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Author: Todd Whitesel
Largemouth bass and vegetation are like dark clouds and rain - find one and you'll likely find the other. They may not always go together, but more often than not the combination is there.
Picture an unbroken mat of aquatic vegetation. Lily pads floating side by side amongst reeds and bulrushes are tantamount to bass heaven. The entire area looks like it could hold fish, and it indeed may. So, where and how do you start?
Defining a strategy is a logical first step. Too many anglers rush right in and start banging on the front door and miss the opportunities that are on the front lawn or the porch steps. With an outside-in approach, I call "three-way largemouths", you'll first target fish on the outlying water before moving to the weed edges and finally right into the cover.
Imagine a series of concentric circles drawn around the weedbed. The first circle lies entirely outside the weedbed and encompasses the adjacent open water. The next circle captures the weedline and its edges. A final circle, or circles, exists right in the thick of it. Think of it as a largemouth dartboard, throwing first at the outer circle, then the second, and finally the last. Instead of points for a bull's-eye, you'll be rewarded with fish.
Approach 1: Outside Spinnerbaits
We'll start by chasing the more aggressive fish, luring them from cover with a flashy spinnerbait. Start by casting about 30 feet from the weed edge, working a spinnerbait along the outer margins. Make parallel casts and use a fairly quick retrieve. I like to vary this with an occasional stop-and-go, pausing enough to let the spinnerbait fall before re-engaging it. Use a trolling motor to work the entire perimeter of the weed patch. If the bass bite is on, it may be worth a second trip around before moving in closer.
Approach 2: On the Edge Plastic Worms
Now that you've fished the open water, it's time to move in and slow down. Put the spinnerbait away and rig a plastic worm. It's tough to beat the old standby Texas-rig with the hook point buried directly in the worm. Rigged this way, the bait can be worked through almost anything. Instead of parallel casts, it's time to throw right at the cover.
Look for small openings at the weedline and use these as target points. Cast the worm into these openings and let it sink. Use a slow retrieve, letting the worm rise and fall. Try dragging it along the bottom at a slow creep. Keep a close eye on your line too. Worming is often a game of finesse and strikes may not be obvious. A bass may inhale a worm, holding it, and the only clue will be a change in line direction or motion. If you see any strange line behavior, don't wait, reel up the slack and set the hook. Anglers often go overboard with the hook-set when fishing a Texas-rigged plastic. While it certainly is necessary to drive home the hook, it is not necessary to drive the hook through concrete. The most important thing is getting the slack out of the line. Use a strong but smooth hook-set, and you'll have no problems.
Approach 3: Stuck in the Middle Jigs, Pigs and Craws
After you've worked the weedlines, it's time for the final approach. This is down and dirty, and it calls for fishing right in the thick of the muck. Bring the boat right to the weedline or further in depending on the density and size of the weedbed. You want to be close enough into the next zone to work new water thoroughly.
Heavy cover calls for heavy gear, and this is THE place for the Flippin' stick and stout line. I like to use a jig and craw combo here, but a plastic worm with a heavier bullet weight can be just as effective. The advantage of the jig is its low profile, making it easy to drop it into the smallest holes. A worm can be thrown off course by wind or end up hanging on exposed weeds. The weight of the jighead will send it through the cover while the claw trailer provides enough buoyancy to slow the drop and add extra motion from the trailing legs.
If plastic worm fishing is a game of finesse, then jig fishing is one of micro-management. It is absolutely vital to keep contact with the jig and watch the line constantly. Flip the jig into holes and pull it slowly off the bottom then let it fall. Bass usually hit the jig as it's dropping. You may feel a slight tick, but often the sensation is vague. Something feels different. It's heavy, like the lure is coated in mud. If it feels "strange", set the hook. Also, always be watching the line as the jig falls. If it moves, set the hook.
Don't spend a great deal of time jigging any one opening. Work a couple drops and then flip the next hole. Continue flipping until you've covered the area completely, and then move to another weedbed and start the three-way process over again. With this comprehensive approach, you're sure to up your odds and catch. You may find the bass are crazy for the spinnerbait or want something slower like a plastic worm. They may be sluggish and holding tight to cover and need to be knocked on the head before striking. In any case, you're there to oblige.Click here to see our selection of Spinnerbaits.
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