I had a chance to hop in the boat with Lake Guntersville guide Jim Leary and he opened my eyes to the benefits of this technique. It took me about an hour to get the hang of it, but we were both jacking 4 and 5-pounders out of 15 feet of water in no time.
Based on my experience, there are 5 things to understand before you start wrenching big bass from the salad:
- Pattern bass according to their late-summer behavior
- Recognize important bottom compositions
- Vertical drops are better than long casts
- Understand what a bite feels like
- Huge hooksets aren’t necessary
You’ve gotta be where the bass are
Sure, it sounds obvious—but those miles of grass can distract you from your game plan if you’re not careful. In the late-summer, Leary concentrates on what he calls ‘bass highways’.
“In most areas of the country, bass have already begun following shad to the backs of creeks,” Leary said. “These creek and river channels are bass highways and I like to focus on stopping points. Just like how we might get hungry on the interstate and pull off for a bite to eat, bass are doing the same thing right now.”
When you’re looking for a good area, look for any areas close to main river or creek channels. Once you find the right areas, follow the contour lines on your electronics as bass relate heavily to depth changes this time of year. Look for points in the grass, small channel cuts and any other irregularities for great starting points.
Remember—you’re not going to be able to see the fish on your graph. It all comes down to covering water efficiently.
A hard bottom is a good bottom
Bass aren’t too fond of muddy, cruddy bottom compositions. You’ll catch a few in these areas, but a quick way to narrow your search is by finding a hard bottom composition. It may seem like all of the grass would make this difficult, but it’s actually pretty easy to recognize.
A 1-ounce or 1 1/2-ounce jig will help you detect hard bottom compositions, which are essential when pitching deep grass.
“I mainly use a 1-ounce or 1 1/2-ounce Strike King Hack Attack Jig or Buckeye Lures Mop Jig tipped with a Missile Baits D Bomb, NetBait Paca Craw or Big Bite Baits YoDaddy with this technique,” Leary said. “A heavy weight is imperative because it lets you feel what’s down there so you can concentrate on productive areas. It's important, however, to use a rod that can handle such a large weight, so I use a 7-foot, 10-inch extra-heavy Duckett Micro Magic Casting Rod.”
He’s right. With the heavy jig, I was able to feel exactly what was below the grass. If you can’t really feel your weight ‘clack’ on the bottom, there’s a good possibility you’re fishing around the muck. Whenever we got into the juice, it actually felt like I was pitching my jig onto a sidewalk—it’s hard to mistake. Every time I felt the ‘clack’, hooksets were never far behind.
Avoid the urge to make bomb casts
When we first started fishing, I noticed Leary making pitches only 4 to 6 feet from the boat. While I was making long casts and wrestling clumps of grass, he just smirked at me. As it turns out, a vertical drop is key for this technique.
“I try to avoid dragging a jig in deep grass for several reasons,” Leary said. “This time of year, bass are very likely to eat your jig on the fall and it’s hard for them to do that when you’re dragging it. You can also make a lot more flips and pitches compared to long casts. Grass lakes are hard to dissect at times, so it’s important to cover water efficiently.”
It's all about making quick, short pitches to cover water.
Throughout our day, we got a lot of bites after pitching to a specific area multiple times. This was largely because of Leary’s thorough, yet efficient flipping and pitching technique. On average, we pitched our jigs a foot apart, which allowed us to make multiple presentations to the same fish. When the bass are in this deep grass, sometimes it takes a few presentations to draw their attention.
Bites aren’t always easy to detect
Before getting the hang of what a bite really felt like, I feel like I missed about 10 fish. That’s normal, however, if you don’t fish submerged vegetation very often. Once you realize what it feels like, it’s a load of fun.
More times than not, these big, deep grass bass aren’t going to break your arm when they bite. Most of my bites came while I was hung up in a big wad of grass. As I would lift my rod tip, I’d feel my braided line “grind” across a stalk of grass or I’d feel something just barely pull back. If you feel anything similar to this, it definitely won’t hurt to set the hook.
You don’t have to break your rod on the hookset
In my opinion, there’s nothing better than connecting with a big jig fish on a hookset. After a few swing-and-misses, I quickly learned to dial it back a few notches. Leary has a great way of getting more of the bass in the boat.
“When you’re using 50-pound Sunline FX2 Braided Line and setting the hook right beside the boat, you can definitely pull the hook out of a fish if you go crazy on the hookset,” Leary said. “I usually pull once for the initial hookset and do another quick pull after I feel the bass break free from the grass.”
This may look like shallow grass, but we were catching bass 14 feet below the surface in this area.
It’s also important to get these fish into the boat as soon as possible. Think about it—you’re yanking these bass directly from their homes and they are absolutely livid when you set the hook. They have a lot of stored energy, so it’s okay to wrench on them. Anything that keeps them from burying back into the grass will help your chances.
I’ll tell you right now—this is a really fun way to catch big bass. If you’ve been spending most of your time around the grass mats, try to back off and fish the deeper grass. It’s a 4-hour drive for me to get back to Guntersville, and I can’t wait to do it again.
What lakes near you would be conducive to this technique? Would you do anything differently? Let us know by commenting below.