By late summer, the bigger bass in some lakes can be mighty hard to reach, as they make use of the maximum cover density created by aquatic vegetation. Two of their favorite weedy hangouts are hydrilla mats and lily pad patches. Such thick vegetation can be frustrating to fishermen, but over the years I’ve discovered a few approaches that I can rely on to produce bass.
To fish thick weeds effectively, make sure your tackle is up to the task. Choose a rod 61/2 to 7 feet long. Be sure that the rod has a limber tip for casting but also a sturdy butt to muscle a big bass out of the slop. Pick a reel that can handle a heavy fish and spool it with line to match. I prefer a fused-braid line of 30-pound-test (it has the same diameter as 8-pound-test monofilament).
When you approach a hydrilla bed, fish parallel with the outer edges first. Use shallow- and deep-running crankbaits here, as well as lipless crankbaits and safety-pin-type spinnerbaits. Work a Texas-rigged worm-the biggest you can find-along the perimeter. Then crawl the worm over the surface of the weeds and let it drop into thin spots or openings in the mat.
If that doesn’t do the trick, try a special tactic. Fasten a two-ounce bell sinker to the end of the line, like a drop-shot rig, and tie a loop in the line about a foot above it. Next, tie a 12-inch length of heavy mono leader to the loop and tie a weedless leadhead jig to the other end. Worm on a curly-tail grub to the jig and you’re ready to go. To fish this rig, first make a high, towering cast with the sinker so that when it lands it will blast its way down through the weed blanket and into the opening below. Let the lure go to the bottom and twitch it back to the top, very slowly. Set the hook when you feel a tick or sense the slightest change in line tension.
First make long casts along the outer edges of the pads with crankbaits, spinnerbaits and soft-plastics. Then move in closer and try surface plugs. Plastic frogs, rigged weedless and crawled over the pads, can produce electrifying strikes. When bass aren’t hitting on top, snake a weedless spoon through the pads. Another trick I rely on was taught to me by an Arkansas fisherman who doesn’t play around when it comes to catching big bass. Although he uses a beefy Calcutta pole, I’ve found a 15-foot jointed graphite pole is just as effective and a lot lighter to work. Rig the pole with 15 feet of 30-pound-test braided line.
Tie on a weedless jighead with a soft-plastic crayfish, quietly move close to the pads and vertically dunk the crayfish into every tiny pocket and opening in the pad spread. Give the bait a few twitches up and down before moving it to the next hole.
When you feel a jerk, set the hook with both arms and hold on, because chances are the bass on the other end of the line can pull just as hard as you-at least for a little while.