with both live bait, and also with the use of soft plastics. This presentation is very simple, and is a fantastic presentation for new anglers to utilize.
To set up a drop shot you simply tie on your hook, while leaving a 1-2ft tag end of line, then attach a bell sinker to the end of your tag line. For this presentation you ideally don't want to be casting your line out (though this still has its place in certain situations), but rather drop your line straight down and try to keep it vertical.
If you're using live bait, you'll simply hook your bait and the bait does the work for you. If you're using soft plastics, you'll have to very lightly shake your rod to make your soft plastic look like a fish trying to stay stagnant in light current. My favourite soft plastic to use for drop shotting would be a simple Berkley Power Minnow, in a natural colour.
This presentation works great for offshore structure in the great lakes, and can also be very effectively utilized for not only bass; but also perch, walleye, bluegill, and crappie!
Drop shot setup
Natural baitfish pattern
Spinnerbaiting 101 - The spinnerbait is one of the most versatile baits; it's been around forever, it's a durable bait, and it's virtually snag-proof. The spinnerbait is my all-time favourite bait to use when targeting bass.
To Spinnerbait for bass it's simple; just simply tie your line into the 'V' of the spinnerbait, and you're good to go... For the anglers that use Braided line, be sure to use a fluorocarbon leader (I like to use Seagar Tactical Fluorocarbon (in 15lbs). For spinnerbaiting I like to use a 7ft medium-moderate action baitcasting rod, paired with a higher gear-ratio baitcasting reel (I use a Curado and I really enjoy it).
When you're using a Spinnerbait in open water, you're using it as a search bait – you're 'fan' casting the entire area; you're casting/retrieving repeatedly to literally search every square inch of the water. Try changing up your retrieve speed – go erratic, burn it full speed, slow it down, pause, pop it; keep it interesting for the fish.
In the event that you are Spinnerbaiting to target offshore structure, than you're going to need to let your bait get deeper in the water; known as 'Deep Spinnerbaiting'. When you're deep spinnerbaiting you need a heavier spinnerbait (3/4oz), with bigger blades – slow and steady is the trick to keeping your bait low in the water column/within the strike zone.
When spinnerbaiting my favourite Spinnerbaits are made by Strike King. I like using Strike King Spinnerbaits because they are very durable – the stainless steel wire doesn't bend, the blades have great weight to them, and the skirt won't rip/tear as easily as some other brands. My favourite colour has always been a white-skirted spinnerbait, with a Willowleaf/Colorado blade combo (Silver Willowleaf, and Gold Colorado blade).
White Strike King Spinnerbait
Bass Fishing on a Budget?
For the anglers that are fishing on a tight budget, and don't want to spend a fortune on a million different baits/presentations, the two absolute must haves I would recommend any bass angler to have in their tackle box, would be the Strike King Spinnerbait, and the Gary Yamamoto Senko setup – the majority of my largest fish have been caught on these two setups, and I don’t ever dare to go bass fishing without them!
That's all for today folks,
I hope some of you were able to take some useful tips/information from this article. Get out there and land yourself a trophy bass this summer!
Thanks for reading – happy fishing, and stay safe!