Flip­ping Ge­nius

Find, hook, and wrench mon­ster bass out of the lily pads like a pro

Field and Stream - - FISHING HANDBOOK - By Ben Duch­es­ney

Noth­ing gets a bass an­gler more fired up than spot­ting a patch of lily pads in late spring and early sum­mer. The spawn is over, and now is the time when heavy fish start tak­ing up res­i­dence in this lush cover. Throw­ing topwater frogs is a blast, but se­ri­ous bass fish­er­men know that a jig flipped into the pads en­tices more big girls more of­ten. The per­fect flip­ping pre­sen­ta­tion, how­ever, is a skill that takes some time and prac­tice to master. If you’re ready to set down the frog and probe the pads for a true tro­phy, these tips from top tour­na­ment pros and guides will help you de­ter­mine ex­actly where to flip and how to come tight af­ter that jig touches down.

THE BREAK­DOWN

Look­ing at a mas­sive field of lily pads is like star­ing at the ocean. Try­ing to de­cide where to start fish­ing can be daunt­ing. The trick is break­ing down that field into seg­ments that are eas­ier to di­gest. “Look for ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties of any sort,” says Bass­mas­ter Elite Se­ries an­gler Bran­don Pala­niuk. “This could be a chan­nel through the pads, a dif­fer­ent species of pads or grass mixed in with the most com­mon va­ri­ety, or even an isolated patch of pads by them­selves.” Ac­cord­ing to Pala­niuk, big­ger bass tend to grav­i­tate to sec­tions with these ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties, of­ten be­cause they of­fer a bet­ter am­bush point than sit­ting in the mid­dle of the thick field.

Pala­niuk al­ways makes an ef­fort to cast to a pad’s rounded front half, partly be­cause he finds that largemouths tend to hang un­der this wider sec­tion, and be­cause he’s lost fish by cast­ing to the back edge. “Watch for the back­side V where the stem con­nects,” he says. “It’s very easy for your line to get caught in that V. If you keep your line out of that crack, you bet­ter your odds of land­ing a fish when it hits.”

THE HOLE IN ONE

If you had to peg one body of wa­ter as the mecca for pad flip­ping, it’s Lake Gun­tersville in Alabama. This gi­ant lily-filled lake is the home wa­ter of bass guide Mike Gerry. There’s noth­ing more im­por­tant to him than ac­cu­racy when flip­ping. “If you can hit the small open ar­eas with your first cast,” he says, “you’re less likely to scare fish by fir­ing re­peat casts or hav­ing to move the boat to get in a bet­ter po­si­tion.” To up your game in the off-sea­son, prac­tice by flip­ping to a Hula-Hoop in the yard.

Gerry adds that it’s crit­i­cal to have the right gear so that when you hook up you’re equipped to bat­tle both fish and plant. Strong braided line is a must for feel­ing bites in the pads, get­ting a solid set, and (hope­fully) cut­ting through some of the veg­e­ta­tion if a fish digs in. “I also pre­fer float­ing braid be­cause it sits on the sur­face and you can watch it,” he says. “If you see any line move­ment, even the slight­est change in di­rec­tion, that’s when you set the hook.”

THE FIGHT

Find­ing big bass in the pads is step one. Mak­ing the per­fect cast is step two. The fi­nal chal­lenge is pulling that big bass from the thick veg­e­ta­tion. Mike Siefert is a guide on what he de­scribes as “the jun­gle called Mill­wood Lake” in Arkansas, and he says that big bass ab­so­lutely know how to use line ten­sion against you by rub­bing the hook along lily-pad stalks and shak­ing it free. The trick to beat­ing them is sim­ple: Don’t give them any ten­sion to work with. “If a bass starts dig­ging into the pads, im­me­di­ately give it a ton of slack,” he says. “With­out ten­sion on the line, it’s not as easy for the hook point to grab a pad.” And this sud­den slack of­ten causes the fish to swim back to open wa­ter where it’s eas­ier for you to win the fight.

When­ever a bass is not dig­ging into the pads, that’s when you need to go on the of­fen­sive. Use your rod—not your mus­cle—to lift the bass straight up to the sur­face, Siefert says. What you don’t want to do is pull side­ways into the pads. “Once you have the fish on top, you can ei­ther fight him across and out of the pads or move in with the boat and lip him.”

Crash Pads

When a lunker eats in the pads, get­ting it to the sur­face fast is crit­i­cal.

Mixed Greens

Other weed growth in or near a field of lilies can point out where a big girl is hid­ing.

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