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Ontario Fishing Network
Volume 5,  Issue 8 -  August 2005

Soft-Plastics For Bass
Tim Allard

You don't always need to flip pockets in heavy weeds to catch bass. In fact, one of my preferred options for uprooting largemouth from heavy cover is throwing soft-plastic topwaters. These baits can be rigged to be virtually weedless and their soft bodies make them more lifelike to bass than hard-plastic baits. Although flipping can be fun, there's nothing like a bucketmouth exploding at the surface, separating lilly pads and sending slop flying.

You can use surface baits in shallow water where you would also flip jigs. Lilly pads, slop, weed mats, shorelines, and sunken logs are all prime areas for topwaters. In bright sunlight, bass seek shade and will often move to weed cover. If the water conditions are calm, using a topwater to probe cover can be an excellent choice. Furthermore, many anglers overlook low-light conditions (especially dusk) when bass fishing. I've had some of my biggest bass come out of heavy weeds just as the sun was setting.

Frogs, rats, lizards and worms are some of the baits I prefer to throw for weedy topwater action. Most plastic frogs or rats are pre-rigged with hooks that are flush with the bait's body, creating a weedless lure. Floating lizards and worms bodies can be Texas-rigged. Worms can also be fished wacky-style hooking the worm through the mid section. When twitched, the worm bends in a U shape and then straightens on slack line.

A selection of soft-plastic baits for bass. From left to right: a Grass Frog by Strike King, a Tournament Frog by Snag Proof, and a King Rat by Strike King

Working your baits in heavy cover is easy. You want to create commotion on the surface to attract attention and then make the bait appear vulnerable to trigger a strike. I allow the bait to pause for at least 20 seconds (sometimes a minute if I know a big fish is in the area) after the cast when the bait first hits the surface. Next, I usually give the bait a quick, short twitch and then leave it sit still. If a bass has come to investigate the initial splash, but has yet to hit, a small twitch can trigger a strike. The small movement keeps the bait in the immediate area so there is less chance of a bass missing the target.

Next, I usually switch to a stop-and-go retrieve. In thick pads or weeds, I may slowly swim the bait over the top of them and then pause right at the edge of a hole. Sometimes bass will hit at the edge of a pocket, while others grab the bait after a few short splashes in the opening. A productive tactic on some baits, such as rats or Texas-rigged floating lizards, is to lightly twitch your rod without reeling in slack to make the bait move from side-to-side in the same place; in other words, a walk-the-dog motion but without forward movement. This action can be an excellent tactic when your bait is in a large pocket that you know holds a fish.

A largemouth that fell victim to a plastic rat twitched through a weed flat.

Fishing thick weeds and slop requires heavy action gear. I use long flipping sticks around seven-and-a-half feet for leverage and high gear ratio reels to haul bass out of weeds, preventing them from burying in the vegetation and spitting the hook. Twenty pound-test mono or 30 pound-test superbraids provides enough strength for fishing weeds. Some baits come pre-rigged with hooks while others require rigging. In most cases a 2/0-4/0 off-set worm hook will let you Texas-rig lizards, worms and other floating baits you may want to fish. 2/0 and 3/0 regular hooks will suffice for wacky rigging worms. Don't use too heavy wire of a hook when rigging baits, as it may cause your bait to sink too rapidly. An ultra-slow fall can be a deadly trait on a soft-plastic topwater, but if the bait falls too fast, you'll struggle keeping it on the surface and have difficulty creating a disturbance on the surface.

Finally, when fishing topwaters it's important to wait to feel the fish or watch your line pull taught before hooking a fish. Bass can erupt on the surface when hitting topwaters, but overly eager anglers sometimes pull the bait away from fish at the first sign of an explosion. Pause a few seconds before setting the hook and then get the fish out of the weeds. In the event a bass misses the bait, patiently wait a moment, and then begin your retrieve again. They'll likely hunt it down in no time.


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