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Punching For Bass


by David Brown

Call it a home invasion of the piscatorial kind—the residents are likely to fight back. Bass anglers call it “punching,” while bass often find it annoying. Therein lies the opportunity.

Designed to bring a lure into the thickest, most inaccessible spots, punching is a brute force assault that succeeds with a combination of mass and gravity. Largemouth bass, hidden from hordes of anglers, can be revealed and caught.

Sure, pitching jigs or Texas-riggged plastics into holes in cover reaches a few entrenched fish, and pulling weedless frogs across weed patches tempts others into showing themselves. But punching seems to elicit reaction strikes by taking a bait where few others go, reaching bass inaccessible with any other technique.

Right Place, Right Time

To reach potential paydirt, California bass pro Ish Monroe says he punches into anything from laydowns to lily pads. Most commonly, though, it’s about driving a bait through matted vegetation. Hydrilla, milfoil, pennywort, filamentous algae, water hyacinth, and any number of weedy conglomerations clog the surface and create shady caverns that attract bass.

“Punching is effective for two big reasons,” says Potomac River guide Capt. Steve Chaconas. “One, this habitat holds fish. Two, few fishermen go near it. Most anglers are intimidated by expanses of thick mats and are satisfied to pick off smaller bass along the edges. Bigger fish reside deeper in the mat. Moreover, a good mat holds fish just about every day.”

Most aquatic vegetation is seasonal, but fertile waters like the California Delta and weedy southern waters typically offer accumulations of grass year-round. This type of cover is most attractive during summer and winter, though bass activity and positioning can vary seasonally.

“In summer, heavy vegetation grows to the surface to form a thick blanket,” says Louisiana pro Sam Swett. “These mats provide shade, slightly cooler water, and oxygen, which attract bass in warm shallow water. In winter, matted vegetation absorbs heat from the sun and warms water.”

In tidal environments like the Potomac, southeastern Louisiana, and the Cal Delta, the daily ebb and flow influences fish positioning. Check tide charts to keep you in the right areas for different stages. Incoming water increases depth, often scattering bass throughout matted cover. Conversely, outgoing tides compress the area and fish move to the outer edges and deeper holes.

Throughout the Cal Delta, San Jose angler Chris Zaldain knows the wisdom of punching the right areas at the right time, so he’s fond of mats where grassy perimeters offer low-tide staging areas. “I follow the tide up to the mats,” Zaldain says. “At low tide, I hold the boat over 10 to 20 feet of water and flip outside grasslines. Once the tide comes up, I punch anything with a canopy overhead and current nearby.”

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