Fishing Matted Vegetation: Part I

In any body of water supporting matted vegetation, a high percentage of the largemouth bass population can be found relating to it. Mats provide all of the basic needs desired by largemouth: a preponderance of food, ambush cover, edge habitat, and a place of refuge during inactive periods.

Floating mats seem to draw fish regardless of the plant species creating the condition; everything from wild rice in northern Minnesota to hyacinths in southern Florida. I’ve even caught largemouth from mats formed by submerged plants uprooting and collecting in windblown areas.

Jim Moynagh (Photo courtesy of the FLW)

Not all mats are created the same; for whatever reason, density and thickness varies greatly. Hyacinths for instance, can form mats so thick and dense that the only way to present a lure is by first clearing a hole with a pushpole. On the other hand, duckweed forms a very thin layer that can be penetrated using sinkers as light as 1/16-ounce. The amount of edge and “pocketing” also can be extremely variable.

Oftentimes, the bottom substrate can cause a high degree of pocketing due to extreme variability in the bottom sediment and fertility. As a result of these differences in conjunction with weather and seasonal changes, more than one technique is necessary to maintain consistency. But we’ll save the discussion on technique for next week, because first I would like to share some observations I’ve made regarding bass location and positioning in and around mats.

Locating Bass In, Around Mats
Understand that their positioning is no random occurrence, but rather predictable and repeatable given a set of conditions.

When choosing an area to fish, choose mats that are most agreeable with the season. Mats are harder to come by in the spring, but if they are available, first try those in or near spawning grounds. By summer, the better mats will be situated out closer to main lake areas. The mats that produced in spring may only have dogfish by summer. Fall is always a time when the bass spread out, but I generally like to stick with the main lake stuff. However, I won’t hesitate at all to look again at some of the areas that I fished earlier that spring.

It’s also important to note the water chemistry in and around mats. Those that are actively growing, displaying a lot of greenery, generally provide better fishing versus those that appear to be dying. A decaying mat adversely affects the water chemistry (often indicated by a higher tannic staining) causing aquatic life to shy from the area. When I do find bass around a decaying mat, they tend to position near the outer edge where the water can turnover with main lake water. In contrast, bass holding in a lush, healthy mat may not only position near the edges, but may wander much deeper within. But even for a healthy mat, keep an eye on the water chemistry; if the water deep within a mat doesn’t circulate enough, bass may shy away from it. Pocketing also affects water chemistry by allowing greater water circulation deeper within the field. Bass will have the option of deeper penetration in a mat having a high degree of pocketing.

Keep an eye on water clarity variations. Dense mats filter the water so that often the clarity will be much greater within. The bass may prefer one or the other under different conditions. Plus, changes to lures may be necessary due to the differences.

Also watch for bottom changes that affect the depth or density of the mat. Anything out of the ordinary can potentially draw bass.

Weather will affect positioning within a small area on a day to day basis. Simply put, inactive periods such as after the passage of a front will cause the bass to snuggle into the shadiest, densest portion of the mat. Whereas during periods of high activity, like that during a frontal passage, the bass situate themselves very near the surface or an edge.

Read Part 2 to learn some techniques and their applications that have proven successful for mat fishing.

For a fine assortment of fishing gear, click here.

Jim Moynagh writes a twice-monthly bass fishing column on sportsmansguide.com. Visit Jim on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sportsmansguide?v=app_6009294086&ref=ts#!/pages/Jim-Moynagh/167413610047622?fref=ts He is a FLW touring pro, and a former Forrest Wood Open Champion with multiple top 10 finishes. In 2012, he finished in fourth place for Angler of the Year honors. He also finished in fourth place two-straight times in FLW events in 2012. His expertise is deep-water structure fishing for large and smallmouth bass. Jim’s sponsors include M&M’s, All-Terrain Tackle, Chevy Trucks, and Ranger Boats.

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