Two Bassmaster pros you’ll find flipping, pitching or punching heavy cover more often than not are Ott DeFoe and Randall Tharp. But why? Glad you asked! We wondered too, so we interviewed them this week.
Based on DeFoe and Tharp’s comments, we compiled the following list of 6 Reasons to Fish Heavy Cover. In all these scenarios, your best bet for keeping bass buttoned up is a VMC® Heavy Duty hook.
VMC’s straight-shank Heavy Duty Flippin’ Hook features a double-spiked baitholder with opposing barbs that lock on softbaits. They also incorporate resin-closed eyes that prevent line slip. A strategically placed keeper system exposes a 1/8-inch area between the eye and holder, allowing anglers to tie the perfect snell. The Heavy Duty Flippin’ Hook comes in three sizes: 3/0, 4/0 and 5/0.
VMC’s Heavy Duty Wide Gap hook features an offset behind the eye that arches away, then back toward the hook bend, making it ideal for larger softbaits. A three-degree twist in the hook body provides instant and hassle-free hooksets. The Heavy Duty Wide Gap hook comes in three sizes: 2/0, 3/0, 4/0, 5/0, 6/0, 7/0 and 8/0.
Reason #1 — You Wanna Catch A Biggun’
Shallow, heavy cover “almost always presents an opportunity to catch a larger than average fish,” says DeFoe, a 4-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier and the 2011 Bassmaster Rookie of the Year. “The heavier the cover, the thicker the grass, the lower the dock to the water, the darker the shadow, the bigger the bass. That’s certainly one good reason to fish those spots.”
Why? The biggest, baddest bass lay claim to the best ambush spots.
“A big fish will position itself in the best heavy cover,” says Tharp, the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup champion and a three-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier. “They feel safe there — they’re protected. It’s like their little home.”
Reason #2 — The Sun’s In Your Eyes
Any bright, sunny day will “always be a better day for heavy cover than a day that has slightly overcast skies all the way to dark and gloomy,” DeFoe says. Why? “Because bass don’t have eyelids,” he explains. Unlike us, they have few options when the sun’s in their eyes.
“Heavy cover — be it dense wood, thick or matted grass, flooded brush or dock pilings — shields their eyes from the sun,” DeFoe says. It also provides shade, which gives bass a predatory advantage. “It’s much harder to see everything in a shadow,” he explains. “They can be sitting in there being still and calm and bluegill and shad and everything else can go cruising by and that bass can catch an easy meal.”
Reason #3 — You Want To Avoid The Crowd
Sometimes it pays to zig when everyone else zags.
Last week in the Toyota Texas Bass Classic, Tharp notched a Top-12 finish by fishing shallow, heavy cover on Lake Fork, a fishery known for its offshore monsters. “I only saw one other tournament boat the entire time,” he says. “But there’s always some big fish shallow, I don’t care what season it is.”
In the summer, DeFoe says, “everybody wants to be out fishing deep.” But he too will often target shallow, heavy cover when much of the competition is playing bumper boats offshore. “We’re getting to that time of year that you can lay off those fish that are pressured, that everyone else is messing with, and go and do your own thing,” he says.
On one such occasion, DeFoe placed 5th in a June Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on Alabama’s Lake Wheeler. The finish earned him his first Bassmaster Classic berth and his Rookie of the Year award.
Reason #4 — You’re More Confident Targeting What You Can See
Not all bass fanatics are fortunate enough to have the latest and greatest in electronic fish-finders. These anglers often have more confidence targeting shallow, visible cover than probing offshore depths. If that sounds like you, DeFoe says, “don’t feel like you’re at a disadvantage.” Instead, “go find something that will work into what you have and what you can do and make the most of it.”
The best thing about shallow, heavy cover is “that it’s all visual,” DeFoe explains. “You don’t have to have the greatest, newest electronics.” Even where DeFoe lives in East Tennessee, “where fish are known for living really deep in the summer time,” he says, “there’s always fish shallow somewhere.
Reason #5 — You Like To Fish Fast
Don’t have the time or patience to graph for offshore schools and then camp on them for hours, trying to cast at just the right angle to get one to bite? Set your trolling motor on high and flip a bunch of shallow, heavy cover.
“If you don’t have the time to spend on trying to learn the deep stuff, pick up a big rod and big line and pick the thickest cover you can find and get in it,” DeFoe says. “The fish in there are ready to ambush something. So if you present your bait right, they’re going it eat it pretty quick.”
DeFoe will generally make about three flips to high-percentage fish-holding cover like wood and dock posts, but will take a few more stabs in heavy grass.
Targeting the thick stuff with the right tackle will increase your speed and efficiency, Tharp says.
“I might make 25 flips a minute with a tungsten weight and a 4/0 VMC straight-shank hook and soft-plastic, and it might only be 15 flips with a jig,” he explains. “Because I’d always be cleaning off the jig, or it would take me longer to get it in and out of the cover.
Reason #6 — You’re In Florida
Flipping and pitching shallow grass and punching vegetation mats are Tharp’s strong suits — and among his favorite ways to fish. So the Alabama transplant is in heaven in his new home state of Florida.
“All the bass in Florida live shallow and vegetation is the number-one thing they hide in,” Tharp says. “So the challenge is narrowing down what vegetation they’re hanging around — is flat reeds or buggy whips, hydrilla or hyacinths, or whatever?”