Kenneth Kieser: Use plastics in the weeds for big bass
By now you likely have lots of moss or weeds in your favorite fishing spots. Throwing conventional lures in this junk means hanging up or constantly cleaning junk off your lures. Sadly, big bass use these trashy areas as ambush areas for easy meals that make the mistake of swimming by.
Flipping a plastic frog or mouse across thick weeds or moss requires a mix of patience and anticipation. Openings between vegetation always appears dark, almost sinister and promising. The goal is to hop the frog or mouse into one of these pockets where you believe a big bass might be waiting to ambush an easy meal. Once this spot is reached, pause, twitch and pause to make the bass think an easy meal awaits.
Last season I paused in one of these openings and was rewarded when a 6-pound largemouth bass took my mouse on the way up and out of a friend’s pond while sunlight reflected off her sides with assorted pieces of moss and water droplets – the kind of scene that lasts in your mind forever. The old’ gal fought well and was happy to be released from whatever had just happened. No doubt her heart and mine continued to beat quite a while after that fight.
Expect hits before reaching these openings. A bass may be watching the shallow of your lure cross over thin vegetation and strike at the right moment. Either way is the beginning of a good fight in heavy cover.
Topwater fishing for big bass creates dramatic, heart-stopping moments. Largemouth bass generally don’t gently hit a prey; they bombard it with unbelievable power and fury. A bass will sometimes completely leave the water like mine did while others seem to suck the bait in while barely disturbing the surface. Big bass sometimes slam into topwater offerings and spit the lure out in mid-air while anglers are left wondering what happened. Everything happens very quickly during a topwater strike and bass use lightning-quick reactions. This speed occasionally results in trouble by hooking themselves. Topwater lures are especially good for easy hooksets when all goes right.
Spring and summer heat will soon take over when most anglers top-water fish at night. But hollow frogs and mice are productive throughout the day, even when temperatures are approaching three digits. The key is knowing where to look.
During hot weather bass love shade in slightly deeper water where more oxygen exists. Areas with lily pads, slop or other cover such as fallen trees and docks generally are covered with some kind of aquatic vegetation. Bass hide under this messy green stuff and wait for an easy meal to drop in.
Don’t ignore visible wood on the water. Logs, brush or other items are key places to walk a from or mouse. Bass accommodate by busting the bait.
Plastic hollow mice or frog lures are ideal for this situation. Lures like my favorites – the Walking Frog, Moss Mouse or Lunker Frog – lie on top of vegetation and seldom picks up weeds like most lures. This is in part because the lure is lighter and the hooks are totally weedless. Several twitches of this “victim” create those vicious strikes we live for.
There are two primary ways to fish this type of lure. First, hold your rod tip in the hook set position and slowly turning your reel handle in short bursts with long pauses. Or by working your rod tip in a downward motion while slowly turning your reel handle while making sure to pause when close to cover or in open pockets. Fish cannot resist eating frogs or mice. The legs retract on excellent choices like the Lunker Frog during the stop and go technique.
When the sun is out and the sky is clear and you know the fish are holding to cover, let the frog or mouse pause a little longer. They have absolutely no chance of knowing the frog is not real and will absolutely smash it.
Anglers can play around with the cadence and speed of lures like the Walking Frog retrieves should be based on how the fish are reacting. Aggressive bass allow you to speed up the retrieve and cover more water. Slow strikes mean slowing down to stay in the strike zone longer.
Cast past where you think bass will be holding. Let the hollow lure splash down causing surface disturbance, then start reeling with your rod tip down.
Low light conditions like early in the morning or late evening are best. During overcast conditions fish will roam and finding actively feeding fish often requires covering water. The straight retrieve is great for covering water and locating active fish.
Baitcasting reels with heavy rods and at least 20-pound test line or heavier is ideal for this type of fishing. Light tackle will net you strikes but few bass will be landed.
Warm weather is an excellent time to catch big bass. Try the hollow frogs and mice for some hot action during the hottest months. You will dream about those addictive savage strikes and wake up praying for more.
Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.