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Slop Fishing: Inside – Out
By Paul Strege

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.

Lilly Pads mixed with Hydrilla offer excellent cover

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,

Gambler Cane Toad

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 conditions.

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…