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Largemouth bass plentiful under lily pads

No one likes being interrupted during a nap, and largemouth bass are no exception.

Warmer months find North Suncoast bass tucking themselves into the shadowy recesses of lake and pond structures such as docks, overhanging trees and the perennial favorite — lily pads.

The fish feed mostly during the cool early morning and late afternoon, with long naps in between. Snoozing bass are fairly tolerant of considerate passers-by, but those who crawl, slither and hop across the pads find their noisy interruptions terminated with violent retribution.

In truth, the bass are more interested in silencing the intruder than eating it, but if they can accomplish both tasks, then all the better.

Find the fish

Practically anywhere amid a stand of lily pads might hold bass throughout the year, but the fish rarely inhabit every corner of the vegetation simultaneously. There's usually a sweet spot or a hot zone.

Docks, timber and any other supplementary structure merit investigation, but more often than not, bass will stage by depth. It might be temperature, sun angles or vegetation density, but the fish will find something that suits them.

During the spring spawn, the fish favor shallow shoreline reaches where sun penetration warms their eggs. Aside from this, the deeper sections are generally more productive.

Simple observation can tell you a lot. Listen for the sharp pops of bluegill sucking down insects among the pads because this activity attracts bass.

Note the heavier activity of feeding bass. From heavy surface assaults to the subtle bending of lily-pad stalks, active bass will betray their location.

For a more scientific approach, ease through the pads on trolling-motor power and monitor a sonar unit to see where fish gather. Identify a target depth and focus efforts there.

Perimeter patrol

During cooler times, bass like to ease toward the outer edges of the pads and use the shadowy corridors to peek into bands of sunlight where they can spot bluegill and other forage species.

For working the shadow zones, try a half-ounce spinnerbait with white or white/chartreuse skirt. Large double willow blades provide a strategic combination of flash and vibration, which will bring bass dashing out to grab what looks like a cluster of baitfish.

Try hopping a small chartreuse or white curl-tail jig along the outer limits of the pads. Resembling a wounded baitfish, a 1/16- or 1/32-ounce jig will prove irresistible to bass of all sizes.

For a finesse presentation, try a dropshot rig. This one is designed for deep presentations in which a Texas-rigged worm, grub or other soft plastic bait rides about 6-8 inches above the bottom.

Tie your line to the hook but leave about 8-10 inches on the tag end (the short end of the line coming off the knot). Tie a round or bell-shaped sinker to the tag about 6-8 inches from the bait.

Toss the dropshot to the edge of the pads and let it sit. Lightly twitch the rod tip to wiggle the worm, and when a bass gets tired of staring at the easy meal, there will be a steady pull.

Interior intrusion

When bass hold up deep within a stand of pads, the most effective way of getting them is also the most exhilarating. Reeling and skipping plastic worms, lizards or frogs across the pads will so irritate largemouths that you can expect anything from angrily bumping the vegetation to erupting through it.

Stout baitcasting rods with plenty of backbone and reels carrying 60-pound braided line will greatly facilitate the chore of wrestling a hooked bass from dense vegetation. Just be careful not to jerk too soon on the strike.

Consider that a bass attacking through lily pads must first clear the foliage before it has room to put the chomp on the bait. This requires mental discipline, but if you hold your ground and let the fish close its jaws around the bait, it will set the hook by pulling the bait underwater.

It doesn't hurt to give the bass a firm jab to make sure the hooks bite, but only after the fish submerges.

Be careful to avoid the notches at the base of a pad — where it sprouts from the stem. If your bait slips into one of these traps, it'll be hard to remove from a distance. Braided line can usually rip through the pad, but monofilament typically gives way before a pad does.

With either, strong knots better your chances of retrieving baits and wrestling big bass from their lily-pad abode.

Largemouth bass plentiful under lily pads 05/23/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 12:20pm]

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