Your Guide to Flipping, Pitching, and Punching for Bass in Thick Cover
If you're looking to fish for bass in the summer, you better get used to casting in thick grass, branches, and other foliage. Here are some pointers to help!
In the heat of the summer, bass come up shallow when ponds, lakes, and rivers are taken over by aquatic vegetation. And when the temps hit 80+ degrees, bass seek shelter in the shade under overhanging trees, lily pads, or up against the branches of fallen trees.
When bass are sluggish and holding to cover, they rarely wander to find a meal. This is when flipping, pitching, and punching become crucial. These techniques allow anglers to present a lure quietly and directly to bass in hiding.
When anglers refer to flipping and pitching, we’re really talking about pitching. Both are methods of quietly presenting lures to fish in shallow water, but flipping is a lot more complicated than managing line. It isn’t really done anymore and I don’t know any anglers who use that method.
A pitch is essentially an underhanded cast where you keep your lure parallel to the surface of the water and slow the spool with your thumb, making a presentation to fish with limited splash. For this article, I’ll focus on the gear needed for these techniques rather than the mechanics of casting and how to improve accuracy.
Punching is a variation of the flipping and pitching technique. It uses heavy tungsten weights to punch through thick lily pads and matted grass to present your lure to fish hiding in the shade underneath.
Now that I have given you an overview, let’s dive in and detail the gear you need to pull big bass out of thick cover.
Since these techniques require heavy weights, big hooks, and large diameter line, baitcasting gear is a must. While you can get your feet wet using a 7’ medium-heavy, fast-action rod to pull huge bass out of thick slop, you need heavy-duty gear. You’ll primarily use longer rods between 7’ 6” and 8’ long. Longer rods are typically reserved for punching, like Cashion’s 7’11” John Crews Punching Rod. A shorter frog rod can work for flipping and pitching, especially for anglers who fish from the bank. Dobyn’s Fury 735c is ideal for these purposes. You will also need a casting reel with an aluminum frame that doesn’t twist like graphite under a heavy load. To reel in the slack and set the hook quickly, look for a reel with a high gear ratio. For flipping and pitching, I prefer a 7:5:1 gear ratio. Some anglers prefer higher, but in my experience, higher ratio reels don’t have the torque needed to pull fish through the cover and the gears deteriorate quickly. Daiwa’s Tatula Elite Pitching/Flipping Reel is a solid choice for this application. Lew’s Tournament MP 7:5:1 is another more affordable option.
The rule of thumb with line when flipping around rocks and wood is to use 20-25lb test fluorocarbon. For grass and everything else, use 50-80lb test braid. Sunline Shooter 22lb is a fluorocarbon line for fishing in heavy cover, and Sunline Fx2 80lb is a great braided line, perfect for punching.
Before talking about pitching lures directly into the thick of it, I want to discuss how to approach the open water that surrounds patches of heavy vegetation. My main approach to these areas is with a 3/8oz to 3/4oz jig, depending on how “open” the water is. For jig fishing in moderate cover, you can get away with a shorter rod and a fast tip for a quick and easy hookset.
Tungsten jigs are denser than lead, which makes them more compact and sensitive. However, tungsten is expensive. If I had to choose, I’d rather use lead jigs and save money for tungsten flipping and punching weights.
When jig fishing, I almost always use an Arkie-style jig paired with a creature bait as a trailer. I pitch it up against cover, like a pile of submerged brush, then I rip it out to trigger a reaction strike from bass hiding inside.
Next, I hop the jig along the bottom towards the bank or the boat, depending on where I’m fishing. For jigs and other variations of heavy cover flipping and pitching covered here, hold your rod tip up high for better sensitivity and to lower your chances of getting snagged.
Expert tip: Trimming the skirt of a jig so the strands are different lengths creates a more natural look and a gentle, billowy action that attracts fish. Also, trimming the weed guard starting just above the weed guard diagonally towards the jig head helps deflect grass and it leaves almost nothing between your hook point and the fish, making hooksets much easier.
A slither rig comprises a bobber stop, small bead, small tungsten punching weight, punch skirt, and a straight shank flipping hook or superline EWG worm hook paired with a soft plastic worm or creature bait.
I prefer a 3/0 hook when fishing in heavy cover. It gets hung up less and increases my landing ratios. When using a worm, I prefer a finesse worm over a Senko or other Stick Bait. To come through cover, you need a worm that’s more flexible and won’t fall apart when dragged over hard cover.
I fish my slither rigs on the same rod I use for my jigs. Both presentations look very similar visually, but the slither rig is more weedless and requires a more heavy-handed hookset. For a slither rig to slide through cover, it needs to be fished on heavy fluorocarbon line because of its superior abrasion resistance compared to braid.
A slither rig really shines when fishing around wood. The skirt allows you to skin hook your soft plastic trailer and reduces your chances of getting snagged on fallen trees and stumps. A lighter punching weight is very thin in diameter. And with a finesse worm, the slim profile of the rig allows you to cast it out and drag it over and through cover like submerged bushes and sparse grass.
Another approach I use in open water surrounding cover is a power shot. It’s essentially a heavy-duty version of a drop shot. Tie it just like a drop shot, using a superline-rated EWG worm hook and a heavier tungsten drop shot weight tied at the end of your line. For this technique, I prefer a longer rod to keep my presentation up off of the bottom. A 7’ 6” Cashion ICON Flipping Casting Rod is well suited for this application.
This technique works with either fluorocarbon or braid. But I prefer fluoro because, with braid, the weight gets tangled with the hook and it’s exhausting having to retie every few casts.
I fish a power shot much like a jig. I twitch a lure in place outside of a structure, making it visible to hiding fish longer than with a jig. On a power shot, I also have the freedom to use a wide variety of soft plastic baits. I find a Yamamoto Zako and a Missile Baits Quiver Worm to be my most productive baits with a power shot rig.
The slim profile of a power shot can also be pitched directly into dense cover. It’s a great way to downsize your presentation when fish aren’t biting on anything else.
When pitching lures directly to small openings in heavy cover, a flipping rig is my go-to presentation. A flipping rig comprises a bobber stop, small bead, tungsten flipping weight, heavy-duty hook, and usually a compact creature bait.
The bead on a flipping rig clacks against the tungsten weight, acting as an indicator you’re getting bit. On a flipping rig, I usually use a weight that’s between 3/8oz and 3/4oz. Woo! Tungsten Painted Flipping Weights are a great option.
When directly approaching thick cover, my goal is to make a lot of casts in a short period. I look for small openings in matted grass or lily pads, cast my rig, twitch it, and quickly reel my lure back in to make my next cast.
Making a big commotion spooks fish, making them less likely to bite. Therefore, making precise casts and moving quickly is essential in shallow water bass fishing. Having a heavy rod and line are crucial here, but so are strong hooksets.
When approaching an extensive field of lily pads or dense, matted grass, you need to break out your heaviest gear. A punching rig comprises a bobber stop, small bead, punching weight, and punching skirt, along with a heavy-duty hook and a compact soft plastic lure. The Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver is an excellent beaver-style bait to use with a punching rig. The Missile Baits D Bomb is another soft plastic suited for this application.
When punching, use weights between 0.75oz and 2oz. Since you’ll be pulling huge bass out from under a field of dense vegetation, you need a rod with a substantial backbone.
The Cashion John Crews ICON Punching Rod is an excellent choice. Since your tungsten weight brushes up against the stems of lily pads and debris, you need a sensitive rod to determine if you’re getting a bite or hitting a rock sitting on the bottom.
Also, when I’m punching, I like to use a reel with a gear ratio of 7:1:1 or a little lower. Lower gear ratios offer more torque and when horsing fish out from under the thickest of cover, you need as much power as you can get.
When punching, I change the way I cast compared to the other applications in this guide. I use the same motion as before, but change the trajectory a bit and cast my weight upwards over my entry point. When my lure is directly above my target, I halt my spool with my thumb before releasing it and allowing my weight to penetrate and sink to the bottom.
This allows my weight to build up the momentum necessary to penetrate the thickest of cover. From there, with my rod tip up, I twitch my lure once or twice before moving on to my next target spot.
Flipping, pitching, and punching in heavy cover are some of the most rewarding ways to catch big bass. There’s something about that short distance, hand-to-hand combat approach that’s exhilarating and keeps me coming back for more.
These techniques are an excellent way to target big, trophy bass. While you can catch smaller fish when flipping, pitching, and punching, your chances of snagging your new PB while fishing in thick cover increase significantly.
Now that you have a basic understanding of the theories behind fishing in heavy cover, the gear you need to do so effectively, and the approach to take in various types of cover, you should be ready to get out and fish! If you have any unanswered questions, feel free to reach out to a Fishing Expert here on Curated and we would be happy to help!