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Weed-Whacking Weapons & Tactics to Catch Bass in Thick Cover

When bass seek cover in vegetation, take the fight to them for seriously productive days on the water.

Weed-Whacking Weapons & Tactics to Catch Bass in Thick Cover

To aggressively fish hollow-bodied frogs atop mats, the author likes a heavy-power, fast-action rod and a high-speed casting reel. (Photo courtesy of Tyler Mohr)

Having grown up fishing the Mississippi River, I learned how to fish vegetation—and understand the opportunities it presents—early on in my fishing career. Now, in addition to my continued trips to the Mississippi's lily pad fields and eelgrass lines, I also get to fish many lakes in Minnesota that are filled with milfoil, coontail and cabbage.

Bottom line: I'm fortunate to fish around vegetation for much of my fishing season, including late summer, and this has given me time to try many different approaches. However, when fishing weeds and other cover for largemouth bass, there are four key presentations that I traditionally employ, and these are tactics you can try on your own home waters.

EDGE MOVES

Buzz the Surface

During low-light hours, or when it is overcast, bass get out and feed on the edges of vegetation as they move freely and prey upon baitfish and bluegills. I target these bass primarily by covering open water quickly and putting my lure in front of as many different bass as possible. Because bass look up to the surface to feed, I usually begin my search with a topwater lure.


Retrieving a buzzbait parallel to the edge keeps a fast-moving bait in the strike zone for the longest amount of time. My go-to is a 3/8-ounce War Eagle Buzz Toad. The added bulk of a soft plastic frog on the back allows for longer casts, and the kicking feet entice bass to venture out beyond the vegetation edge.


To cover the most water, it helps to make long casts along the edge of the vegetation, but not in it. When fishing buzzbaits, I prefer braided line. I can cast my bait farther, and when I get a strike, the lack of stretch allows me to get a solid hookset and bring the bass to the boat. I spool up my high-speed casting reel with 40-pound Seaguar SmackDown braided line in the low-visibility Stealth Gray.

While fishing buzzbaits, I target key irregularities in the weedline, which often produce strikes. Features to look for include points, turns, cuts and openings in the vegetation or even just a change in type of vegetation.

Go Swimming

If you notice bass actively feeding along the edge, or see them on your sonar but can't get them to strike your buzzbait, a Texas-rigged soft-plastic swimbait is a great option. Rigging a 4- or 5-inch swimbait on a 5/0 Trokar TK120 Magworm Extra Wide Gap allows the bait to slide up the shaft when you set the hook. If you need to get the swimbait down in the water column, add a tungsten weight in front of the bait.




INSIDE GAME

Hit The Mats

When the sun gets higher in the sky, bass usually become less active and seek shade in the vegetation. This is when bass bury themselves in the thick stuff, and you'll need a presentation that allows you to go in after them. When I'm still looking to cover water and find active bass under matted vegetation, there is no better lure than a hollow-body topwater frog.

On waters like the Mississippi River, there are miles upon miles of matted vegetation, so knowing what to look for can speed up the elimination process. Keep an eye on water depth under the vegetation, noting whether there is current or not, and check for secondary forms of cover like a stump, laydown or riprap.

Recommended


I like casting a Snag Proof Bobby's Perfect Frog out across the mat and working it back to the boat. While doing so, I look for pockets and vary my retrieves until I figure out what is triggering strikes. For frog fishing, I want a heavy-power rod with a fast to extra-fast action—something that lets me really work the frog but also has plenty of backbone for hooking and hauling big bass out of thick cover. Much like fishing a buzzbait, a line with no stretch is crucial when fishing topwater frogs. This is why I spool up with 65-pound Seaguar SmackDown Braid.

Crash Their Pads

When bass tuck up tight to vegetation or hold deep underneath it, it's time to slow down and pick the area apart with a slower presentation. Here, I like a jig or a Texas-rigged soft plastic. As I work the water, I again pay special attention to any irregularities in an otherwise solid edge—points and open-water pockets that form where different types of vegetation mix.

Deciding between a jig and a Texas rig often comes down to the density of the vegetation. I may start out flipping a half-ounce All-Terrain Tackle AT Jig and then go up to 3/4-ounce if I need the added weight to punch through thicker vegetation. On my AT Jig, I like one of two soft-plastic trailers: a Zoom Z-Craw Jr. or a Super Chunk. If cover is sparse, the Super Chunk goes on the jig; in denser cover, a Z-Craw Jr. gets the nod.

For this slower presentation, I prefer a lighter, low-visibility fluorocarbon line. My personal preference is 20- or 22-pound Seaguar TATSU. It has very little stretch, so you get solid hooksets and you can turn bass before they bury themselves in denser weeds. It’s also extremely resistant to the sawing abrasion of the weeds.

When I need to punch through even thicker vegetation, I switch to a Texas rig with at least a 3/4-ounce tungsten weight. I’ll push up to a 2-ounce weight if the weeds are incredibly dense. A strong and stout hook is also a must. You don’t want the hook to bend on the hookset or when you’re fighting a bass to the boat. My hook of choice is the Trokar TK133 Pro V Flippin’ Hook in a 5/0 size. That hook size allows the bulk of the soft-plastic bait to slide away on the hookset, helping you keep the bass pegged all the way to the boat.

Whether fishing a jig or a Texas-rigged soft plastic, I also want the bait to slide through the vegetation as cleanly as possible. A craw with lots of action might trigger more strikes, but only if it’s not constantly hanging up on the way down to fish. When I see this might be a problem, I use a soft plastic with a more streamlined profile without appendages. Most of the flipping situations I face can be covered with either a Z-Craw or Z-Craw Jr. If I’m fishing through less stringy vegetation, I'll use a Magnum Speed Craw.

WIN WITH WEEDS

By keeping an eye on the vegetation and adapting my fishing presentations, I was able to lock up a top-ten finish in a large tournament on the Mississippi River. I got an early limit of quality bass flipping a Texas-rigged Z-Craw around scattered vegetation. Then, once the sun got higher in the sky, the bass tucked up underneath the mats of duckweed and lily pads, and a Bobby's Perfect Frog yielded three quality largemouths, all surpassing 3 pounds. My final bag was just over 14 pounds in all. As you head out this month to your favorite lake or river to chase largemouths, don't forget about the vegetation that bass inhabit this time of year. And keep in mind the four key presentations highlighted above. You just may experience some of your best fishing of the summer.

WEAPONS FOR THE WEEDS

Shallow Bass Gear
Use these tools to pull bass from thick vegetation: Snag Proof Phat Frog (top), Zoom Magnum UV Speed Craw (bottom left) and Seaguar Tatsu Fluorocarbon.
  • SNAG PROOF BOBBY’S PERFECT FROG

Snag Proof’s iconic frog got a face lift and now features 14 real-life, 360-degree, hand-painted color schemes, a super-sharp hook and an incredibly soft body. This soft body helps increase your hook-up percentage as it collapses on the hook set. ($11.99; americanbaitworks.com)

  • SNAG PROOF PHAT FROG

This frog was recently redesigned as well. Along with the features included with the Perfect Frog, the Phat Frog has a narrower body profile, making it ideal for skipping under overhanging trees and boat docks or for walking the dog across sparse grass in open water. ($11.99; americanbaitworks.com)

  • ZOOM MAGNUM UV SPEED CRAW

Just like the original ultra-vibe kicking feet on other Zoom Baits, the Magnum Speed Craw has the extra bulk anglers need when flipping and pitching. It still sports the super-soft and salty makeup that Zoom fans know and love. ($5.29; zoombait.com)

  • SEAGUAR TATSU FLUOROCARBON

The only double-structured fluorocarbon (DSF) fishing line on the market just got better by adding a 22-pound-test option. The DSF delivers a line that’s extremely strong while still being very easy to cast. ($62.99; seaguar.com)

  • HUMMINBIRD MEGA LIVE IMAGING

See fish in real time, see how they are reacting to your bait and get them to bite. Installation and use are easy, with no external sonar box required. ($1,499.99; humminbird.com)

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