Shorten Up Your Game
By Scott M. Petersen
It has been analyzed many times during golf broadcasts you can not win a golf match with just the long sticks alone, you have to be good at the short game rounding out your game. Well you can say the same thing about fishing you can not only catch all the fish by making long casts to an open water hump there are days when you will have to shorten up your game and work heavy cover to catch your share of bass.
Bass fishing is a game of many different tactics and patterns and not all of them are based on the longest casts you can make. Many new and some older presentations are based on short pitches and flips. Getting toe-to-toe with the bass is a viable tactic to take bass across the board when bass are held up and buried deep in cover.
Heavy cover conditions hold bass or a regular basis and fishing these areas with traditional tackle is a risk in it self. When you go toe-to-toe, you have to get into their element. Spinning rods and lighter equipped baitcasters are traded for flippin' sticks and heavier line sizes in these conditions, and in many cases braided line is fast becoming the standard. To get into this cover you will have to fish baits that will enable you to get a good solid hook set and get the bass out of the deepest of cover fast. Many times this choice leads to a jig presentation.
What started as a flippin' presentation many years ago has changed throughout the years. No longer do fishermen use a pendulum swinging of a lure to drop it into a hole next to cover locations with a quiet landing. In today's bass fishing this has been replaced by a shorter pitching style of delivering baits into target areas. By taking the bait in one hand and raising the rod from the 5 o'clock position to the 12-noon position the weight of the lure carries the bait out to the target. By changing to this presentation you can get your offering a greater distance covering more water with ease and better accuracy with less water commotion from your boat. With traditional flippin' styles, you had to move your boat into position to put your lure next to cover. With pitchin' you can hold the boat back and still get your bait to your target location.
When fishing milfoil, a pitchin' presentation will stand out as the best way to deliver your bait to the bass. Looking at a flat of milfoil that can be as big as city blocks you have to ask where do I start? Inside turns and drop off areas that are located close to deep water are key areas to check first. Another way to dissect the milfoil flat would be to work certain depth contours. For example, start at a certain depth - lets say 12 feet - and work that contour line throughout the flat, along the way keep a close eye on your electronics looking for key bottom changes or depth changes. Fish this process from deep to shallow until bass contact is made.
As you move along the milfoil flat you will want to pitch your bait into the pockets and gaps that you see in the milfoil. These pockets will allow the jig to fall straight down to get into the fish zone. You can try to put the jig through the blanket of foil that is matted on the surface, but to tell you the truth you will get fouled more than you will be able to get the bait down to the bass for a clean presentation. You will be more successful and fowl less if you pitch to the pockets in the foil.
When bass contact is made, throw a marker or create a waypoint on your GPS so that you can stay close to this area. Make a mental note of the depth and bottom content when you make contact with a fish. Work the area around your marker as chances are pretty good that there are more bass close by. Once you are done working this area, move to another and you can pretty much dial in the bass now that you have a starting point.
Picking baits for this type of difficult presentation you will need a jig that will get through the milfoil with ease and will not foul when being fished or brought back through the milfoil. Outkast's RT Jig is the jig I fish. Team the RT Jig with an Outkast Chunk and you have a milfoil combo that is really hard to beat. The RT Jig's bullet shape head glides through the weeds and the recessed eye makes it even harder to get hung in the milfoil.
Fishing the jig is easy. Make your pitch to the opening and let the jig sink to the bottom. Once on the bottom your line will go slack, put a little pressure on the jig to make sure a bass did not hit the jig on the fall. If so, set the hook. If not, give the jig a few shakes with the rod tip, then let sit. Again feel for a hit. If not give it a few more shakes. If no takers, it is time to get the jig into another hole. Reel up the jig and pitch it into another gap in the foil.
When it comes to equipment do not skimp on weight. You will need a good flippin' stick, matched with a baitcaster reel, spooled with either 20-pound mono line or bigger or braided line. You make the choice.
So the next time the bass get a little home sensitive, bury up deep in cover and will not come out, grab yourself a handful of jigs and head on in after them. You will see how effective toe-to-toe bassin' is and how fun it is to feel the bite, set the hook, and the battle is on. Soon you will have a new respect for just how much power a 5 pound bass has buried up in the foil.
Please remember to practice CPR (Catch, Photo and Release). The future of fishing is in your hands. For more timely tips and tactics for bass please log onto fishinginsider.com