Elite Series pro Denny Brauer's prowess with a flippin' stick is well documented, so it comes as no surprise that he has some pointers for fishing around matted vegetation, in particular where getting your bait down into the mass of flora is concerned.
"I still want as soft an entry into the mat as I can get by with," the 1998 Classic champ allows. "There are times, though, when you don't have a choice, so I'm not afraid to pitch the bait 20 feet in the air so that it will gain a little more momentum as it's coming down."
Brauer points out that when punching through thick mats, the biggest aid an angler can have is to be using compact baits, or one designed specifically for fishing matted vegetation. "You want to make the bait as compact as you can so that it will go through the mat with less resistance," he says. "If you're using a bait like a traditional salt craw, you want to shorten it up and make it as compact as possible."
As one might expect, the warmer the water, the more aggressive the bites will be, in fact, in warmer water, Denny allows that you'll get many of your bites on the initial fall.
"On the other hand," he adds, "if the water is cooler, you might have to let it fall all the way to the bottom and actually bring it back up to the base of the vegetation and shake the bottom of the canopy. "You'd be surprised how many fish will suspend right underneath the canopy, yet they will not chase the bait as it's falling through."
Hook selection can be problematic when fishing around grass mats as well. First, you want a hook that will give you plenty of "bite," or gap, while on the other hand you need something compact enough to allow for easy entry into the thick stuff. "Usually, that's when I will use a straight-shank hook," he explains. "The problem is that some of the compact baits that you'll be using around heavy, heavy cover aren't conducive to a straight-shank hook."
To combat this problem, Brauer prefers a straight-shank 5/0 hook, "just to make sure that I've got as much hook buried inside the plastic as possible. "You have to keep in mind that you're usually going to have a great big heavy sinker and heavy line, perhaps braid. You need as much hook as possible because you're going to have a lot of resistance right there."
As for the best conditions to fish around heavy cover, Brauer explains that bass love grass, so anytime you find it you should fish it; however, he points out that bright sunny days are going to be more conducive to mat fishing than cloudy ones. "Usually summer and winter are better than spring and fall because of light penetration," he points out. "But there again, it can be a situation where heavy spring rains have washed debris into the back of a pocket, and the fish have gathered underneath it, or maybe there's been a cold front, and they want to get something over their heads and get tight to it.
"Either way, if you have an opportunity, you need to explore it. Otherwise you'll never know what you could have been catching."