Recently, when I put on my “Fishing Guide” hat, the client wanted to learn more about fishing milfoil (an aquatic weed found growing in many of our lakes in Minnesota and throughout the country) during the summer.
This particular weed provides excellent habitat for largemouth bass. In lakes with milfoil, a bass’s movement and preferred holding area are directly tied to this weed. Understanding this relationship between bass and milfoil will greatly improve your fishing. It was a successful trip with us catching about 20 bass averaging three pounds, half of which came from just one school of fish.
Jim Moynagh (Photo courtesy of FLW Outdoors)
So how do you go about finding and catching bass from milfoil during the summer? First, you have to determine if the bass are indeed in the milfoil. Sunny weather usually puts a good percentage of bass in it, due to the heavy shade it offers.
I also look at the “health” of the milfoil. Within the same lake, one milfoil bed can be drastically different than another. I don’t know why, it just is that way. It seems there is a tendency for bass to prefer milfoil that is undergoing rapid growth. It is lush and vibrant with life. The stems and leaves are firm, displaying a reddish tint when observed from above. But once it reaches an advanced stage of maturity and shows signs of decaying, then bass generally avoid these areas.
Another rule to remember is that most milfoil is healthy early in the season. But by late-summer/early-fall, healthy milfoil is less plentiful and actually patterns may shift away from it. You can’t ignore it completely though, because I’ve observed late stands of milfoil coming up long after other milfoil beds have matured.
The next thing to understand (and battle) is patience. Fishing milfoil is often boom and bust. The reason why some fishermen don’t find fish in milfoil is because they just don’t stick to it long enough.
As you probe and search the milfoil beds, extremely long periods of time can pass without catching much of anything. When I’m fishing a new lake with milfoil, I’ll typically find only one or two schools of bass in an entire day of fishing. However, when you find them, you can hook one on every cast. The most I’ve ever experienced from one school was over 30 fish. They were hitting almost every cast on Rapala Fat Raps and Risto Raps. Once the action slowed, we hardly caught any other bass the rest of the day from other spots.
Structure also plays an important role in positioning the bass. Almost all schools of bass I’ve found in milfoil are relating to some structural depth change (point, turn, ditch, rise, etc.). Sometimes the structure is obvious, other times it’s not. For example, in the FLW tournament on Lake Minnetonka that I won in 1997, I found a school of bass on a simple, 2-foot rise. Because the spot was so subtle, other anglers didn’t find the school of bass holding there and I was able to catch several quality bass each of the four days of the event.
As with any technique, lure presentation can get fairly complex and I will discuss that in detail in a future column. However, for starters, equip yourself with two rods — one for cranking and the other for flippin’. Here in Minnesota, our milfoil bass like a big crank such as a Storm Magwart. For flippin’ baits, I’ve experienced success on a wide variety of baits, both jigs and plastics. Go with your favorites.
For someone new to milfoil fishing, it can be a tough art to master. It’s hard to go for hours and hours without a bite and still maintain confidence. But experienced milfoil fishermen have this confidence because they’ve seen the rewards. Catching 10, 20, 30 fish in just a few minutes sure makes for great memories!
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.