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Understanding how to fish matted grass

Large expanses of matted grass present bass anglers with a quandary. You know that scads of quality largemouth probably live under the vast canopy. But there is so much of it that fishing the mat randomly is a low-percentage course of action.

Anglers who have learned to read grass mats concentrate on key locations and skip the rest. One of those anglers is Florida’s Keith Carson, who qualified for the 2021 Bassmaster Classic by winning the final Bassmaster Eastern Open of 2020 on Lay Lake. He finished fourth at the first Eastern Open of the 2020 season by punching matted grass on the Kissimmee Chain. “To most people, a huge mat looks like an endless sea of grass,” Carson said. “I can tell exactly where a fish is sitting and in what direction it’s facing to ambush prey.”

Carson’s tips for punching mats are pretty basic, such as avoiding long, straight edges and fishing points and irregularities in the grass. He usually pitches his baits within 5 feet of the mat’s outer edge.

“The fish on the edge are active feeders,” Carson said. The water clarity, wind direction and how the canopy folds over provide additional clues to Carson regarding where to pitch his baits.

“I can’t always explain why I know where the bass are,” Carson said. “It’s almost a sixth sense.”

Carson isn’t clairvoyant. His ability to sense where bass lurk under a mat comes from decades of experience fishing this type of cover. However, his inability to provide more details offers little guidance to those afflicted with mat confusion.