Freshwater: Thin Cover Bass - The Fisherman

Freshwater: Thin Cover Bass

freshwater
The author caught this largemouth on a mud-bottomed flat of a reservoir, where it took station beside a thin branch.

Sometimes the little things can produce big results.

So much persuasion focuses on heavy cover—weeds, sticks, timber, piles of rocks. The more of it, the better, and we go out and get lost in thick stuff, not quite knowing where to cast. A seminar speaker doling out a heavy dose of that persuasion astonished me. Having fished a local lake for years with my son, it bugged me that neither of us had ever caught a bass better than 3-1/2 pounds. The speaker had caught 5 over 7 pounds there that summer. All of them came from weeds so dense he could barely penetrate them with an ounce of tungsten

No doubt, heavy cover produces if you know how to fish it. Especially during summer afternoons, big bass hide there, but sometimes all it takes is a twig to hook a good one. I once fished a shallow, mud-bottomed flat, doubting what I did, though a deeper feeling kept me at it. Probing it from a friend’s boat—no weeds, no other cover—I noticed a single branch sticking out of the water. It was so thin, it seemed not much more than an elongated twig. I felt the situation was somewhat absurd, and by committing to the cast was a sort of tentative gesture, as if I had to allow room for that deeper feeling to save face.

Alongside that branch, my 8-inch traditional-style worm touched down. I had rigged it without any weight but a 2/0 inset hook, in case I would encounter more cover than that. The water was about 3 feet deep. Before the worm would settle to the bottom, the line began moving. I set the hook into a largemouth of about 18 inches.

This happened in September. Not during a hot, August afternoon, but during mid-morning with clouds overhead. The temperature felt comfortable. In the low 70’s. A close look revealed the twig didn’t betray a mass of branches below, and the experience led me to wonder why a proud bass would bother relating its body to a branch I could have snagged and broken. I have no answer, except for the obvious one. When bass move onto shallow flats because they seek some sort of forage or other, they will relate to any sort of break in the openness of the water. It could have been a stray rock.

stump
On a gravel-bottomed shoreline that slopes slowly into deep water, an isolated stump may hold a bass.

I wouldn’t say that flat held a whole lot of bass. Fred picked off a 14-incher close to shore where some scattered brush—not thick stuff—was evident in the water. Fallen from trees. We got no other hits there. But to have boated the biggest of the day certainly made the side excursion worthwhile.

It’s not the only time it’s happened. On a different reservoir—fishing again from Fred’s boat—we approached not a flat per se, but a shallow, sloping bank where gravel- and mud-bottomed depths dropped off gradually into deep water. Again, a thin branch above the surface caught my eye, and this time I felt wholly intent on it. I had competition, and I seem to recall staying mum as we eased into casting range.

The smallmouth I caught wasn’t a big one, but it wasn’t my last from thin cover, which can be anything. A patch of weeds or algae, a rock, a flat that seems no better than the sort that a stray carp might cruise will hold a big bass too. If some sort of object provides security it has potential. Maybe not on a sun-drenched August afternoon, but there are other times to fish it.

Keep in mind that bass like to dominate. If a bass can choose less cover rather than more, it might be because it feels bigger there. If it swims across a flat to get to an object, it might not be interested in taking a lure. Only after it takes station then it will be more responsive. As ridiculous as a bass waiting in ambush next to a little branch seems, your worm touching down in front of it is manna from heaven.

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