Have you ever paused and gazed across a lake filled with vast acreages of fully-developed, aquatic greenery? And then found yourself wondering how do I pinpoint bass in this? I recall these thoughts early in my fishing years. It seemed like an insurmountable task. Where does one begin? As you probably know, the bass won’t be everywhere. But instead, they will be found in very specific areas. Read on to help better identify these areas and prevent wasting time casting to a fishless grass bed.
Understand that not all grass lakes are alike. Variations among the species of plants, the densities of growth, and the bottom composition, all play a role in positioning bass. Recognizing what a lake offers in these terms will provide your initial direction in locating bass.
I find that plant density is the number one variable to “read” accurately when assessing bass location in a weedy lake. No matter what kind of plant species is available, I want to know where the heaviest shade is cast. This is a great starting point, because bass love shade and will often seek out the shadiest spots in a stand of vegetation. So simply search for tightly packed plants and/or taller plants than what is typically observed in the area. Place this denser stand near a drop-off and even better! For example, more than once I have found thick, tall stands of Coontail just randomly situated on a weedy flat near a drop. There was none or very little Coontail everywhere else, but for some reason, these isolated stands towered high in the water column. And they had bass gravitate to them, providing very memorable catches!
However if heavy shade is provided uniformly over vast acreages, then other variables need addressing. In fact, if aquatic vegetation is so uniformly heavy, it may be a lessening or break in the density that draws bass. It’s almost like the bass want relief from the dense weed beds. For example, a hidden rock pile or gravel bed will break up the uniformity. As a result, the weed bed will be more sparse and patchy on that hard spot and bass will often prefer it. Sharp drop-offs from shallow to deep are also little zones where density can be patchy. To be more specific, these would be zones where the inside weed line and the outside weed line come close together.
Notice that I haven’t said anything about plant species. That is because it is secondary to what I have already explained. But yes, sometimes it matters. Plant species can provide cues as to bottom composition because each species has its preferred bottom type. Straight up bald rock isn’t going to grow much of anything, however some will do okay in gravel, but struggle with muck. Meanwhile other plants love the muck, but can’t do much with hard sand/gravel. Learn the plant species and what they prefer. Sometimes it’s the presence of one species mixed with another that tips an angler off to a bottom transition of some kind. And even though this article is more about summer, note that certain emergent plants can even tip a fisherman off as to the placement of spawning beds.
Always keep on observance on the health of the vegetation. Usually, grasses are most healthy early in the growing season compared to the end. The healthiest, greenest weeds are often the most preferred. For example, I’ve seen it make a huge difference with Milfoil. I love seeing that fresh, reddish top! That’s the sign of a vigorously growing, healthy milfoil plant.
But what if the aquatic plants (the submergent varieties) look like they are dying and decaying? Then avoid them. I actually embrace this scenario, because it eliminates that whole option. In this case, look to rock and gravel areas to hold bass (often just a hair deeper than the deep weed line). Also look to the shallow, shoreline cover like docks, lily pads, cattails, bulrushes, and laydowns.
Aquatic vegetation provides excellent habitat for bass and is often a major component of an excellent bass fishery. Finding bass in vast grass beds can be a challenge, but understanding the subtleties such as density, bottom composition, and plant species will allow an angler to more quickly dissect grass beds and catch more bass.