September 14, 2021
By Pete Robbins
At this point, there’s no such thing as a flipping specialist on the professional bass tours. You can’t live by one technique alone, and varied conditions demand different presentations. Nevertheless, when the circuits head to Okeechobee, Guntersville, Minnetonka, or any other grass-laden fishery, just about every pro thinks it’s his tournament to win.
“Because I love to flip,” they’ll reply. It’s no coincidence that many of them also love to bow hunt for deer. This is more akin to stalking prey at short distances than it is to traditional chunk-and-wind bass fishing. You’re using a stout rod, thick braid, and a heavy hunk of tungsten to penetrate the canopy and then winch out the bass that live beneath it.
Here are ten tips that’ll help you find the fish, get more bites, and bring ‘em into the boat with or without a heavy side serving of salad.
1. Don’t Hesitate to Downsize
You’ll often find the biggest bass in a lake or a river under the thickest possible mats, and the temptation is to try to force feed them an oversized soft plastic. Most serious punchers stick to relatively featureless creature baits and craws. They slip through the surface cover more easily and don’t pick up a lot of grass on the retrieve. If you’re missing bites, drop down from the full-size creature bait to its baby brother, still with the same size tungsten.
2. Learn a Snell Knot
The pundits are split on this one, but most pros tie their flipping hooks on with a snell knot, which they claim “kicks” the hook out on the hook set to get it firmly in the roof of the mouth. Be sure to tie it properly and add a dab of super glue to ensure that it stays put.
3. Use the Right Hook
Rig your creatures and craws on a straight shank, heavy wire hook. At close range, with 50- or 65-pound braid, even a 98-pound weakling can create a lot of force on the upward surge, especially when that tournament-day adrenaline is flowing. The hook should also have a quality keeper to keep your bait in place—so you’re not constantly having to re-rig it, and the eye should be welded shut so that your slippery braid doesn’t work its way loose at an inopportune time.
4. Speed Up Your Reel
The presentation may be precise, but you’re going to want to make a lot of casts, and a 7:1 or higher gear ratio will give you extra pitches over the course of the day. It also means that you can catch up to a fish that’s running at you. Just make sure that it’s geared for mano-a-mano combat, because some early speedsters didn’t have the heft to handle big surging bass in heavy cover under strain.
5. The Right Rod
A 7-foot, 6-inch flipping stick was the gold standard for years, but some anglers moved up to 7-foot, 11-inch in recent times. Go with what works for your stature, but it’s not just about length. Is the handle length right for you? More importantly, does the rod balance properly with the reel on it? It can be the right length and feel light in the store, but if it’s tip-heavy you’ll be tired and inefficient.
6. Look for Grass Combos
Milfoil and hydrilla are the prime U.S. bass-holding grasses, but across the country waterways have several other types of greenery. Many of them hold bass at various times, but look for areas where two or more come together to find the motherlode.
7. Fish it Like Structure
If you have miles of grass in front of you, how do you figure out where the bass live? Fish it like you’d fish an offshore hump or point, by looking for what’s different. That’s not just multiple types of grass (see above), but also indentations, bare spots, edges, anything that serves as a highway or aberration is more likely to hold fish than a spot that looks just like everything else.
8. Pattern the Presentation
Most often the fish will hit as the compact bait falls by them. One second it’s falling, the next second it’s shooting off to the side, or your line goes slack altogether. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes the fish want the lure to hit the bottom, get pulled back up to the bottom of the mat, and then held there. Other times they want it hopped once or twice. If you can unlock this little tidbit, you can go behind other anglers and clean house.
9. Build a Grid
If you have a discrete mat that you know or strongly suspect is holding fish, divide into a mental grid in your head and pick it apart. Whether you decide on 1-inch, 6-inch or 1-foot increments (or some other measure), divide your habitat into small squares and hit each one with your bug until you’ve caught every fish that’ll bite.
10. Power Down
If your boat has some sort of shallow-water anchoring system, use it early and often. Every sound is magnified in shallow water, and even the wakes of distant passing boats can disturb the feeding cycle in the grass. Don’t give the bass a reason to be spooky. Turn off your electronics and keep use of the trolling motor to a minimum.
11. Bonus Tip
Listen carefully. If it sounds like Rice Krispies, that’s the sweet sound of success, panfish snacking on bugs. The bass are the next step up the food chain. Prepare to get your cricket rocked.