Lets talk flipping Grass Mats, with some how to and where too, and some general baits to use. My first article on flipping was a general review of flipping giving ideas about its concept and where it came from. This will be a little more in-depth, and I hope that everyone can learn a little something or at least remind you of things we need to be looking for and doing.
Where do you start with a grass mat? Just as you would if the grass was not there, find the creeks, ditches, drop offs, humps, anything different about the area. If you can find a travel route from deep water to shallow feeding grounds, you will find bass along it somewhere. Knowing the lake before the grass comes up is very helpful in finding these areas. During the winter take the time to explore areas you know will cover up with vegetation come warmer months and make note of potential key areas. If you don’t have and experience on the water you plan to fish, a good topographical map will help a bunch. Sometimes these key areas give their selves away I.E. deeper water may not have surface matted grass, so you know there is a ditch or creek running through the area. So the matted grass on either side of it has the potential of holding fish. If this ditch runs out from the bank to a grass line/edge that runs parallel with the bank, then out of the whole grass line/edge this particular area is probably going to be your best producer. Same goes for a point.
In lakes and rivers with heavy grass, and defined river channels, use the channel swings to help you find a pattern. Given wind current or incoming water current you can really dial in the position of the bass. Sharp channel swings are a great place to start. In warmer water, I can usually find fish where the current is blowing up into the grass. So I like to start on the down current side of a channels outside swing. If you are in cooler water, or bass are not feeding aggressively, then look to the up current side of the channels outside swing. If the outside swings are not producing, then cross over and work the inside of the bend and see if you can find them. If you can determine a pattern with this, you can really eliminate a lot of water.
You’ve found a good looking grass mat! Let’s start flipping! When looking at your grass mat always start with the edges first. With bass throughout the mat, catching a bass deep in the mat can spook bass on the edge of the mat. On the edges of the mat you want to look for irregularities, these will be small at times. You will notice that there are small points, pockets, thicker spots, and maybe you’ll be lucky enough to have two different grasses growing together. These are all likely spots.
When I see a point in the grass, I will work it like a diamond, first dropping my bait just to the inside edge of the grass on the very point. Next I flip to the edge where the point of grass meets back on the mat (hitting both sides), and finally a flip to the base of the point where it meets the grass. Now realize a point in a grass mat could be the size of a soda can up to trashcan, so you really have to watch your grass line and watch for irregularities. This same thought process works for pockets in the grass; you want to hit all the positions a bass might take up. Again a pocket could be the size of a soda can or as large as a trash can. First, if the pocket is along the edge of the grass, I hit both points of the pocket then a flip to the back of the pocket. Something I didn’t mention before, you have to be as quiet as possible with your bait entry as you don’t want to spook a fish that might just be waiting for the bait to hit him on the head. As your day progresses, you should be able to call your shots. You’ll find that you get the most of your bites from the same spot on the points or pockets. Either on the back side of them or out on the front edge or if there is current, you’ll be looking at the how they position their selves for the day. Once you figure that out, make that your first flip, to make sure you don’t spook a fish with multiple flips to a small area while working to that hot spot. As I say when flipping, always “go for the kill shot first” once you have it dialed in.
(Note: contrary to the above statement there are times when multiple flips to the same spot or within inches of the same spot are necessary to get bites. This is just fishing and something you will have to figure out on the water. Normally this will not be the case unless your fish are in a very negative feeding mood. Flipping puts a bait right in their face, and they’re either going to take it or not. Remember when flipping grass mats you are trying to find feeding or reaction bass, this is not a finesse presentation. Go Senko fishing if you want to finesse!!!)
Stumps can be present on grassed over flats or points. In shallower water, a stump is easy to pick out because grass won’t mat above it, leaving a hole in the surface mat. This can be a jackpot! In water deeper that 10 feet a mat will usually end up growing around the stump and matting on the surface anyway, you won’t be able to see the opportunity. If you come across a mat that has several holes in it, you may have found a gold mine. I like to approach these holes by first flipping a couple inches inside the mat on four possible corners. Then, if, I didn’t get a bite, I will flip straight to the hole and see if I can feel a stump or gravel bottom on the bottom to help me determine what’s there. If you fish this water regularly, you may want to make some sort of land mark notes or GPS plots so that if it completely covers over with grass you can still find it. It will be a great ace in the hole that most folks won’t know is there.
Sometimes it’s just a matter of covering the grass edge, and you will pick off a fish here and there. This is very tedious and at times will take up a lot of the day to catch a limit. However, you will find that a limit of bass caught from a good grass mat will be a competitive limit come weigh in time. When you just have to cover water to catch a limit, try various distances into the grass mat to determine a pattern. Sometimes you will find that fish are relating to the very edge other times you will find that you have to be a foot or three inside the edge. Many times you can use depth to help you determine this pattern. If you have found that you are getting most bites in the 5-6 foot range, use your boats position and depth and the distance from the shore along with the slope of the shoreline to help you present a bait at the right depth and distance into the grass mat.
Once you find the pattern depth a trick to help you keep your bait in the right depth while flipping is to mark your line. If you are catching fish in water that is five feet deep, then take a black permanent marker and color your line five and a half feet above your bait. Now when you flip if your bait doesn’t sink far enough you know your too shallow and if it goes past the mark then you’re too deep! This can be especially helpful when fishing open water mats. This trick also helps because most strikes will happen on the fall, if you know you’re working the proper depth but your bait sinks past the mark SET THE HOOK!
Now you have flipped, and flipped, and nothing. You drop your bait in, it hits the bottom you bounce it twice and move to the next spot. This time however, while lifting your bait, just before you get to the surface you get hammered? Well you just learned something, right? I have had many flipping patterns when you had to get the bait through the mat and then lift it back to the top of the mat and shake it before you would get a bite. I love it when this happens because most folks won’t catch on or even think to do it. So when you’re working a mat, and there are 5 other boats on it with you, you can be confident that probably haven’t found the pattern!!
Once you have found a productive area on your grass mat, check it regularly. Key spots will replenish themselves constantly. Something about the spot attracts fish. After you catch a couple, trolling motor noise and just basically being on top of them will move them out or put them on guard. Leave the area and come back in 30 minutes to an hour and you will catch more.
If you are not a believer in scents, flipping grass mats is a time to be a believer in how slippery they make your baits. By using a product like smelly jelly, or any of the various paste scents on the market, you will be able to get your baits through the mat much easier. You don’t have to keep it dosed up but check your bait regularly to make sure it’s still slick. Another thing to watch for is your weight, make sure the paint isn’t chipping this will also create drag and snag while trying to get through the mat.
As I mentioned in the first article, setting up a wind drift so that you don’t have to use your trolling motor is ideal. However, if drifting isn’t possible and/or the trolling motor keeps getting weed choked, a push pole is a great way to keep vital boat control. I have seen drift socks used before but haven’t experimented with one myself. Seems like to me, a drift sock wouldn’t work well in heavily grassed areas; it would either snag in the grass or collapse and not be effective. A Power Pole can be extremely effective when working grass mats.
I like to keep my baits choices for working grass mats pretty simple. Basically I will use anything that doesn’t have many appendages. Beaver style baits are great, and I have become fond of the Zoom Super Hog. To many appendages will start hanging in the grass and causing issues.
When flipping grass mats don’t waste time pulling every little piece of grass off your bait. Some folks get wrapped up on the fact that their bait may look unnatural because it has some grass on it. My thoughts are that I want to cover as much water as I can in a given time. That means more flips to the grass mat. Now, if I stopped to clean off a string of grass from my bait, that not only cost me time but also affects the rhythm I have going. Besides you are getting ready to punch your bait right back through into heavy grass. If you think that there isn’t grass all around and hanging onto your bait when it hits the bottom, you are mistaken. If there is a wad of grass stuck on my bait, I will try to remove it, but you will find that if you keep flipping the smaller stuff will work it’s self off as it falls through the mat.
I use braid when fishing vegetation no matter how clear the water. The vegetation it’s self breaks up the braided line and is not visible in and around all the vegetation. However, I have been known to mark every few inches with a black magic marker just to give it some camouflage. If you have super think vegetation, chances are you have pretty clear water, unless you have had an unusual occurrence of water inflow. The vegetation clears the water up, and the more vegetation the clearer the water will get. Don’t worry about your line as much as keeping the boat quiet and as far away from the fish as you can and still give a quiet entry.
Two last pieces of advice, I said this in part one and it’s worth saying again. Set the hook quick and hard, you want to get the fish moving to the top fast. Also, be a line watcher, most strikes in grass mats are going to be on the fall; be aware of how far you bait should fall and watch your line for the slightest tick or jump, and again set the hook hard and fast!