Editor's Note: No less an angler than 1987 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year and 1998 Bassmaster Classic champion Denny Brauer describes flipping and pitching as two essential components in his bass fishing arsenal.
"I can't say it's something I use in every tournament I fish, because I don't. I can say, however, that I never leave home without my flippin' stick. It's that important. Flipping and pitching have played a major role in the majority of the 16 BASS professional tournaments I've won over the years."
When an angler with Brauer's credentials says something like that most of us would be well-advised to pay attention. If it's that important to him, it should be that important to us. The problem is we don't flip or pitch with his skill and experience. There's a wide gap between him and most of us.
With an eye towards closing that gap, BASS talked at length with Brauer about these two bass catching techniques. He agreed to share the flipping and pitching knowledge he's acquired over the years.
In Part 1 of our multipart series, Brauer will compare and contrast both techniques, and give us the basics of when and where we should be using them.
Part 1: What's it all about?
BASS defines flipping as, "a fixed-line presentation technique invented by Dee Thomas by which a lure (usually a jig or soft plastic bait) is propelled underhand in pendulum fashion to a point a short distance (usually 15-18 feet) away."
They define pitching as, "an underhanded casting method which resembles a modified flipping cast; the bait is swung forward by raising the rod tip, and then allowed to travel forward by free-spooling the line; pitching is most commonly used to present a lure to targets that are just out of range of flipping."
Brauer has no complaint with those definitions.
"When I flip, I gather the line in my hand, and then let it slip through my fingers as my lure travels towards the target. No line pulls off the spool. I use flipping for my close work.
"Pitching, on the other hand, is more like an underhanded cast. It's really an extension of flipping. You swing the lure out — underhanded — and let line pull off the spool. I use pitching when I need more distance than I can get with a flip.
"That's the basics. More important than technical details, however, is when and how they are used. Flipping is for dirty water or when the fish doesn't have a direct line of sight back to the angler."
Dirty water speaks for itself. Brauer points out that an angler can effectively flip muddy riprap as easily as he can flip a mat, log jam, cane field, vegetation canopy, or any other piece of heavy cover. The water will provide all the protection from the fish an angler needs.
The line of sight thing is a little more complex, however. Brauer suggests thinking about it from the fish's point of view. If he or she can look in your direction — in a straight line — and not see you because of a physical obstruction, then you're good to go with a flip, regardless of the water's color.
"I pitch when I'm in clear water and the fish has a line of sight to me, or when I'm trying to get more distance. A good example would be when I'm trying to skip a lure under a dock. It's perfect for that — the low trajectory lets the bait slip under the dock while at the same time allowing you to stay back where the fish can't see you or the boat."
Brauer talks about flipping and pitching separately, but he readily points out that in most situations they'll be used in combination with each other.
"Used together they give you tremendous flexibility. They let you hit targets that are close, and targets that are far away. On most lakes, and in most tournaments, you'll have some of both. As a combination they're unbeatable when conditions are right.
"Flipping and pitching are frequently at their best when the bite is off and the fish are holding tight to cover. Regardless of which technique you use, it's important to be quiet.
"There may be an exception or two to this rule, but they are few and far between. Most of the time, most of your fish will come from a bait that hits the water softly. (We'll talk about how to accomplish that in future installments.) In my mind that's common sense. You're dropping a lure right in front of them. A splash will scare them. Bass don't bite scared."
Now that we have Brauer's big picture thoughts about flipping and pitching, it's time to turn his attention towards the details. Next month he'll give us his guidelines for selecting a basic, yet fully functional, rod, reel and line combo.