Flipping and Pitching Explained
By Mark McManaway
In today's bass fishing, when there are so many tricks and techniques that come and go by the wayside, there are two techniques that will be here for a long time. These two techniques have become to bass anglers what the ever-popular Carolina rig has, a vital part of their fishing arsenal. I'm talking about of course flipping and pitching.
Flipping involves peeling off about 50 to 75 percent or more line than the length of the rod and simply feeding the line back through the guides as you drop and lift the rod. Pitching involves releasing the lure from your hand with an underhand pitching movement as you let the line feed through the guides while you thumb the spool.
Pitching and flipping are lure specific ways to fish. By that I mean there are really only a few baits that are used with these techniques and that dictates them by the types of cover we fish. For example: You can pitch a slow, stationary bait such as a jig or worm, or you can pitch a faster moving bait such as a spinnerbait. Flipping a bait is usually only done with a stationary type bait, whether it is plastic or pork. By the way, it is not recommended to pitch crankbaits.
You can pitch or flip docks, grass, wood, or other types of cover that you feel are not easy to cast to in the normal manner. The advantage to these types of techniques is you can make a quiet presentation while at the same time reach places with pinpoint accuracy that normal techniques just won't let you.
Docks are an especially good place to use these techniques. You can flip or pitch anywhere from two to six feet under a dock.
The rod most often used for these two techniques ranges from six-and-a-half to seven-and-a-half feet in length. The best ones for the task are rated from medium-heavy to heavy. Reel choice should be one that has a free spool that can be set to extremely free flowing settings so that it flows easily under your thumb as you release the lure. The line you will want to use will normally be one of the more abrasion resistant types. You pick the brand you are most comfortable with. Using braided or monofilament is up to you. Personally, I use at least 20- to 25-pound test and almost exclusively use fluorescent high visibility monofilament line. This is invaluable if you are a line watcher like I am. If you are not, you should be when using these two techniques.
One of the best ways to practice flipping and pitching is to get in the back yard and place five to seven bowls about two to four feet apart. Place these bowls from five to twenty feet away from where you will be standing. You will want to stand on a higher object than the ground so as to simulate your boat. Perhaps two to three feet above your bowl setup should do.
When you are first learning, use a heavier than normal weight. Perhaps a 3/4- or 1-ounce jig pitched or flipped will give you the "feel" until you find a rhythm and technique that is smooth enough for you to size down in weight. Simply practice until you can put the bait in the bowls without them popping out or making a loud clunk. You could even put some water in the bowls to see just how softly you can pitch or flip into them. The less splash, the less noise you will make in actual use when flipping or pitching. And in some cases a quiet and almost "splashless" entry of the bait into the water is a necessity.
A couple of productive techniques can be used that are not necessarily the norm. For instance, let's say you are bed fishing and no fish are reacting to your pitched or flipped bait. Here is a technique that is deadly if fished in an open area. You should use about a 1/2-ounce weight. Next add a bead and a swivel. Next tie on anywhere from 12 to 18 inches of heavy line. Then put on a floating jerkbait. Pitch or flip the bait onto the bed. The fish might spook at first, but when it comes back slowly lower your rod tip and let the floating jerkbait slide freely through the weight. Then let it suspend right over the bed. Raise and lower your rod slowly and you will see the action I am describing. This can be the ticket when all else fails.
Have you ever thought about flipping for crappie? Why not. In the spring when the crappie are in pre-spawn, spawn, or post-spawn, how many times have you wanted to put a live minnow right in their bedroom? Take a six-and-a-half-foot medium-action spinning rod with about 12-pound test on it. Tie a crappie hook on the line. Depending on the depth you are fishing, tie a rubber band on the line there. Clip the ends so you now have a small knot at the depth you want. Now place a slip bobber in the middle. You can now pitch that minnow right where you want and as quietly as you would like. This is an excellent technique when you're pitching the weeds they are bedding in.
You can pitch or flip your baits almost any month of the year. These two techniques are probably most often done from early spring until late fall though. You can flip or pitch treetops in creek channels as the water warms in early spring, even though you might be fishing in 20 feet of water. Or you can pitch or flip in 12 inches of water or less in weeds and bullrushes throughout these months.
Of course when pitching or flipping, you will want to use as light a bait as possible so as not to spook the fish. Worms with a 1/8-ounce weight pegged or 3/16- to 1/ 4-ounce jigs with pork trailers should be the ticket in shallow water. Jigs and worms with up to a 1-ounce weight may be necessary to penetrate thick weeds such as hydrilla.
So the next time you decide to go fishing and your normal techniques of choice aren't working, why not give flipping or pitching a try. You just might catch the fish of a lifetime. As always, if the engine is running make sure everyone is strapped and wrapped and have, as I like to call it your "live switch" attached to your life jacket.