In praise of the flippin’ masters

I’ve been in Florida now for some time fishing Okeechobee and a couple of other places trying to get ready for the upcoming Bassmaster Classic Wild Card presented by Star Tron. It’s been an experience.

There are two kinds of flipping and pitching. The first one is the way I learned. You toss a jig or plastic into a laydown, a tree, a bush or around a dock. You wiggle your lure around a time or two and then repeat the process. You do that all day long without thinking much about getting tired or sore.

And then there’s flipping and pitching Florida style. That’s a very different experience. You do think about getting tired and sore.

Down here we’re talking about super thick mats and twisted vegetation. You do it with 1 1/2-ounce weights. Sometimes you have to toss them way up in the air to get enough velocity to penetrate the mat. It’s work, hard work that makes you break out in a sweat.

The first day I did it I lasted about two hours. The next day — after a good night’s sleep — I made about three hours. After a week or so, I was able to do it for several hours at a stretch before I was forced to switch to a different bait that was not so physically demanding.

The past two days I’ve been fishing with the primary purpose of getting myself in shape to attack Okeechobee in about three weeks. Maybe, with the right training, I’ll be able to flip and pitch Florida mats all day by the time the Bassmaster Classic Wild Card rolls around.

With that background, I want to dedicate this column to the great Florida flippers and pitchers. I won’t name them for obvious reasons. But I will tell you that they’re a tough breed of angler. They set themselves apart from the rest of us with hard work and with positive results. That’s no small thing.

Let’s face it. Some of the best anglers in B.A.S.S. history have failed miserably when it comes to this kind of bass fishing. They catch them everywhere but in Florida. I say that with respect. Their lack of Florida success takes nothing away from their records. They deserve all the accolades they get.

But, and now’s the time for brutal honesty, the guys who can handle the heavy stuff in Florida deserve special recognition. When you watch them, you sometimes get a false impression of what they’re doing. It looks like they just mosey along, fishing at their leisure. Those of us who have tried to mimic what they do know better.

Punching through those mats all day is not something a weak or timid angler can do, or should even try to do. It’s a man’s technique. My hat comes off to the men who can do it successfully. Well done, guys!

Next time we’re going to talk about the Wild Card. There are some things I want to say, things I want to be a part of the public record.

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