Out of sight, not out of mind. That should be the year-end mantra for bass anglers in traditional grass-based fisheries nationwide.
From Florida’s Lake Okeechobee, to Alabama’s Lake Guntersville, to Toledo Bend straddling the Texas-Louisiana line and out west to the sprawling California Delta; aquatic weeds such as hydrilla and milfoil offer prime habitat throughout much of the warm season. Reaching the surface and matting over, the grass offers attractive cover for bass and a visual reference for the anglers that seek them.
Late fall sees dramatic mat declines as the grasses recede in cooling weather. But don’t assume the grass game is done until spring returns the warmth.
Fact is, not all the grass drops flat dead on the bottom. Some areas retain stalking or low growth well into the chilly period.
“I enjoy targeting fish over deep grass before they settle into their winter haunts,” says California pro Ken Mah, who knows that a search for the unseen can lead to an early winter bounty.
Historical knowledge helps, but idling through likely areas and graphing the waters below will show you where the receding grass stands. Unlike the easy access of emergent vegetation, you’ll need to reach deeper for the pulled-back grass.
“I like heavier (bladed swim jigs) of ¾-ounce and lipless crankbaits in shad patterns this time of year, especially as the grass has really started to die off or recede,” Mah says. “Grass in, say, 8-15 feet requires heavier baits to stay down in the strike zone. Usually the grass is clean and it’s doesn’t impede or bog the baits down.”
It’s always cool when you find grass fish ready to chase reaction baits; but if he has to slow down, maybe due to a recent cold snap, Mah falls back on two patient presentations.
First is a ¾- to 1-ounce flipping jig on 65-pound braid. If that doesn’t get ‘em, he’ll use a lighter Texas rig for more of a finesse approach.
If the bite’s tough, he might switch from braid to fluorocarbon line for less visibility. Last move is trading baitcasting gear for a spinning rod and going super finesse.
The winter grass bite typically is not an easy deal, but it’s definitely doable for those who know how to adjust with the seasons.