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Freshwater forecast

Want to catch a largemouth bass? Try "flipping'

© St. Petersburg Times
published January 3, 2003

January begins the bass tournament season. The most effective artificial technique used to catch trophy largemouth bass is "flipping."

More tournaments are won and more big bass are caught by anglers flipping baits than any other technique. Flipping involves targeting bass in shallow cover, be it weeds, wood or docks.

In Florida, the most common cover is grass. Most anglers use 7- to 8-foot heavy-action rods and conventional reels capable of holding 20-pound test line, essential equipment if you want to battle a trophy bass in heavy cover.

When setting up your flipping rod, use a "Florida Rig" weight that is heavy enough to penetrate the cover you are fishing. This can vary from 1/8th of an ounce to 1 ounce. Then tie on a heavy-shanked 3/0 to 4/0 hook.

On the hook, Texas-rig a plastic bait. This can be a worm, lizard or crawdad imitation. Into the bait, place a glass rattle, which will help the bass find the bait in the cover. Then spray some scent on the bait. The scent will mask your odor and allow the bass to hold the bait a little longer, which will give you more time to set the hook.

To begin flipping, place the boat about 15 to 20 feet from the cover. Then hold the rod in your strong hand and pull out a rod's length of line. With your weak hand, take hold of the line at the reel and pull off another 2 feet of line.

To place the lure into the cover, swing the lure like a pendulum and drop it into the cover. Keep the lure close to the water, and when it reaches the targeted spot, release the line in your weak hand.

With practice you will be able to put the lure exactly where you want without making a ripple in the water. Once the bait enters the water, let it fall to the bottom. The bite will often be subtle, but be prepared to set the hook.

While flipping, pay attention to where you are getting the most bites. The type of grass, depth of water and location in the grass all can help you "pattern" the bass, making it easier to catch them.

Flipping is usually best under cold-front conditions and when the fish are spawning. So when you're faced with tough conditions, take out the long stick and put the bait where the fish are living. The reward may be a trophy largemouth or maybe a paycheck.

LAKE TARPON: Bass fishing will continue to be consistent through the month. Use live wild shiners in 4-6 feet of water around submerged grass. Artificial enthusiasts can catch fish on crank baits and spinnerbaits. If the action slows down, use an unweighted jerk worm and work it slow. Speck fishing has been good, especially at night. Minnows in 11-14 feet of water has been the ticket and it should continue into February. Experiment with the depth the bait is set at. This is critical.

LAKE OKEECHOBEE: Bass will continue spawning in Eagle Bay, Tin House Cove and Fish Eating Bay. Green pumpkin and watermelon red worms worked with a light sinker in and around grass cover will catch these spawning and prespawn bass. Large wild shiners fished outside the spawning areas will catch the big female bass before they move up to spawn. These fish will be heavy and hungry. Specks are bedding in the grass and catching your limit has been easy. Use Minnows or green tubes.

LAKE KISSIMMEE: Schooling bass are active in the moving water at the mouths of canals and creeks. Crankbaits and Carolina-rigged worms are most effective. Shiner fishing is best around Tiger creek, Brahma Island and North Cove. Look for the fish to be in pads or hydrilla. Specks are bedding in the grass around seven palms and Philadelphia Point. Minnows are your best bet.

WEST LAKE TOHO: The drawdown is continuing. You still can get access, but be careful. Bass have been around Shingle Creek, Browns Point and Whalleys Landing. Green pumpkin worms and jerk worms fished in and around hydrilla have been catching the active smaller bass. Large wild shiners free-lined around hydrilla have been catching the big female trophy bass. Be sure to release them so the trophy gene can continue.

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