How To Fish The Weeds
By Richard Sims
For years growing up, my father and I would take trips during the fishing season to Long Point Bay in Lake Erie. The bay is a host to varieties of structure; just about anything you can shake a stick at. Rocks, sandbars, humps, sunken islands, docks, laydowns, brush, and even shipwrecks! But perhaps the easiest and most reliable place to find fish is in the weeds.
There are a host of reasons for bass to be in the weeds. The weeds are a constant oxygen source, which attracts baitfish and crawfish, which are food for the bass. Weeds also offer a place for the bass to lie in ambush, waiting for an unsuspecting meal to pass by. And in fairly dense masses, weeds offer shade from the blaring hot sun. Weedbeds are heaven to a bass if you think about it!
Bass are found in weeds all year long, which makes them a very reliable place to catch fish consistently. But how do you go about fishing this type of cover? The ways to fish a weedbed are endless, and have to do with time of day, season and temperature.
I almost always start off by throwing spinnerbaits along the edges. This way you can target the active bass sitting near the edges, waiting for schools of minnows (or your spinnerbait) to pass by. If they are active, you will almost always provoke strikes this way.
To target the active bass in the center of the weed masses, I like to throw a jerkbait or spinnerbait over the weeds (if possible) and just knick the tops of the weeds. In early morning, you can throw a topwater like a buzzbait or Zara Spook over the weeds and it will most likely pay off. In weeds that extend all the way to the surface, you may want to target the active bass with a weedless spoon like a Moss Boss, or even a weedless in-line spinner. Terminator Lures has a very nice line of titanium weedless in-liners, which can work wonders in these situations.
But what about when bass aren't active? Sure, it's great to get there around mealtime, but those bass don't eat all day long (although sometimes it seems quite the contrary). What you'll need to do is slow down your presentation.
You can still catch bass on the edges; in fact some anglers only fish the edges. I believe this is a mistake, because I have caught a lot of bigger bass on the middle mass of weedbeds. However, I still fish the edges if I need to fill out a limit.
A good way to cover the edges for lethargic bass is with the simple stop & go retrieve of a jerkbait, suspending if possible. Let the lure sit for a good period of time between jerks. Soft jerkbaits like Slug-Gos or Bassassins are also a good choice, as you can let them sink right into the weeds and rip them out quickly, which often provokes a strike from inactive bass.
When targeting inactive bass in the center of the weedbed, you can still use the two strategies just mentioned, but I believe the bass still have to be half-feeding for that to work. You'll probably want to switch over to a Texas-rigged plastic worm or lizard, and go quietly over the bed, dropping the worm into any holes in the weeds. When you feel any sort of difference, even a little tap, set the hook. Be sure to use heavy line in this situation to keep bass from tangling themselves in the heavy weeds.
What weedbeds should you fish? My general rule is that any green weeds that I believe offer some sort of shade/oxygen to the fish should be good enough to fish. Any weed flats with other cover mixed in (like rocks or tree stumps) are definite areas to fish, because they offer that extra bit of attraction to a lunker bass. Avoid brown weeds as they are dead and are just using up oxygen instead of giving it. Bass avoid them and you should too.
For shallower variations of weeds (i.e. Lily Pads or Bullrushes), you'll probably want to again spinnerbait the edges first to try for active bass. Weeds can easily foul up your spinnerbait and bend it out of shape, so I suggest using a good quality titanium Terminator T-2 series spinnerbait. Soft jerkbaits once again are great for these situations because they are very versatile, and can be skipped into holes in the weeds or even reeled underneath undercut banks.
When the fish are inactive in these areas, you'll want to once again slow it down (are we seeing a pattern here?). My favourite way to fish pads or bullrushes is with a finesse flippin' jig with a pork or plastic trailer to allow the bait to fall slowly. Let the jig sit on bottom and jiggle it ever so slowly, or sometimes raise it off the bottom and let it drop again. Finesse-style jigs allow you to get into tight areas. Terminator's new line of finesse jigs are perfect for these situations. They have specially positioned titanium weed/brush guards and AirAlive silicone skirts, which pulsate and move as if they were alive. This almost always entices a bass strike.
Colour is not of the highest importance, but I personally like a black/blue, or crawfish colour because basically, that's what a jig represents.
Some alternatives would be the good old-fashioned Grass Frog or Poppin' Grass Frog, or even a plastic rat lure.
Thank you for reading my article on fishing the weeds, I hope there was something in there that will help you catch more bass. Good luck to all and tight lines!