How-To

Hopelessly devoted to summertime flippin’

Summer flippin’, had me a blast. Summer flippin’, caught a big bass. Made a flip into that tree, Line came tight; that’s number three. Summer days, limits await, Ooh, ooh, ah — oh those suh-uh-mer bites

Now, as much as we’d enjoy indulging in another parodic verse inspired by the original high school musical (this one, Danny Zuko and Sandy Olsson’s alma mater, Rydell High), we have to dial in the user-friendly stuff. For this, we turn to a handful of Bassmaster Elite Series anglers — some new, some well-seasoned — who discuss their summer flipping strategies.

But rather than rehash the familiar, let’s mix it up by noting a handful of details as endearing as the summer lovin’ pairing of a duck-tailed tough guy and a pristine Aussie darling portrayed, respectively, by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. (If any of this is confusing, stream Grease.)

What to throw

Adapting the chorus for a relevant reference:
Tell me more, tell me more,
Which bait outshines the rest?
Tell me more, tell me more,
And which color’s the best?

From left to right: Missile Baits 48, Strike King Denny Brauer Structure Jig with Strike King Menace trailer, Zoom Z Craw.

Good News: You don’t necessarily need to ditch the tried-and-true summer baits, but strategic adjustments will improve your productivity. For example, while Jay Przekurat feels well-equipped with a Texas-rigged Strike King Rage Bug with a 1/4- to 5/16-ounce pegged sinker and a 3/8-ounce Strike King Denny Brauer Structure Jig with a Strike King Menace trailer, the Elite rookie’s intentional with his choices and possible substitutions.

“It depends on cover and current,” Przekurat said. “If we’ve had a big rain and there’s more summer current, then I use a Texas rig because it flows through cover better. I use a jig for calmer situations, more isolated targets, maybe less current, deeper water and docks.

“When it gets really tough in the summertime on Wisconsin rivers, I’ll go to 1/4-ounce jig with a small Strike King Rodent. This bait has zero action, and that jig has a very slow fall and a natural presentation. That’s something I’ll do when it gets really tough, it’s really hot and the fish have been caught [several times].”

Cody Huff does much of his summer flipping with a Texas-rigged Missile Baits D Bomb, but the rookie from Ava, Mo., said summer’s dynamics keep him ready to adjust — up or down. The fish are pretty well-educated this time of year, so Huff keeps his options close.

“It seems a lot of times, the fish are pressured this time of year, so I like to go either really small with a Missile Baits Baby D Bomb or Baby D Stroyer or really big with a [full-size] Missile Baits D Stroyer,” he said. “It depends on the day, the scenario and the quality of fish I think I’m around. If I think I’m around big fish, I’ll go with a big bait, but if the fishery is crazy pressured, I’ll go smaller.”

Huff’s also cognizant of his weight variances. For summer flipping, he’s typically in the 1/8- to 3/4-ounce range. Triggering bites with a fast fall definitely comes into play, but he’s not above finessing the fish.

“If I come across extremely tough conditions, I’ll use a 1/8-ounce weight with a Missile Baits 48 or a Missile Baits Quiver 4.5 worm,” Huff said. “It just gives it that lighter fall and allows your bait to glide instead of falling straight down. I’ll fish that thing around docks, rocks, bushes or just fishing it down the bank.

“I’ll want the slow fall when fish are suspended under a dock or a branch; it can really entice them when they’re lethargic. That’s why you need that range of weights — it either makes them bite now or it gives them a minute to figure it out.”

Elite veteran Carl Jocumsen’s also a fan of lightening his summer flipping rigs, especially when fish prefer a laydown’s extremities over the dense inner structure. While reaching the latter generally requires a heavier bait, a lightly weighted Texas rig allows those perimeter fish more time to spot a lighter, fluttering bait.

Noting the converse, Jocumsen said, “On the Tennessee River, if you’ve got some current on a steep bluff wall with a laydown, you might have to [increase] your weight just to get it down there. If I’m flipping dock lines or shadow lines, if those fish are suspended right up high, I’m going to use a lighter weight to give them time to grab that bait. But if they’re down deep on the dock, I’ll go 1/2 ounce or 5/8.”

Color Full: With summer’s shallow fish mostly bluegill oriented, Frank Talley likes Strike King’s summer craw color, as the green pumpkin and chartreuse pattern mimics the bream he expects to find sunning and spawning. Huff agrees, but in lakes with warmouth sunfish, he’ll switch to the California love color to match the dark backs and orange bellies.

Old-School Revival: If you think the creature bait retired the classic flipping tube, just ask 2021 Bassmaster Angler of the Year Seth Feider.

“The Texas-rigged tube is just a confidence thing of mine; I think it kind of represents everything. I think a lot of guys stopped throwing it when the [beaver- and Zoom Brush Hog-style baits] came out. I grew up flipping a tube; I like the bait, and I don’t see a lot of guys throwing it anymore. I throw it just to be a little different, because that tube shines when it’s tough.”

Stick It To ’Em: When Talley finds summer fish snubbing his Texas-rigged Strike King Rage Tail Structure Bug and Game Hawg, he’ll switch to a Strike King Ocho or Shim-E Stick.

“It’s a do-nothing bait, but it’s ideal for high-
pressure scenarios. It’s not really downsizing — the bait’s 5 inches long. But the bait has a small, skinny profile and no movement — no appendages flapping. It’s just a compact package that gets a lot of bites from pressured fish.”

Underpowered Prowess: Sure, summer often finds fish aggressive and ready to eat sizable baits, but one-trick ponies ride the path of failure. You have to be able to adjust on the fly, and during his 2016 Angler of the Year run, Gerald Swindle did just that on Lake Texoma. Taking third in this early summer event came down to a key tackle change.

“I caught a lot of my fish flipping bushes with a Zoom Z Craw on a 3/0 hook with fluorocarbon,” Swindle said. “I found in practice that I was losing more fish on larger hooks, so I went to a smaller hook and had fewer snags and better hookups.”

Get The Drop On ’Em: When fish are holding off the bottom around shallow brushpiles and laydowns or in shallow to mid-depth grass, Jocumsen finds that flipping a power shot — a beefed-up drop shot with an X Zone Lures MB Fat Finesse Worm Texas-rigged on an Owner Cover Shot hook and stout line — delivers a convincing summer presentation.

“A lot of times, those fish don’t want to grab a bait off the bottom, and you can leave it there longer,” Jocumsen said. “With that power shot, you can let it soak and give them time to come over and get it.”

Spoon Fed: In his home waters of Bull Shoals and Table Rock lakes, Huff often targets tricky summer fish by flipping deep boat docks with a 6-inch flutter spoon. The stalls may have 40 to 100 feet below, but his targeted technique gets them where they’re holding.

“I’m going in with big line and a big rod and I’m flipping over dock cables and trying to get those big largemouth suspended 5 to 30 feet down.”

From left to right: Missile Baits Baby D Stroyer, X Zone Lures MB Fat Finesse Worm, Berkley Havoc Smash Tube.

Where to flip

Keep all the common spots honest but stay alert for alternative flipping targets and you may just find a bite as fierce as the T-Birds/Scorpions rivalry. (Again, watch the movie.) To this point, Feider’s always on the lookout for targets of opportunity, such as culverts, especially after a fresh rain.

Cracking Up: When summer’s swelter puts a premium on temperature moderation, shade pockets become prime real estate.

“I actually like rock cracks because they hold shade,” Talley said. “Not just boulders — I’m looking for cracks and caverns. You see that a lot on highland reservoirs. You can go down a channel-swing bank in the summertime and those fish are sitting up there in 2 to 3 feet of water. They’re keying in on those cracks because there’s shade.

“On that same thought, you can go out West to lakes like Mead or Mohave and it’s literally 118 to 120 degrees and those fish will get up there in the shade of that rock because the water’s gin clear.”

Depth And Delivery: Feider called flipping deep Northern lake grass in the 10- to 15-foot range his summertime favorite. From Cayuga to Minnetonka, he’ll alternate between the tube and a 3/4-ounce Outkast Tackle Stealth Feider jig with a Z-Man GOAT trailer.

Talley calls it “dropping grass,” and when the habitat’s there, he’ll flip hydrilla edges out to 25 feet. Upsizing to a 3/4- to 1-ounce tungsten weight helps him reach the heat-weary fish, while braided line is important for cutting through the salad and for setting the hook from a distance.

“I’ll also flip standing timber in the summertime,” Talley said. “If you have timber in 20 feet, the fish will suspend 8 to 10 feet down and they’ll grab a bait before it ever hits the bottom.”

Jocumsen exploited a similar scenario during his 2019 Elite win on Lake Tenkiller, when he focused most of his effort on a laydown positioned on the edge of a creek bed. With approximately 15 feet on one side and the 32-foot channel on the other, his fish could rise into feeding positions while maintaining proximity to safer depths. Bumping a Molix football jig with a Strike King Rage Craw through the branches tempted the right ones.

In The Dirt: “When there’s willow grass, fish can get supershallow because when the water gets to a certain temperature, there will be more oxygen in the top 1 foot of the water than there is in the rest of the river system,” Jocumsen said. “Those fish can pull up supershallow in 90- to 100-degree weather because of the oxygen level, and the bait is there because that’s where the water quality is best.”

Here, Jocumsen flips a Texas-rigged X Zone Lures Adrenaline Craw Jr. with a 3/16-ounce or lighter weight. A smaller profile with lots of action works best on fish that have seen a lot of baits.

“You want that bait to fall slowly in front of them because they only have 6 inches to a foot to make a decision to eat it,” Jocumsen said. 

Stand-Alones: When midsummer’s lower water levels pull fish out to isolated current breaks, like a long piece of standing timber that fell into the water, an outbreak of rock or a distinct sand island, Przekurat’s watchful for the eddies that create feeding opportunities.

Parting gifts

Consider this handful of summer flipping strategy points.

After Hours: Now, you didn’t think we’d wrap without a nod to the song title, “Summer Nights,” did you? Fact is, when the sun goes down, flipping opportunities abound. True, the fish are more in tune with the reaction baits, but Talley’s game to mix in the targeted presentations.

“I would flip a 10-inch ribbontail worm, something that’s going to make a little more vibration in the water,” Talley said. “Those fish will eat a big flipping bait when they get up around dock lights, laydowns and stuff like that.”

Toothy Types: In his Wisconsin home waters, Przekurat often contends with marauding pike that take a liking to his flipping baits. Cost of doing business, he said.

“There’s nothing you can really do to minimize pike bycatch, but if you do get in an area with a lot of pike bites, it’s not necessarily a bad thing,” Przekurat said. “A lot of the fish up here like to live together, so wherever this occurs, there’s a lot of baitfish and current.

“It basically comes down to weeding through them throughout the day. You’re going to go through some baits, and you’ll probably break off, but it’s more important to not let them get to you than to try and get away from them.”

Peripheral Potential: Przekurat knows that some of the best summer flipping opportunities are those in the shortest supply.

“When you’re going down the bank, there’ll be a stump you can barely see with your eyes, or maybe you see it on your Humminbird MEGA 360, and surrounding that stump is a small patch of eelgrass — that’s something a lot of guys will miss,” Przekurat said. “Also, you have to keep your eyes open on both sides of the boat. It’s not just fishing the bank on one side of the boat.

“Not all fish are going to live on the bank, and if there’s a small stump or even if it’s a small rock or a small section of grass just a little ways off the bank, it’s going to be a little bit deeper and sometimes, it will get you a little bigger bite.”

Push Farther: While he’s on the lookout for unique summer flipping targets, Huff said he’s more interested in untouched areas. His example: reaching farther up a creek than most would attempt, maybe traversing a shoal and finding the jackpot.

“It’s still summertime, so I’ll probably use a more finesse-y presentation, like a Missile Baits Baby D Bomb, a Craw Father or a 48, because I want to catch every single one that’s up there,” Huff said. “I don’t want to miss any of them, and I don’t want to educate them — if I know they’re there, I just slow down and pick it apart.

“I don’t want them to know I’m there; I want to throw something that I know if I put it in front of them, they’re going to bite. I don’t want them to get weirded out by a bait that’s too big for them or they’ve seen before.”

Summer flipping may require adjustments and adaptation, but the potential more than justifies the effort. Stay alert, stay flexible and that next flip could yield a fish that will have you thinking (singing?): “You’re the one that I want.”

We go together

Grease closes with a catchy tune about lasting friendships — a theme experienced anglers typically employ by way of their one-two punch of summer flipping baits. Maybe it’s a primary deal and a more subtle follow-up, or it could be as simple as a heavy cover/light cover pairing.

Jay Przekurat’s partial to a 5/16-ounce flipping jig with a Strike King Rage Bug, but if he misses a bite, he’ll follow up with a Neko-rigged 4-inch Strike King Ocho. Likewise, Cody Huff said he always keeps a wacky-rigged Missile Baits 48 handy.

“If I have one hit [my Texas rig] and spit it out, or if I see one following my bait, that wacky rig is just so slow and subtle, you can usually get a few more bites,” Huff said.

Seth Feider’s also a fan of subtle follow-ups, so when his flipping tube’s not getting it done, he’ll send in the VMC Tokyo rig with a Z-Man Finesse TRD. Especially productive in deep grass, the bait’s finesse-y, horizontal presence keeps it in front of the fish long enough to close the sale.

Frank Talley starts with a Strike King Rage Bug for the motion, but he’ll follow up with a Strike King Rodent. Easily moving in and out of cover with minimal motion, the latter often entices indecisive fish. Often, a fish might half-heartedly grab the Rage Bug and rip off a couple of appendages only to find the Rodent’s smooth, gliding fall too much to resist.

Talley adds this observation: “The thing about flipping is it’s about angles, too. You can flip down a 100-yard stretch of bank, get three bites and then go back down it again at a different angle and get a couple more bites.”

Originally published in Bassmaster Magazine 2022.