Late fall can be a rough period of fishing because the bass are in transition in most areas and sometimes difficult to find. But in many places, the bass are targeting schools of spawning shad in backs of coves. And while the bass might not be actively gorging on the schools all day long, they will never pass up an opportunity for an easy meal. Many times they will hunker down in nearby cover and wait for prey to come within easy striking distance.
For times like these (or in summer when the sun is hot or when targeting bedding bass in spring) you’ve got to know how to fish flooded brush, blowdowns, thick weed mats or some other shady cover. When bass are holding tight to these areas, they might not be feeding aggressively, a bass still might strike in reaction to something invading its space. But sometimes, you have to almost hit a bass on the head to get it to strike. A subtle approach like flipping works best for bass in these conditions – especially those in shallow water. A lot of bass will stay in relatively shallow water nearly all year long and a bass in shallow water in usually more interested in a meal than a bass in deeper water.
Flipping is a technique that allows me to have a finesse look while I’m still using big, baits like a Berkley PowerBait Chigger Craw. It’s a matter of looking at available cover, imagining where a bass might be and putting a lure on his head very softly. Even in the cooler times of the year, I wear polarized sunglasses which protect my eyes from the sun and allow me to spot open areas in the cover and sometimes – if the conditions are right – the fish. Almost like using a cane pole, flipping allows a person to get up close and personal with bass at short range. Using long rods (7 to 7-and-a-half feet though some pros use an 8-foot rod) and heavy line (like 30-pound braided or anything that can stand up to rough treatment), anglers can slip lures into tight pockets more accurately than casting when bass prefer a more subtle presentation. Anglers can flip a lure into specific pockets in grassbeds, near a twig on a blowdown, or between two lily pads to reach those fish that few other anglers can reach with a bait. By placing the bait close to the bass without causing much splash, you are less likely to spook the fish.
To reach these hideouts, nose the boat almost against the cover. Strip a few yards of line out and hold the excess in one hand. I flip with a lot of Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon because of its manageability and low stretch. But if I am flipping near heavy cover, I will use a braid like SpiderWire. Swing the rod toward the casting area with the other hand and then release the excess line as the bait pulls the line through the rod guides. When you’re doing it right, the bait will land on the target without much splash. Whenever fishing shallow water, make the lure entry as light as possible. The less you spook an area, the more likely you are to catch a big fish. After the Chigger Craw-tipped jig or PowerBait Power Worm enters the water, let it sink to the bottom. Frequently, bass strike on the fall. If a lure hits bottom without a strike, hop it up and down a few times before swinging to the next target. The action of PowerBait really captures the attention of even lethargic bass and can trigger a lot of reaction strikes.
In most cases, color, size and lure shape often aren’t as important as accurate placement. Bass might strike anything that lands inches away but won’t budge to attack baits more than a foot away. When the fish start acting like this, you have to know how to flip in there and drag them out.