Weed Bed Fishing Tips for the Summer
With summer now in full swing, our local lakes and waterways are starting to reach peak temperatures which in turn mean peak vegetation. The staggeringly warm and wet summer has hastened the growth of a litany of aquatic plants. Thick beds of lily pads, milfoil and other aquatic grasses seemingly shoot up overnight, creating a tangled web of greenery along the shorelines and flats. These often dense patches of aquatic vegetation are reviled by some, but can be a treasure trove of trophy fish for those willing to “plug the slop”.
Aquatic vegetation in Tennessee comes in many forms, from the elegant American Lotus to the thick and unruly masses of Eelgrass. Regardless of whether these plants are beautifully picturesque or a crusty tangled blob, they have one thing in common; these underwater forests are perfect cover for a predatory ambush. Species like largemouth, smallmouth, walleye, crappie, perch and even monster Melton Hill musky can be found in shallow vegetation. These plants provide low light conditions and the cover needed to easily ambush prey, making the “weeds” prime real estate for trophy fish.
Regardless of your target species, fishing the weed beds and vegetation can be a tricky and an often times frustrating endeavor. Lures seem to instantaneously foul or become entangled with piles of greenery, while weak knots lead to more than a few lost baits. These malfunctions can be few and far between with some important adjustments in tackle and technique, allowing anglers to focus on catching fish rather than clumps of grass.
When targeting shoreline or mid-lake weeds of any variety, braided fishing line becomes a must. Braided lines have little to no stretch, making lures easier to dislodge. Braided line is also much more resistance to abrasion, helping it excel in these sticky situations. Adding braided line to any spinning or bait casting reel will alleviate the loss of lures and save you money in the end.
Proper rigging and modification of lures is another important element in successful weed bed angling. Soft plastic Senko worms are always a favorite with bass anglers and offer many weed-repelling rigging options. Classics like a Texas rigged Senko are easily worked through vegetation but even wacky rigged worms become a possibility when rigged with a weed guard hook. At times when vegetation is extremely dense, it is imperative to move toward larger profile plastics like lizards, crawfish, and other creature style baits. These larger bodies allow for more rigging options that keep hook points buried and snag free. No matter the plastic you choose to throw, the key is minimizing weed foul-ups by streamlining your presentation.
Another strategic lure option is the single-hook spinner bait. Spinners with willow leaf style blades are my first choice as they are less likely to foul and have a tight spinning radius. Willow leaf blade spinners are perfect for casting to vegetation with submerged stalks; such as lily pads, because they can traverse the subsurface jungle with ease. These spinners have enough weight to slip past the surface cover and ricochet off the standing stalks. Typically the contact these lures make with subsurface plant life will even help generate strikes. When selecting a spinner for fishing thick cover, less is more. Simple single blade and hook models with rubber skirts will likely get the job done.
Crank baits are next to benefit from some slight modification. Baits with diving lips become an effective option in weedy areas. Lures that run “nose down”, like Wiggle Warts or Strike King KVDs easily bounce through the weeds, roots, and surface clutter. Using a crank bait to slow dive and rise can often trigger strikes from any number of species. To make a crank bait a weed-free lure, remove the rear hook. When the rear hook is removed, the body of the lure will guard the belly hook. This will make retrieving through dense cover an easier affair. Removing this hook will also change the buoyancy of the lure, allowing it to work more effectively in a dive and rise fashion.
Hopefully with a few extra modifications to your existing baits, you will find that fishing the thickest part of the plants and weed beds will help you produce more fish this summer. These beds are providing some much needed shade to some hungry predators, so the next time you’re on the water, don’t avoid these sanctuaries, adapt what you’ve got and “plug the slop”.
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