Ontario Bass FishingLargemouth & Smallmouth Bass Fishing Techniques
Work The Flats for Wandering Largemouth
Flat fishing for largemouth bass can produce predictable and exciting action for anglers searching for fruitful days on the water. Not only do flats hold tremendous numbers of fish, they also hold a large number of trophies, hidden from prying eyes throughout this great expanse of “nothingness.” Learning when to hit the flats, and what to use, will be your greatest strength when it comes to limiting out on the water with this tried and true technique.
Identify Those Flats
Flats are quite easy to identify and occur in virtually every lake in North America. Basically, a flat is a large expansive area that is uniform in depth and makeup. The one other common ingredient is that they are generally shallow, between three and eight-feet deep. On some of the lakes I fish, the flats can reach up to a half-mile long and wide, contain water that is five-feet deep, and similar weed varieties are present. This is flat fishing at its best! Bass like to roam flats for one main reason – food. They can travel easily throughout these “feeding shelves,” gorging on any baitfish or crustaceans they happen to come across. Flats also provide safety and concealment, both for ambushing prey and hiding from predators. Largemouth bass will utilize the flats every single day, but depending on the time of day and the weather, they will be found in many different places.
Early Morning and Evening
This is a prime time for flat fishing, as largemouth are extremely active and hungry during these periods. They can be scattered throughout the entire flat, but will generally be in the open, and out and away from the weeds and vegetation.Fast presentations that cover a large amount of water are the way to go for these wandering fish. The flats are big, so working as much surface area as you can will connect you with the largest amount of fish. Remember, these fish are actively feeding, so they will strike out at the majority of the baits you will toss their way. There are a few standbys that work tremendously well that are a must in every flat anglers tackle box. Spinnerbaits and buzzbaits are my top two choices for working over a flat. Both of these lures can be worked extremely fast, can be readily seen by the fish, and provide a flashy target that largemouth have a hard time passing up. Each lure is virtually weedless, and both are designed for the shallow water you will be facing. I tend to toss buzz baits earlier in the morning, especially during overcast conditions, but will switch over to the spinnerbait if fish seem uninterested or are short-striking.
There will be times that fish will be too lazy to chase down one of these fast moving baits. During these periods, a switch to a Zara Spook or soft-plastic jerk worm can pay off big dividends.
The Midday Period
The midday period can offer two types of conditions to the flat angler. One of these is stable, sunny weather, while the other is overcast and cloudy conditions. When faced with the latter, utilizing the techniques I discussed for early morning and evening will be your best bet for success. The overcast skies will keep the largemouth out and away from the weeds, scattered and searching for food. They will remain in a primarily aggressive mood, and fast lures while covering lots of water will put bass in the boat. Stable, sunny weather is another game altogether. Largemouth will begin retreating into the dark recesses of the weeds when the sun begins to shine brightly, making a switch of tactics necessary in order to stay with the fish. The first tip I can offer is to “slow down.” Instead of using horizontal baits such as before, you will now be relying on vertical lures to get the job done, fished extremely slow and methodically. Begin the afternoon by searching the flat for the greenest weedbeds and clumps you can find. Those that contain “holes” and “cutouts” throughout the bed offer the largemouth more areas for concealment and ambush, and are always high on my sought-after list. Arm yourself with a stout flipping stick and line in the 20-pount-test range, as these fish can be tough customers at close quarters. Baits such as flipping jigs, Texas-rigged lizards, worms and craws are designed well for this type of fishing, and should be your standard lures when hitting the flat. Making small pitches or flips into every nook and cranny of the weedbed and the surrounding edges is literally all there is to the technique. Allow your bait to fall right to the bottom, lifting the lure a few times to draw attention. If a largemouth is present, it won’t take long before he sucks in your offering. If you don’t get a strike after 10 or 15 seconds, simply move on to the next pocket in the weeds. Flat fishing for largemouth bass can lead to an exciting day out on the water. No matter what conditions you face, or when you’re on the lake, rest assured that there will be plenty of fish on the flats willing to play “tug of war.”
By Justin Hoffman