Long live the shallow bite

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Mark Hicks
Boat docks are potential players for Herren in any season. This is where he excels with his Kistler flipping rod.

With so much emphasis on fishing offshore with today’s amazing video-game electronics, it’s reassuring to know that the shallow bite is still holding its own. While there are Bassmaster Elite Series pros who excel at fishing shallow and deep, most are better at one or the other.

Alabama’s Matt Herren is one of the shallow-water aces on the Elite tour. Regardless of the season, Herren almost always starts out looking shallow on practice days prior to a tournament. He will fish offshore if he can’t find bass close to the bank that have the potential to yield a top 10 finish. More often than not he is able to stick to his strong suit.

“A lot of guys only fish shallow in the spring,” Herren said. “Shallow bass can be harder to find after the spawn. But if you can find them, you won’t be dealing with a lot of pressure.”

Although Herren is known for his skill with a flipping rod, his shallow-water arsenal is far more extensive than most people realize. Where and how he attacks the shallows depends on the season, the conditions, the forage and what kind of cover a given body of water has to offer.

When the water temperature is 42 to 52 degrees in early spring, Herren ties on a Herren’s Fudd flat-sided balsa crankbait from PH Custom Lures. He casts it to banks that slope into the water at a 45-degree angle and keys on places where the bottom transitions from one hard substance to another, such as gravel to rock or clay.

In clear water, he also shows the bass a jerkbait and a Reaction Innovations 3.5-inch Little Dipper paddletail swimbait rigged on a 1/4-ounce ball head jig. He casts the swimbait with spinning tackle.

“I slow reel the Little Dipper just like a spinnerbait,” Herren said.

During the spawn, flipping and pitching creature baits produces fat mamas for Herren. He also goes to work with spinnerbaits, swim jigs, bladed swim jigs and squarebill crankbaits.

During the postspawn, Herren pitches jigs and finesse plastic baits, including tubes and small straight-tail worms. Swim jigs continue to be productive. A frog, buzzbait and a big squarebill also get in on the action.

“Sometimes early in the morning the big girls can’t stand a buzzbait,” Herren said. “Anytime I see gizzard shad laying against slick logs and docks I show them Phil Hunt’s 3-inch Mag Hunter squarebill.