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Sometimes the most successful approach in developing a
pattern for catching bass is to think backwards. With copious amounts
of information, articles and tournament summaries available to
tournament anglers today, it can be challenging to think creatively.
And, on many of today’s high-pressured waters, the ability to
recognize unique patterns separates those who consistently step atop
the tournament podium from those in the crowd.
Particularly in the Upper Midwest, a growing niche of
tournament anglers targets the slop. The development of swim jigs,
Cane Toads, topwater frogs and super-braided lines make bass in heavy
vegetation even more accessible today than before. The downside to
those developments is that the fish are feeling the pressure. Some
anglers will adapt by paying closer attention to small details: color,
retrieve cadence and even line size. Those refinements will often make
a difference, however, the most successful adjustment may just be an
“inside – out” approach.
An all-weather commitment to the slop will give an angler a
decisive advantage in competitive, high-pressured waters. Most slop
fishermen have encountered and bailed from inclement conditions
before, and in particular, excessively windy days. The next time this
occurs, the best approach may just be to drift through the slop.
Allowing the boat to move with the wind does two things: it allows an
angler to cover water with a stealth-like approach, and it puts the
boat in position where the retrieve is from outside the defined edge
and into the heaviest of cover. Drift speed can be controlled with
both the bow trolling motor and transom outboard. Trimming the
outboard up or down provides fine control of the drift speed. If even
more resistance is required, shifting the motor into gear allows the
weeds to wrap around the prop, slowing the drift speed even further.
With boat position and speed well-managed, anglers can focus their
attention on the prevailing conditions.
Overcast skies, rain, and even strong winds will put bass on
the move, feeding voraciously. Those conditions cause the baitfish to
scatter and will physically push them out of their protective element.
Bass can take advantage of unsuspecting transplants in the absence of
overhead cover. Normally an ally of baitfish, bright sunlight
penetrates through a calm surface and can obscure the bass’ view.
Sunlight gives baitfish those precious few fractions of a second
needed to react when the predator has committed to an attack. It
basically acts as another form of overhead cover. Without that added
protection, the bass can readily locate a meal from above.
Casting from the inside – out provides anglers with many lure options to take advantage of roaming slop fish. Swim jigs at the outset of the cast can be allowed to free fall a greater distance when cover is not present. That additional distance of fall can be just enough to trigger a bass into striking. Lures such as spinnerbaits, that many anglers avoid using in heavy slop,
can be utilized with an
inside boat position. No
longer does a cast have to be placed on top of the fish at the edge of
cover. Third, swimming frogs such as Gambler’s Cane Toad can be
worked as a subsurface-to-surface popping lure with relative ease. The
thick, heavy legs of the Cane Toad can be “popped” up to the top
of the water, creating an effective surface disturbance even in windy
When it comes right down to it, isn’t tournament angling
all about successfully evaluating options? The “inside – out”
approach may just provide a couple extra options to reveal that magic
presentation that other anglers overlook…