I look at pitching a bait to shallow cover as an art form. It's not only placing a lure where you want, it is much, much more. And when anglers understand the need to get beyond the technical aspects they will be, by far, better fishermen. On a competitive level, pitching is critical.
The technical part of pitching is easy to master. It just takes practice. When asked, I tell people to get on a chair in the back yard and pitch to several targets at varying distances. Do it over and over. Learn to gain complete control of the bait. Most of the time the bait needs to enter the water with as little splash as possible. There are times, like fishing matted grass, a splash will help the bass locate the bait. But you need to be in control all the time.
There's no other tactic that we use to catch bass that gets the angler more involved with the fish. With a crankbait or a Carolina rig, you have a good idea about what's going on but when you're pitching a lure to a shallow fish you really start to understand what's happening. I compare it to hunting deer. Rifle hunters see their sport one way but bow hunters have an entirely different view with a more personal understanding. They have to get close.
With pitching a lure an angler gets close as well, often within just a few feet of the fish. He sees the cover and looks for the very best spot to place the lure. He understands the effects of current and tides, sun and shade. The angler sees the strike and should have complete control of the fish. Long rods, heavy line and big hooks are the normal tackle.
Bait selection seems to scare some anglers, but it shouldn't. One bait I always recommend and has proven to be a go-to bait for me is a six-inch Berkley ® Gulp! Lizard. Some anglers incorrectly look to a lizard only as a Carolina rig bait or a spring bait.
Colors I use most often are black or green pumpkin. You can't go wrong with those 90 percent of the time. Gulp! is the perfect product for a lizard. It all has to do with scent dispersal, and no plastic bait does it like Gulp!. As the pitched bait falls, the legs have great motion causing the bait to be more life-like and creating a larger scent zone. A Gulp! Lizard is one of the few year-round baits.
You can make the bait fall differently by how you peg the sinker. Generally I use a 1/4-ounce bullet weight. And I peg it with a piece of rubber. If you peg the sinker tight to the bait it will not fall straight. If you peg it just 1/8 of an inch away from the bait it will fall straight down. This is particularly true when fishing with tubes. Given a chance, the fish will tell you how to rig it.
And speaking of tubes, another favorite pitching bait of mine is a four-inch Berkley Power ® Tube in the same colors. What I like about this bait is the way it darts. Hop it on the bottom and it darts one way or another and it falls erratic if you peg it close. My third bait of choice is a Berkley Power Hawg. This creature bait may be the most fish catching of the class.
For most of my soft baits I use a super line 5/0 wide gap hook. These fish are strong and normally in heavy cover. I need a strong big hook just as much as I need the right tough line.
When I'm fishing thick vegetation I use 50-pound test Spiderwire ® Stealth, a heavy-duty braided line. Braided line will actually slice through the vegetation and monofilament won't. On the other hand, when I'm fishing around a lot of wood, braided line will get caught up in the tiny cracks and forks of the wood and I stay hung up too much so I switch to mono.
I've always selected Berkley Big Game ® in the past but now I find myself using more and more Vanish ® Transition. I like the way the line is visible to me and not to the fish. I also like the way it feels and its amazing resistance to abrasion. Rocks and brush seem to have no ill effect on it. With fluorocarbon line I can use larger diameter line, like 25- or 30-pound test, because it is so tough for the fish to see.
Anglers that I run across today are different than they were just a few years ago. Most of them have the right tools and they know the tactics but their techniques need practice. Using the right technique is one thing but perfecting it is entirely another. To be a good angler you constantly need to learn about where the fish lives, exactly how it relates to cover and how it reacts to different baits. Pitching is the best way to learn these things.
Pitching is an art form.