By Tom Redington
Heading into late summer, hot temperatures and limited rain normally produce dropping water levels in Texas lakes. Meanwhile, abundant sunshine and clearer water produce the most prolific weedbeds in our lakes at the same time. The combination of lowered water levels and exploding weed growth results in huge fields of matted grassbeds on Lake Fork. This placid looking flotilla of hydrilla, milfoil, and other submerged vegetation belies the labyrinth of tunnels beneath the surface where bass are actively feeding on bluegill and shad. From late summer through fall, flipping matted grass can make for outstanding shallow water fishing for big bass, even on the hottest and sunniest days of the year.
Based on the density of the cover, this is one technique where loading for bear is usually more productive than finesse tackle. Start with heavy 50 lb or larger braided line. Braid line cuts through dense weeds much better than other types of lines and affords you the power to handle big fish in the slop. To make your line less visible to the fish, simply use a black marker to darken the last 3’ or 4’. On the business end of the line, I’ll use either a heavy Texas rig or an outsized jig. Big ½ or 3/4 oz MPack jigs with Fork Craw trailers work very well for pitching small holes in patchier grass; however, heavy Texas rigs are more streamlined and often fall through the thickest of grass more consistently. For the Texas rig, I use a ¾ or 1 oz Mega Weight tungsten bullet sinker. The smaller size of tungsten provides a slimmer profile and the insert in the Mega Weights won’t cut your braided line like other unprotected tungsten weights will. I attach this to a 3/0 to 4/0 hook with a Lake Fork Tackle Flipper or Craw Tube and rig it weedless. The Craw Tube is especially effective for this rig, as evidenced by Kelly Jordon’s wins in the FLW Tour at Okeechobee and in the Bass Elite Series on the Potomac River using it to flip matted vegetation. Finally, the weight of a big 1 oz sinker and the impact of jarring hook sets at close range necessitate a stout rod. Although flipping sticks will work ok, I upgrade to the Dobyns Champion 805 FLIP/PUNCH rod. Broom handles like this rod allow you to quickly get control of big fish and get them coming towards you before they bury up and get off.
Once you’re rigged up, it’s time to start fishing. Deciding where to start can be a daunting task on lakes with expansive weed flats. I start by looking for points and inside turns in the grassbeds, along with high and low spots, ditches, or any other irregular feature. In the summer, I typically do best in areas that are on the main lake or close to deep water inside major coves; whereas in the fall, I catch good fish on this pattern back in the creeks as well. Many days, the bass will be scattered across the flats in what appears to be random locations to us anglers. In most cases though, once one bass is caught there are likely to be several more in the area, so fish thoroughly around any place that produces a bite. In general, I do better in hydrilla than milfoil or coontail and I look for hydrilla that is at least 4’ tall. Hydrilla tends to grow in a pyramid shape, so seeing a few strands near the surface is often the tip of a rather large weedy iceberg below. Finally, fish typically bite best in matted grass during the middle of the day, while the nearby weededges and the water over submerged grass often produce better early and late.
The fishing technique is rather simple, with a few nuances. Make a short flip or pitch to a mat or clump of grass and feed the bait slack line. If your lure doesn’t immediately break through the mat into the water below, a few jiggles of the lure will help it fall through. If not, reel back in and make another pitch or switch to a bigger weight if your bait routinely won’t break through. Once it breaks through, the slack line will allow your bait to freely fall straight down and many strikes will occur on the initial drop. Depending on how the fish are positioned in the grass and their mood, you’ll want to experiment and see which of the following retrieves work best. If the fish are very active, I’ll simply let the bait fall to the bottom, jiggle it a couple of times, then pull it out and pitch it again a few feet away from my last cast. Frequently, you’ll do much better by yo-yoing the bait in the open water below the mats or by steadily shaking your bait on the bottom. In a few cases, bass are apparently feeding up on suspended bait or bluegills. In this instance, let your bait fall to the bottom, then steadily raise it to the underside of the weed canopy. Once there, jiggle your bait in place just under the bottom for about 5 seconds before casting to the next spot. Bites are typically light, so if your bait feels slightly lighter or heavier than normal, set the hook!
If you grow tired of deep water fishing this summer or just like catching big bass, give flippin’ shallow matted weeds a try. If I can be of assistance, please contact me at 214-683-9572 or e-mail me through my website, www.LakeForkGuideTrips.com.
Tom Redington is a full time bass guide on Lake Fork & a FLW Tour pro. He is sponsored by Lake Fork Trophy Lures, Dobyns Rods, Ranger Boats, Evinrude, Diamond Sports Marine, Lucky Craft, Costa Sunglasses, & Minn Kota.