One of the reasons bass are North America’s most popular gamefish is they’re somewhat easier to catch than other species, primarily because they are so abundant. But, just because these fish can be found virtually everywhere doesn’t always mean you’ll always load the boat on every fishing trip. It’s more than just tossing out a bait and hoping there’s a hungry bass near by willing to bite; consistantly catching lunkers comes down to proper technique. Below are criticaltechniques you should master to maximize your performance and success as a bass angler.
Pitching and Flipping
When bass aren’t all that active and are hiding in thick cover, it’s as if you have to go into stealth mode to catch those shy lunkers. The best methods for getting to shallow-water thick cover, without spooking fish too much, are pitching and flipping. These methods are similar looking techniques, but some occasions require one over the other, especially as it pertains to distance. The key to successful pitching and flipping is practice, a long rod — 6 1/2-foot to 7 1/2-foot — and the right soft-plastic bait.
Pitching is the easier of the two techniques but is not as precise as flipping. Let out enough line so it’s about even with the reel, and keep your reel open (button pressed). With your thumb on the reel spool, lower the rod tip towards the water and with your free hand, grab hold of the lure (worm, tube jigs, creatures) and pull on the line to add tension. In one smooth motion let go of the lure while swinging your rod tip up. As the swings away toward your target, remove your thumb from the reel spool. The timing of these steps will take some practice. This combination should slingshot the bait towards your target. Be sure to close the reel as soon as the bait lands because bass often strike quickly.
Flipping takes more practice, but once you get a good feel for it, you can optimize your presentation and hit your target location more precisely than pitching. Begin by letting out somewhere between 8 to 15 feet of line and then close your reel. Grab the line between the reel and first rod guide and then extend your arm to the side as you pull on the line. Raise the rod and the bait will now swing towards you. Using a pendulum motion, swing the bait to your desired location while feeding the line through your hand. Tighten up the remaining slack and get ready for a strike. It looks a little awkward, but it’s a great way to get a drop on some shy bass.
For many anglers, there’s nothing more exciting than catching a bass with a topwater bait. The sound of the lure, the sight of an approaching fish, and the exhilaration of seeing a big splash when a largemouth finally strikes can be enough to get anyone’s heart racing. Unlike pitching or flipping, topwater lures are meant for hungry, active fish. It’s a true “lure,” designed to attract attention with noise and dramatic movements.
There are several kinds of topwater baits, like poppers, jitterbugs and frogs. Some topwaters are easy to use and work best with a slow, steady retrieve, like a jitterbug. Others take some more technique. The aptly named “popper’ requires an angler to literally pop the lure as it is retrieved, pausing every few seconds and allowing it to go steady, imitating a wounded fish. The sporadic stopping and moving can drive bass crazy.
Another popular retrieving method is called “walk the dog,” commonly used for soft-frog or Zara spook-type baits. Walking the dog is where you quickly twitch the rod tip up and down for the duration of the slow retrieve.