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Weedless Tactics to Attack Bass in Thick Cover

Hook more fish and less vegetation with the right lures and rigs.

Weedless Tactics to Attack Bass in Thick Cover
A large, Texas-rigged ribbon-tail or speed worm is capable of punching through thick mats of vegetation and getting to bass that lurk below. (Photo by Alan Clemons)

In a scorching summer day at Florida’s Bienville Outdoors, veteran pro angler Bernie Schultz and I scoured large swaths of water blanketed by cabbage, hydrilla and other aquatic vegetation with various plastics and topwater frogs, hoping to find bass hidden in the greenery.

A big largemouth missed my frog, but not the 10-inch Texas-rigged worm I pitched as a follow-up. The healthy 7-pounder that emerged from the vegetation moments later helped us narrow the target zone and lure choices to steadily catch more than 40 bass over the next few hours.

When summer temperatures climb and aquatic plant life becomes dense, it’s hard to beat a Texas-rigged worm, craw or tube. Add a topwater frog to cover more area, and you have a potent combination for mid- to late-summer bass.

bass fishing reels and lures
Buzzbaits fished across the top of submerged vegetation can be deadly. (Photo by Alan Clemons)

SIFTING THROUGH SALAD

Aquatic vegetation comes in many forms. While their traits may differ, they all provide bass with shade, cooler water temps and ambush opportunities. They also attract forage and provide a sense of security for baitfish.

The downside, however, is that fishing vast stretches of vegetation can prove overwhelming. You can tell yourself to just pick a spot and get to work, but where do you begin? Lily pads in shallow pockets? Deeper water with eelgrass or hydrilla? Decaying slop on the main channel, or thick gator weed under shoreline shade? The key to a good start is to identify where the forage is and go from there.

GETTING RIGGED

Fishing effectively in seemingly impenetrable mats of weeds and grasses hinges on proper rigging. For starters, your lure must either punch through the vegetation, float over it or swim across it without the hook fouling constantly. Texas-rigging soft plastics remains a top method. A 4/0 or 5/0 straight-shank hook works well with worms, tubes and creature baits (some anglers prefer an extra-wide-gap hook), especially when tied with a snell knot for improved hookups. Use a 3/4- to 1-ounce bullet weight and a bobber stop to secure it and create a compact presentation that gets through the thick stuff with ease.

Fishing a topwater frog is another recommended approach. It’s been my go-to for years because it lets me cover lots of water at a faster pace. I fish it on straight 50-pound braid and attach it with a Palomar knot, leaving a 1/4- to 1/2-inch tag that won’t matter to the fish but will prevent the knot from slipping and coming undone.

I use 50-pound or heavier braid whenever I target bass in heavy vegetation. Hydrilla, cabbage, milfoil, lily pads, eelgrass, hyacinths, reeds and cattails will all chafe nylon mono and fluorocarbon. Yes, fluoro is the least visible line option, and in clear-water situations it may produce more bites, but braid doesn’t stretch, has superior strength and withstands abrasion considerably better, so it’s unrivaled for plucking bass from the slaw.

LURE SELECTION

  • From today’s vast array of baits, you can create a box with a handful of items that work in almost any lake in the South.

A 4- or 4 1/2-inch tube that mimics a bluegill often spurs big bites. In fact, one late-summer trick when decaying slop forms a 2- to 3-inch-thick canopy is to bump the bottom of the mat with the bait, as bluegills often eat bugs and small minnows on the underside of decaying vegetation. Pitch a Texas-rigged tube (or beaver-style bait) with a 1-ounce weight through the mat, then lift until you make contact with the bottom of it. Bump, let the bait fall a few inches, then bump again to imitate a feeding bluegill.

A slithery ribbon-tail worm or a buzz worm (aka speed worm), which produces a thumping action with its tail, are other killer options for easily navigating through or over vegetation. For lakes with giant bass, Zoom’s 10-inch Ol’ Monster or 8-inch Big Dead Ringer are great picks, as are topwater frogs like SPRO’s Bronzeye King Daddy, which has a giant profile and sports beefy 6/0 Gamakatsu EWG hooks. Walk the frog around docks and slide it over mats. If you miss a strike, quickly throw the faux amphibian back to the same area and be ready.

To fish lily pads or vegetation 4 to 5 inches below the surface, consider a white or chartreuse buzzbait to imitate shad (opt for a black one on cloudy days). A Big Bite Baits Tour Toad or similar lure that combines a buzzbait and a plastic frog can trigger some explosive strikes, too.

Color selection for soft plastics is simple. Start with black/blue, junebug, redbug, watermelon and green pumpkin. For tubes, add white and shad colorations. For hollow-bodied frogs, you can opt for colors that match the surroundings, but chartreuse, black and white are time-proven choices.

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  • This article was featured in the June-July 2024 West edition of Game & Fish magazine. Click to subscribe.



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