Because he’s from Louisiana, Bassmaster Elite angler Tyler Rivet has adapted to fishing in the heat. When the summer sun is bearing down on largemouths, fish locate cover that’s thick on the surface and swim underneath it, where the water’s cooler and more comfortable. This is when anglers need to turn to a technique called “punching.” You get a small, soft-plastic bait and a super heavy bullet weight, and punch a meal right through that cover to get a bite. When you’re looking to pick a fight with a bass through the thick stuff, consider Rivet’s tips. These tricks will not only help you get bit, but also help you get that fish to the boat once it is hooked.
1. Outdoor Life: What are the best color baits to use?
Tyler Rivet: I go with one of two colors. If it’s not Junebug it will be a green pumpkin base with maybe a chartreuse dipped tail. Under mats, it’s dark, so you want something that has a darker base so they can see it quickly.
2. OL: How do fish bite under mats?
TR: When I’m punching, I like to move quickly. I am looking for more of a reaction bite than a feeding bite. When something unexpectedly falls in front of their face, they snap at it. So, I will drop my bait in and if nothing hits on the initial drop, I’ll pull the bait up to the bottom of the floating mat and then drop again. If nothing bites, reel up and move on. I don’t like to spend a lot of time blindly working a bait under a mat unless I know fish are there. I’d rather make five different flips in new spots hoping for reaction bites rather than sitting it in one hole trying to coax a fish into feeding.
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3. OL: What is the best knot to use?
TR: I normally go with a snell knot. It tends to hook fish better even if it’s not a great hookset. That said, properly setting the hook is even more important.
4. OL: Should you set the hook right away when you feel the fish bite or wait and reel down?
TR: I have always been able to tell when I get a bite the second it goes through and just out of instinct, I whack them right away and that normally results in a 50/50 chance of getting them out. I have been teaching myself to feel the bite and reel till it’s tight then lean on them hard. When you set the hook hard that big bullet weight can open their mouth too much and the hook may slide out without penetrating the fish. I find my hook-up ratio is way higher when I reel down first.
5. OL: What rod and reel set up you use?
TR: I use different rods depending on the type of cover I’m punching. If I am fishing just little, sparse grass mats, then I use a 7′8″ heavy Lykan Series Sixgill Rod. If the cover is thicker and harder to get fish out, I’ll switch to a 7′9″ Xtra Heavy Brute Sixgill Rod. Both of these set ups are paired with an 8:1 Wraith Sixgill Reel.
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6. OL: Hooks, weights, line, and baits?
TR: For hooks, I like to use Owner 4/0 Jungle flipping hook. The bait keeper on the Jungle hooks are made from a wire that will not mess up your bait when putting it on and will keep it in place, too. For weights, I use Rougaroo Tackle 1- to 2-ounce flipping weights along with their bobber stoppers. For line, I use 65-pound test Power Pro braid. As for baits, I like to use either Netbait Daggers or Netbait Paca Slims. They slide through cover easily and the hook slides through the bait when setting the hook every time.