It is summer time again, this means hot weather, warm water, and if you’re lucky a bunch of bass-holding vegetation growing in your lakes. For many good reasons, vegetation is a magnet for bass. Vegetation provides shade and higher oxygen levels for bass. It’s also the beginning of a thriving food chain starting with plankton, moves to minnows and crawfish, and then works all the way to bream and other panfish species. So what better place for a fat, happy bass to live than in an oxygen rich environment, shaded from the sun, and food swimming all around. Kind of like me sitting in a Buffalo Wild Wings on a steamy Saturday afternoon; air conditioning, food, and more sports on television than one man can take.
Thick vegetation bass are elusive to most anglers. Anglers have to get right in the middle of the vegetation to catch them. This fact alone prevents the majority of angler from even trying, leaving these bass unmolested. This can be work, but the rewards are worth the effort. I can guarantee if the local waters have vegetation, the biggest bass will be living in it.
There are two primary ways to catch bass that are living in thick vegetation. I like to start by running a weedless frog over their heads and hope they punch a hole through the grass and eat it. This can be very effective; however, it makes the bass do the work and sometimes they are lazy. When bass are not aggressive enough to seek and destroy frogs, it’s time to break out the punching gear. If the bass won’t come to you (your frog); you’ll have to go to them (punching). Using heavy weighted Texas rigs or jigs, punch these baits through the vegetation and put the bait on their dinner table.
Punching is not a finesse technique. In an effort to elicit a strike, I see so many anglers punch a bait through the grass and shake it, lift and drop, and shake it some more. Bass that are living in vegetation are not going to swim to a bait, they are not hunting or prowling; they are body deep in the vegetation getting fat and being lazy. There is no reason to try and make them come to you–most won’t. The goal of punching is to send a bait flying past the bass, inside its radar, to elicit a reaction strike. The more punches you make, the better your chances of hitting the strike zone of a bass. I firmly believe this strike zone is extremely small, maybe only a foot or two. Reason being, the majority of your strikes will come on the initial fall of the bait; punching is generally done in 1-8 feet of water. In this shallow water heavy weights hit the bottom in less than a second. For a bass to capture your bait before it hits the bottom, its reaction time has to be instantaneous. This instantaneous reaction time lends credit to the need for the bait to be very close to the bass. The percentage of a strike goes down once the bait hits the bottom. Playing the percentages, after the bait hits the bottom, bring it back and punch again. However, in rare instances, I have seen times when the bait had to hit the bottom or be pulled back to the top of the vegetation in order to draw strikes. The most common reason is the bass are feeding on crawfish. When a heavy weight hits the bottom it creates a dust cloud just like a crawfish skipping across the bottom, or when it hits the top of the vegetation it shakes plankton and dust loose creating the same effect.
I have written several articles on punching vegetation please visit the links below for a more in depth look at punching. These articles can alleviate frustrating hours on the water by removing a lot of the learning curve that I had.
To sum things up, every rule in bass fishing is made to be broken, when it comes to punching the only rule that holds true is, there are no rules. Just about the time you think you have it all figured out, the game changes. I’ve seen days where a bait had to sit motionless on the bottom to get a strike, which is completely contrary to all I know about punching, but it happens. Take the basic concept and use it, but if you can’t get bites, start experimenting. The only constant in this technique is that if there is grass, you can bet your life there are bass in it somewhere.