Skip to main content

Deep Thinking About Shallow-Water Fishing

Follow these tips to perfect your shallow-water presentations for springtime bass.

Deep Thinking About Shallow-Water Fishing

Skipping, pitching and flipping come into play fishing for bass in the spring. (Photo by Pete Andersen)

Spring weather is anything but predictable, bouncing between winter’s cold and summer’s heat. However, while unpredictable, there is one certainty—bass and anglers will head for skinny water, where they’ll revel in warming temperatures and an abundance of visible cover. But don’t let your excitement get you in a rush.

Fan casting a bank will catch a few springtime bass, but proper and precise presentations always catch more in less time. That’s where skipping, pitching and flipping come into play. Mastering these techniques requires an understanding of boat position, casting angles and gear. Here’s how to win with them on your favorite shallow-water spots.

SKIPPING

When water is at its clearest or shallowest, or fishing pressure at its heaviest, bass retreat under and into cover such as docks, vegetation and overhanging trees. Skipping your lure across the water like a stone is the best way to reach those distant dark corners. Do it right, and the fish will never know you’re there until you’ve set the hook.

Skips can be made quickly, so they’re perfect for covering water. Use your trolling motor to position your boat, creating clear shots to your lure’s final destination. That’s not always done while moving parallel to the bank. If you’re fishing a dock, for example, slide down its side and try casting perpendicular to it.


The best lures to skip are soft plastics, especially floating worms, weightless stick worms and tube baits stuffed with a lead head. Jigs work, too. And while a flat head or trailer may add a skip or two, real performance gains are found under the skirt. Traditional skirts twist on impact, stopping the jig. Choose one that is hand tied or locked down, such as those that Major League Fishing and Bass Pro Tour angler Andy Montgomery designed for Strike King.


Rookie skippers should reach for spinning gear, avoiding the massive backlashes that only an experienced thumb can stop from forming in a casting reel. Match the rod’s length to your height. For example, shorter anglers will find creating the proper sidearm angle—tip pointed toward water—easier with a shorter rod. Subtle braided line won’t hold back your lure, and its strength makes your spinning outfit a more powerful bass extractor.

Shallow Bass
Traditional skirts twist on impact, killing the presentation. Opt for a jig that is hand-tied or locked down, such as those from Strike King. (Photo by Pete Andersen)

PITCHING

The underhand pendulum swings that pitching demands require casting gear. Rods measuring seven feet are the standard. Select one with a medium or heavy power to slam hooks home. But to generate distance, especially with lighter lures, find one with a slightly slower action in the tip. It loads easier, increasing distance and accuracy.

While pitches won’t reach as far under cover as skips, they are pinpoint accurate. Sneak toward your targets with a slow and steady trolling motor. Keep the sun and wind in your face, so your shadow doesn’t alert bass to your presence and your boat is easier to control.

Get close enough to quietly drop your lure next to individual targets, such as dock posts, seawalls, points along riprap and other pieces of isolated cover. One sleeper spot is the cinder block (or two) holding down a lakeside home’s water intake, which are usually given away by a small float. Each deserves a couple pitches from different angles. High-speed reels, which have a gear ratio between 7:1 and 8:1, make quick work of retrieves, allowing time for more pitches.


The best pitches are made with lures that have a concentrated mass, such as jigs. Texas-rigged soft plastics work, too, as long as the weight is pegged. Even crankbaits can be pitched, though mind their multiple hooks. They’re great at drawing reaction strikes from bass in laydowns and under docks.

FLIPPING

Most lures that can be pitched can also be flipped—the stealthy, short-line technique that penetrates heavy cover within a few feet of your boat—but Texas-rigged soft plastics are the most efficient. Use a weight that’s heavy enough to break through cover.

The lack of leaf-covered overhanging branches or thick aquatic vegetation, which won’t arrive until summer, makes fishing within flipping range difficult in spring. It usually happens in only a few situations: in water that’s muddied by runoff; in warm bulrush- and laydown-laden backwaters; and around early emergent vegetation, such as arrowheads in Virginia’s and Maryland’s tidal waters.


Flipping is easiest with your toes against the gunnel and your boat parallel to the cover. It’s not fast fishing; thoroughness brings the biggest rewards. For example, only one of two flips just six inches apart may draw a strike. So use less trolling motor and more shallow-water anchors, if you have them.

The typical flipping rod is 7 1/2 feet long. An 8-footer will extend your reach, but pay attention to the extra line that it moves. It’s easy to over work your lure. With fast strikes and plenty of cover to tangle in, reels need a tight drag and easy-to-grab handle. Gear ratio isn’t important because there’s only a few feet of line to retrieve. Spool up with fluorocarbon line for everything but the thickest vegetation. It’s stiffer than monofilament or braid, so it’s less likely to wrap around a stem or branch.

Keep in mind that these presentations aren’t mutually exclusive. You might skip under a dock’s decking, for example, then pitch to its posts and flip the brush pile off its back corner. Match your approach to where you think bass are holding.

Shallow Bass
Abu Garcia’s Revo EXD

Try This Baitcaster For Finesses Lures

Finesse fishing isn’t only for spinning gear. Today’s baitcasting outfits can put even the smallest lures on target. Start with an Abu Garcia 7-foot-long medium Veritas rod, which handles 8-pound test line and sports an action that light lures can easily load. Match it with Abu’s Revo EXD, which debuted in 2019. Its 11 bearings and shallow spool are tuned for finesse lures. While the reel might cost more than you usually spend on a reel ($300), it comes with a deep spool, too. Drop that in, and you’re ready for summer’s crankbaits, Carolina rigs and structure spoons. It’s basically like getting two reels in one.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Hobie MirageDrive 360 Kayak Propulsion: Amazing Control and Power

Hobie MirageDrive 360 Kayak Propulsion: Amazing Control and Power

The Hobie MirageDrive 360 pedal propulsion system is the pinnacle of kayak control with more efficient fin designs, glide technology and allows the boat to be moved in any direction.

A Bolt Action from Benelli?

A Bolt Action from Benelli?

We know what you're thinking: Isn't Benelli a shotgun company? Of course it is, but decades of shotgun manufacturing actually put Benelli in a unique position to redefine what a hunting rifle should be. Episode 1 reviews some company history to explain how this all came about.

New for 2021: Rage Broadhead, Nockturnal Nock, Carbon Express Arrows

New for 2021: Rage Broadhead, Nockturnal Nock, Carbon Express Arrows

New for 2021, here's a look at the new Rage Trypan NC, Nockturnal Shift Nock, Carbon Express Maxima RED Contour and D-Stroyer PileDRIVER arrows.

New for 2021: Hoyt RX-5, RX-5 Ultra, Ventum 30 and Ventum 33

New for 2021: Hoyt RX-5, RX-5 Ultra, Ventum 30 and Ventum 33

ATA 2021 NeDuring this video from the Archery Trade Association's New Product Premiere showcase, Bowhunter's TV Mike Carney visited with Evan Williams, pro staff manager for Hoyt Archery, to learn about the new RX-5, RX-5 Ultra, Ventum and Ventum 33 bows.w Product - Hoyt

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

HyperFlite arrows improve accuracy, penetration.Barnett's Breakthrough Small-Diameter Crossbow Arrow Crossbows

Barnett's Breakthrough Small-Diameter Crossbow Arrow

Game and Fish Staff - December 09, 2020

HyperFlite arrows improve accuracy, penetration.

Make this venison chorizo recipe and cook it right away or freeze it (cooked or raw) and use it as needed.Venison Chorizo Recipe Wild Game

Venison Chorizo Recipe

Allie Doran - October 30, 2020

Make this venison chorizo recipe and cook it right away or freeze it (cooked or raw) and use...

New for 2021, the 4MM AXIS will offer bowhunters even more of what they want in a micro-diameter arrow.Easton Archery Rolls Out 4MM AXIS Long-Range Arrows Bows

Easton Archery Rolls Out 4MM AXIS Long-Range Arrows

Game and Fish Staff - November 23, 2020

New for 2021, the 4MM AXIS will offer bowhunters even more of what they want in a...

Smart technology offers crossbow hunters instantaneous decision making capabilities.Field Tested: TenPoint's Vapor RS470 XERO Proves Itself on Ohio Hunt Crossbows

Field Tested: TenPoint's Vapor RS470 XERO Proves Itself on Ohio Hunt

Dr. Todd A. Kuhn - November 18, 2020

Smart technology offers crossbow hunters instantaneous decision making capabilities.

See More Trending Articles

More Bass

Here's how to take it one step further and actually catch bass.October Game Plan: Find the Food, Find the Bass Bass

October Game Plan: Find the Food, Find the Bass

Ken Duke - October 22, 2020

Here's how to take it one step further and actually catch bass.

Mexico's Lake Picachos is full of big largemouths; catching 300 pounds in one day not uncommon.Bucket List: Bass Beyond the Border, Beyond Belief Bass

Bucket List: Bass Beyond the Border, Beyond Belief

Larry Larsen - December 22, 2020

Mexico's Lake Picachos is full of big largemouths; catching 300 pounds in one day not uncommon.

Employ these expert tips for world-class smallmouth bass fishing in rivers and streams.Go With the Flow for August Bronzebacks Bass

Go With the Flow for August Bronzebacks

Ken Duke - August 13, 2020

Employ these expert tips for world-class smallmouth bass fishing in rivers and streams.

Ugly Stik's Santa Claus Bass Tournament featured 298 Santa-suit-wearing anglers at Lake Norman, N.C.Good Deeds: Bass-Fishing Santas Raise $15K in Toys for Kids News

Good Deeds: Bass-Fishing Santas Raise $15K in Toys for Kids

Game and Fish Staff - December 21, 2020

Ugly Stik's Santa Claus Bass Tournament featured 298 Santa-suit-wearing anglers at Lake...

See More Bass

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now