Last time we discussed how largemouth bass utilize floating mats of vegetation. Now we’ll get into some of the techniques suited to catch bass from this type of cover. A wide variety of lures all have potential; narrowing it down depends on the bass’s activity level and the type of mat present.
Lure selection starts with judging the activity level of the bass. Look at whether the bass are in tight and holding, or are they willing to kick their tails to run something down? Next, the makeup of the mat can eliminate many options. Is the vegetation soft and filamentous, and easily fouls the bait? Or is it hard and brittle allowing an angler to bounce lures around it? Is the mat thick or thin? Is it broken up with many open pockets? These are all key factors determining your success.
Advantages Of Flippin’
A flippin’ stick is one rod I always have on deck anytime I’m around mats. No matter what type of mat you are confronted with, some type of lure can be flipped. Plus, this is the only technique that can present a bait within the bass’s strikezone when they are inactive and positioned beneath.
In thinner, less packed mats, just about any soft plastic bait or jig can efficiently flip the mat. If a jig is used, be sure to choose one having the eye positioned off the front. This allows it to slip in and out much easier than a jig having an angled eye position.
Lure selections for flippin’ changes, however, in the presence of a thick mat. The thickest mats I’ve ever encountered were in Florida where the only option was to flip a Texas-rig. The sinker had to be a minimum of 1-ounce, and of course it had to be pegged. Also, try to find a sinker that has a compact profile and made of lead. Without the extreme weight, the lure simply hangs up on top of the entangled vegetation. Lure choices for Texas-rigs in thick mats are limited to short stocky plastics such as craws, tubes, and 4-inch worms. These will tuck in behind the sinker and offer less surface area to hang on vegetation. Longer plastics, such as lizards and worms, lay out over the vegetation causing more difficult penetration. What about jigs? They’re too bulky and won’t penetrate dense mats.
Every mat has an edge, and some are broken up with lots of open pockets. These open edges are where casting-type lures can be fished. Active bass will hide just under the edge of the mat waiting to ambush bait as it swims by.
Use Buzzbaits For Open Edges
My first choice has to be a buzzbait, especially if I know the bass are right near the surface. Spinnerbaits can shed vegetative debris more easily than a buzzer, so I may opt for this when faced with “clingy” greenery.
If allowable, try a shallow crankbait when fishing pressured water. Most often other anglers will be avoiding this type of lure, but cranks only can be effective in the hands of a skilled caster. Additionally, the open water around the mat has to be free of stray debris, otherwise efficiency suffers.
Topwater lures having treble hooks also have the same advantages/disadvantages as crankbaits and I generally avoid these types of lures.
What about lures that can be fished over mats? Some mats are just too thick to drag lures across. But oftentimes, the mat is thin enough for bass to explode right through! The first thing that comes to mind is the hollow-bodied, weedless frog. These will slide right over the vegetation, drawing strikes not only from the open pockets, but also right up through the mat. With thicker mats, I like to add weight to the frog by stuffing plastic worm chunks into the hollow body. This helps to create more of a disturbance.
Another lure drawing strikes up through the mat is the soft jerkbait. They tend to hang more than the frogs but have an added dimension — free fall. Each time it is pulled off the mat, you can let it fall. Bass reluctant to charge the surface may not refuse something drifting towards the bottom.
Remember, mats offer bass everything they need. To find successful fishing around them, lure presentation needs to be matched to the activity level of the bass and to the type of mat at hand.
Make sure you visit Sportsman’s Guide for a selection of fishing gear.
Jim Moynagh writes a twice-monthly bass fishing column on sportsmansguide.com. He is a FLW touring pro, and a former Forrest Wood Open Champion with multiple top 10 finishes. He finished in sixth place at an FLW April 2009 event in North Carolina, in second place at an FLW April 2008 event also in North Carolina, and was second at an March 2006 tournment in Alabama. His expertise is deep-water structure fishing for large and smallmouth bass. Jim’s sponsors include BP, Vexilar Marine Electronics, Salmo Lures, All-Terrain Tackle, Yamaha Outboards, and Ranger Boats.