Bassin’ In The GrassBassin’ In The Grass Determining which type of grass or weeds the bass prefer is a big step towards finding the right location and defining a pattern. Here's how.
By Mike Gnatkowski/gnatoutdoors.com
Locating dense stands of vegetation is key to locating lunker bass during much of the year. This is especially true for largemouth bass. You can find rotund bronzebacks taking up residence in forests of cabbage in 14 to 18 feet of water, but it’s largemouths that really take a shine to weeds.
Vast jungles of summertime weeds make for an imposing puzzle, but just keep in mind all of it is potentially ideal habitat. Early in the spring through summer emerging weeds and edges are focal points of bass activity. Capitalizing on the weed connection requires figuring out the types of weeds present that bass are favoring and formulating a weed line pattern that takes into account preferred locations.
Early in the year, the hotspot is likely the inside edge. Post-spawn bass will gravitate towards thicker stands of vegetation as summer arrives to belly up to the dinner table. Later, schools of bass will be patrolling the outside edge. Where bass are in this process determines your success in the weeds.
Bass spawn before most panfish do and after they hang around the bedding areas to defend their territory and to search out prey. I can’t begin to tell you the number of good-sized largemouths I’ve caught on 1/32-ounce or smaller jigs and tiny twister tails and grubs with 4-pound test line. You wouldn’t think something that small would interest a bass.
Most of the time I wasn’t intentionally targeting bass. I’m not sure if there are tiny nest raiders that size that largemouths take exception to or there’s tiny prey largemouths key on. All I know is they eat the little jigs. Quite possibly largemouths are gobbling up newly hatched bluegills and sunfish. Pitching a tiny jig with hair-thin mono is the ultimate finesse tactic and bass take exception to it. Bass that are done spawning key on the panfish spawning activity and the prey it attracts. Minnows, smaller panfish, crayfish and gobies are nest raiders and become dinner for largemouths. Terrestrial prey, like frogs, voles and mice, also venture into the water between the weed line and shore and become desert for hungry bass.
The shallows present a bounty for largemouths this time of year. Some largemouths may still be spawning along the inside weed edge in 4 to 8 feet of water while others patrol the edge and make forays into even shallower water. Some bass may be still aggressively defending their beds from intruders.
In addition to the well defined inside edge, openings in the weeds may signal hard-bottom areas within the weed beds where panfish will be spawning. Bass will position on the edge of these honey holes and wait for prey to venture close.
Depending on the size of the opening, it’s not uncommon to work your way around the edge and pick off a half dozen bucketmouths before moving on to the next hole.
“Finesse baits are a great choice when working the inside edge and open holes in the weeds,” tournament pro Sam Heckman said. “Things like flukes, Senkos, wacky worms, stick worms are perfect. Key is to use light line and fish them slowly. Make long casts to the edge form deeper water or position so you can cast parallel.
“You can fish the baits with just a little bit of weight or clean. The idea with Slug-Gos and do nothing baits is to just let them fall and watch your line. Add a subtle pop or twitch every once in a while.”
Also, topwater lures can be a hoot early in the morning. The bass will tell you if they like what you’re offering.
Once the panfish spawn begins to wane the bass begin to relate even more to the wall created by the developing inside weed line. Bass will take up ambush stations on points and cups in the weeds or skirt the outside edge to flush prey out of the weeds.
Lily pads are magnets because they emerge early in the season and provide ideal overhead cover. Lily pads often hold lunker bass because big females vacate the shallows first and emerging lily pads are the first cover they come to. It’s a perfect location for portly females to forge and recuperate and a place you don’t want to pass up on any lake.
As weed mats expand and thicken, bass will hole up in the nearly impenetrable jungles away from edges and suspend. Most commonly this is a mid- to late-summer pattern. Bass look at these weed mats as the dinner table. It’s like your Labrador positioned at the kitchen table. It’s just a matter of time before something hits the floor and gets gobbled up. Besides food parachuting from above, the understory is home to a smorgasbord of sunfish, crayfish, waterdogs and insects.
“When bass are tucked into these weed mats is time to break out the heavy artillery,” Heckman advised. “You need a stout 8-foot rod and 50- to 65-pound test braid if you’re going to be fishing heavy jigs and Texas-rigged tubes. Two options when fishing thick weeds are to rip a lure like a Rattle Trap though the weeds or to use a heavy ¾- to 1-ounce tungsten jig rigged with a critter bait to punch through the thick weeds. The heavy jig will break through the thick canopy and then you just yo-yo it a couple times before hitting the next spot.”
An alternative is to fish on top of the weeds. Bass will position in holes in the weeds or right on top if there is enough water. These bass can be tempted with topwater baits like frogs and rats even in the densest weeds and grass. Before the weeds get too thick you can twitch stickbaits and topwater baits in open pockets and watch bucketmouths explode on them.
Bass eventually gravitate toward the outside edge of the weeds adjacent to deep water. “They’ll cruise along the outside edge hunting along the curves, points and indentations in the weeds to flush out prey,” Heckman said. “It’s usually best early before the bass either retreat to thick cover or go deeper and search out humps and mid-lake structure.”
There are a plethora of lure choices that will work when targeting the outside edge including jigs, drop-shotting, Texas-rigged soft baits, crankbaits and rattle baits.
“Two of my favorites for working the deeper outside edges are spinnerbaits and square-billed crankbaits,” Heckman said. “They are reaction baits and target the active fish. They work best early and late in the day. Bright sun makes the fish tuck back in the weeds.”
Bass will show a definite preference for certain types of weeds depending on the body of water. Lakes and reservoirs can have a combination of coontail, pondweed, lily pads, hydrilla, cabbage, milfoil or a host of others. Determining which type of grass or weeds the bass prefer is a big step towards finding the right location and defining a pattern. Whether the bass are utilizing vertical or horizontal weeds will determine the best presentation.
Grow your fishing skills and improve your angling effectiveness.
Subscribe to the free weekly BassResource newsletter.