A surface commotion caught the attention of a big sow bass. She homed in on the sound and subtle vibrations three feet above her. A lizard skittered across the surface and climbed atop a lilypad. In clear water, the bass tracked the silhouette as it crossed the pad. She positioned herself beneath the pad, poised at the edge of a small open space between two lilypad patches.
The lizard dropped back into the water and rested motionlessly for a moment. Ka-Boom! She exploded on the succulent temptation.
This time, the bass made a mistake. Instead of crunching meat and bone, the big fish gulped down plastic and a hook.
"Got’em. Big one," the angler shouted as he fought the fish back to the boat through choking vegetation.
In many areas, especially the warm South, thick vegetative mats choke off shallow water, leaving only a few boat trails and an occasional marshy lagoon. Big bass lurk in inaccessible weedbeds, waiting to ambush prey or hide from predators. Few lures can work these thick weedbeds effectively. In such places, forget about throwing deep-diving crankbaits that change from bass lures to weed removers. When it comes to fishing thick lilypads or weed masses typically found in lush freshwater marshes, reservoir backwaters or along Southern rivers, anglers must stick with floaters, some small spinners, buzzbaits, weedless spoons or weedless soft plastic offerings.
Where water measures only a few feet deep, anglers can easily combine topwater action with the weedless enticement of soft plastics. Floating frogs or lizards work exceptionally well in the weed-choked lair of lunker bass.
Some anglers prefer floating lizards. Others only throw rubber or plastic frogs. Still others prefer to hook a pork chunk resembling a frog onto a spinner, buzzbait or spoon.
Used without weights on light tackle, floating soft plastic lures fool many bass in thick weed-filled shallows or lilypad thickets. Unlike a spinnerbait, they actually look like something a bass would normally eat, lizards, frogs and salamanders, natural food sources.
In many places, only a Texas-rigged lizard can navigate through dense weedbeds. To Texas-rig a lizard, thread the hook through the head and out through the neck or body. Rotate the hook and stick the point of the hook back into the lizard body without penetrating through to the other side. This rig makes probably the most weedless lure available.
Without attaching common bullet weights used for most lizard or worm fishing, lizards float or slowly sink. With the hook eye buried in the head and the point buried in the body, a lizard moves through the weeds with little entangling trouble. Because it weighs so little, anglers might want to stick to lighter rods and line for easier casting.
Watch for fish action, such as a surface disruption or scattering baitfish that could indicate where a lunker is lurking. Even without seeing obvious signs of fish, throw lizards into likely looking places.
Don’t worry about staying out of the floating weeds or pads. Even if it becomes entangled and lost, an angler loses only a few pennies worth of tackle. You’ve got to get into the cover where the big fish hide.
Toss lizards into thick structure. Let it sit motionless for a brief moment and then retrieve it one of two ways. One method involves a steady retrieve. Crank the reel slowly so that the lizard skitters across the surface or just beneath it in a continuous motion. It makes a wake that alerts fish to its presence. Lizards with curly tails or frogs with kicking legs that flop and thrash the water work well with this type of retrieve. This method works where dense grass mats completely cover the surface.
In places where gaps of open water form between pads or grassbeds, the stop-and-go method might work better. Toss the lizard into heavy cover and let it sit for a few moments. Pull it a couple feet and let it rest or slowly sink into the pocket. Keep repeating this method as you negotiate the bait through cover.
Don’t hesitate to let a lizard "crawl" onto lilypads or thick grass. After letting it sit briefly, pull it a couple feet. When it reaches an open hole, let it slowly sink about a foot or two and then pull it back to the surface.
Sometimes, when bass feed aggressively, they rip through vegetation to smash floating lizards sitting on top. They strike with awesome force, as they would a topwater bait. Sometimes, with full bellies or during hot weather, they simply suck in lizards as they slowly sink into holes or gaps between weeds. This makes a delicate tap, often unnoticed by anglers.
Many lure varieties and color combinations attract bass. Sometimes, bass greedily devour anything passing near them. Sometimes, they select a particular body structure or color. Perennial top colors include watermelon red, pumpkinseed, red shad, tequila sunrise, purple, grape, black and blue, junebug or other popular worm colors.
If lizards don’t produce strikes several varieties of shad-typed plastic lures or frogs worked the same way might entice finicky bass. Other popular baits include floating worms, slugs or centipedes. Just about any weedless soft plastic enticement worked properly over a good area may attract bass at some point. Sometimes, nothing else will.
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