Some bass stay in the weeds all year long because that's where they find cover, food and oxygen. Frequently, the biggest bass lurk in the thickest weeds. With their incredible camouflage, bass excel as ambush predators.
Safe in their vegetated fortresses, many lunkers grow old and fat without ever seeing lures. To catch them, anglers must go through or over dense vegetation. Your lure selection is limited here, as weeds foul traditional lures quickly. Use these offerings to catch more bass in the thick grass.
Nothing goes over matted grass like buzzing frogs. Rigged weightless with a 3/0 to 5/0 wide gap hook inserted into the body or with upturned hooks, soft-plastic frogs look like natural prey as they skitter across the thickest cover.
"A buzz frog is one of the few lures that anglers can use in the really thick, matted vegetation all year long," says Shaw Grigsby, a professional bass angler and television personality from Gainesville, Fla. "I use a screw-lock to screw the hook into the bait to hold it securely and fish it on braid. Braid not only helps with the hookset, but actually helps cuts through the vegetation and lily pads so I can land the fish."
Anglers can fish frogs several ways. Some frogs slowly sink and others float. Most anglers fish either type with steady buzzing retrieves so the kicking legs and feet disrupt the surface. Bass commonly erupt through the grass to attack these morsels.
"I just reel it across the lily pads or the grass," Grigsby says. "It's like a buzzbait that anyone can throw in the thickest vegetation where a regular buzzbait would hang up on every cast. I can't tell you how many big fish I've caught on Strike King Rage Toads. I've caught bass weighing more than nine pounds on them. Bass blow a hole in the grass to eat them."
With floating frogs, try the hop-and-pop method. Let a frog float on the surface a few moments and then pop it vigorously.
The commotion simulates a live frog splashing across the grass. Ease sinking frogs into any open pockets and let them sink a foot or two before pulling them out.
Buzz frogs create tremendous surface commotion, but sometimes bass want less disturbance. When largemouths prefer subtle enticement, flit lifelike unweighted soft plastics, such as fluke-type baits, soft jerkbaits, lizards, slugs or similar creatures, slowly over the grass tops to mimic snakes, salamanders, eels or other temptations.
Bass see realistic-looking objects silhouetted on the vegetation and attack, sometimes exploding through the grass to engulf weeds, baits and all. Like with a sinking frog, let these slithering soft-plastics sink into any small openings in the mats or pads. Bass usually slurp these subtle baits as they sink.
"In thick matted grass, nothing works better than a weightless soft-plastic jerkbait," says Terry Segraves, a professional bass angler from Kissimmee, Fla. "I use it Texas-rigged with a 4/0 or 5/0 hook so it's weedless. I work it over the grass tops just like a topwater bait. Some of the explosions I see with those baits are unbelievable. Bass just come after them right up through the grass—that's pretty exciting."
JIGS AND WORMS
If bass won't come to the surface, anglers might need to dig them out. With a long rod, swing Texas-rigged tubes, worms or weedless jigs toward tiny pockets with pinpoint accuracy. Stop the bait in the air at the last second so it enters the target zone with hardly a ripple. Let the bait sink naturally. After it hits the bottom, jig it up a couple times. If nothing strikes, flip the bait into the next opening.
When the subtle method doesn't work, switch to something more dynamic. Punch through the weed canopy with jigs up to four ounces. Toss heavy jigs into the air so they crash through the mats like meteors coming down. This sudden invasion of their lair frequently provokes violent reaction strikes from startled bass.
"I fish the grassy edges to catch the aggressive bass," says Mike Wurm, a professional bass angler from Hot Springs, Ark. "Then, I bust through the grass with a heavy jig and fish right in the middle of it to get down to them. It's difficult to get a heavy jig through the grass, but that's where the fish live.”
Rarely used any longer, weedless spoons sweetened with frog-like trailers can still provoke vicious bass strikes. Pull a spoon over grass tops like a buzz frog, or wobble it enticingly parallel to grassy edges. In openings, let the spoon sink so it flutters down like a dying shad.
Spinnerbaits and buzzbaits can go over or through patchy grass and open seams. Not entirely weedless, willow-leaf spinnerbaits cut through grass better than other blade shapes. Around thick vegetation, buzz spinners across the top or wake them. In places with submerged grass, fish just over the grass tops.
"When I'm fishing grass, I like to throw a half-ounce spinnerbait with a No. 4 to 4.5 willow-leaf blade," says Gerald Swindle, a professional bass angler from Guntersville, Ala. "One of my most productive ways to fish a spinnerbait in the grass is to work it like a jig. If I'm fishing scattered grass, I'll throw it out and let the bait fall down into the grass. I lower my rod tip down to about 8 o'clock. Then I rip the rod tip up to about 11 o'clock and let the bait fall back down into the grass. Once the bait starts falling, the blades tinkle together to make a little noise. When it hits the bottom, I rip it back up out of the grass again. It comes up with a lot of flash and vibration."
Around grassy edges, anglers can also catch fish on various other baits, such as topwaters, jerkbaits and lipless crankbaits. Dropping wacky worms next to grass edges can entice strikes. In many lakes, thick vegetation forms the dominant cover for bass, so anglers need to learn how to get into the thick of things, and coax bass out of it.