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PLEASE TELL ME HOW TO CATCH BASS OUT OF LILY PADS AND HEAVY SURFACE MOSS? EDDIE, NELSPRUIT QUESTION:
We all know that summer heat drives big bass to either deep water or heavy, shaded cover. Therefore we presented this month’s question to an American fishing industry and tournament professional, Mark Lassagne, who tells you all you need to know about fishing lily pads and moss beds. The knowledge presented here will benefit bank anglers, boat anglers and tubers.
In “the California Delta” we are over run with Hyacinth, Hydrilla and other types of invasive vegetation. If you’re not getting into the thick vegetation you won’t catch fish. Bass love heavy cover, as protection from the heat/cold and for the unlimited food supply. Thick, matted vegetation has the ability to harbor a good population of bass but not all matted vegetation is good. Fishing matted vegetation can be extremely productive with the right equipment, baits and knowledge.
Just like you wouldn’t tow your bass boat with a Corolla you can’t fish heavy cover with a finesse outfit. My setup includes an Okuma Matt Daddy 7’11” (TCS-C-7111XH) extra heavy rod with just a little tip action. I match that up with an Okuma Helios 7.3:1 reel,65 to 80lb braid. Make sure the drag is locked down; if it slips you can easily lose a big one. I use a 6th Sense PEX-X stopper, River2sea 1 or 1.5 ounce Trash Bomb tungsten weight and a Gamakatsu Heavy Wire hook tied with a Snell knot. Each of these items have been carefully chosen for the purpose of fishing heavy cover.
My number one bait by far has been the Yamamoto Flappin Hog, followed by the Reaction Innovations 420 Beaver, Missile D Bomb and Jackall Sasuteki Craw. The best colour for me has been Green Pumpkin with red flake. Green pumpkin is the number one seller for most every plastics company, so the colour choice is not unique. However, every body of water is different. It’s pretty dark under a weed mat so I’m not overly picky on colour – close is ok. I generally have one rod rigged with a punch skirt and one without. Over the last year I’ve had better results without a skirt.
Presenting the bait correctly is fairly simple but does require some practice. Some anglers toss the bait up in the air and have it come crashing down but I’m not a fan of that. I’ll pitch the bait out using a swing type cast causing the bait to fly low. I cast towards a small hole in the lily pads or weed mat. If the bait does not penetrate on the landing I’ll shake it a little and move it small amounts until it drops through. I generally use a 1oz weight. If the bait does not go through, I will switch to a 1.5oz. The most important part of the cast is the drop through the vegetation. The reel should remain in free spool and once the bait penetrates hold your rod at 10 o’clock and let the line peel off the spool at controlled speed. When the bait hits bottom shake it a few times, pull it half way up, shake it a couple more times,lastly pull it to just under the mat and shake it again.
Most bites come on the initial fall but I’ve caught several bass over 7lb shaking it off the bottom so it’s worth the effort. The bite can be different on any cast and that is why the rod is so important – hence a light but sensitive rod. Sometimes the strike will feel like you hit something hard, other times you may “feel” something… just not right. Often, the line peels off your reel. If you’re real lucky you will feel a noticeable tic. No matter which way they bite make sure you get a good hook set. Reel straight up, causing the bass to flop out on top of the mat then winch him to the boat. With my set up I can flip an 8lber in the boat.
Not all matted vegetation is the same. I focus on matted vegetation and lily pads covering areas that normally hold bass, such as points, pockets, drops and ledges. I try to stay away from vast areas covered with vegetation. However, don’t overlook a special spot within a vast area. I have one bank that has hyacinth for 300 yards but in the center the depth drops from 3ft to 6ft. That spot most always holds a couple fish. I have found that most big bass are caught in 5 to 10ft of water.
My best results have come from fishing new areas day after day, fishing in the moment and developing patterns. I’ll look for patterns, such as fish on a point in 5ft of water, pockets or drop-offs, always trying to figure out where they are and what presentation they want. Once I get a clue I’ll work to expand on it. NOTE: I found that picking apart heavy vegetation is not necessary. I’ll generally cast five or more feet apart, then if I catch a fish I’ll return a few minutes later and go over it again.
*Mark Lassagne from San Ramon, California is the Editor-in-Chief of Bass Angler Magazine (BAM) and a professional angler competing in the B.A.S.S. Opens and the FLW/RAYOVAC series. Mark recently won a BASS Federation event in California and over the last six months has earned several top ten finishes in various tournaments using this technique. In addition he has caught 20 tournament fish over 7lbs and 50 over 5lbs. FOLLOW MARK ON: facebook/mark.lassagne or www.ezbass.com