Fishing in grass can be intimidating for the beginner angler. The fear of snagging a pricey lure is enough to deter many fishermen from fishing around grass. And that’s a big mistake because grass is by far the best cover for game fish.
Aquatic vegetation holds all sorts of freshwater shrimps, insects, bugs, plankton that feed baitfish and crawfish. That in turn attracts game fish. It provided shelter from birds, the sun and provide ambush points. It also has higher oxygen content in the summer. Bass, pike, and perch love it, well above any other cover. Let’s jump right in and figure out how to catch fish in weed.
Not all weeds are created equal, fishing in grass requires the right approach. When I talk about sparse grass I mean overall open water with clumps of vegetation here and there. It will often mean deeper water. Grass can also be a clue of slightly shallower water. Sometimes you’ll find 2 or more different species of grass mixed in. For example a vast expanse of reeds with a few clumps of other grass. That’s clearly the best spot!
In such an environment, my 2 favorite lures are spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits. With spinnerbaits, I will try to bump and tick stems of grass and get a little cloud of dust that somehow seems to attract fish. Keep in mind that fish can’t see very far and it’s important to make a lot of casts and cover every open water lanes.
For lipless crankbaits, I will deliberately let it snag on a grass stem and pop it free with a simulated hook set. The lure will jerk free and attract bite like nothing else. This is a very effective technique in early spring when grass is still weak and breaks easily. It’s better to use braided line to rip the hook free.
Some lakes have a very dense submerged grass growing at the bottom of the lake with about one meter or more of open water above. Pike, bass, or silure will bury themselves in the weed and watch the open water above them for an easy meal.
In low light conditions like morning, evening, and rainy days, a topwater is hard to beat. Keep a steady retrieve with a buzzbait, stickbait, or wake bait. Choose a lure that will create a nice V-shaped ripple pointing to your lure.
When the sun shines it’s time to get a lower presentation. Again a spinnerbait works well, but a chatterbait is great too. If there’s enough water over the grass you can use a square bill crankbait. However, a soft plastic swimbait, slow-rolled about 50 centimeters under the surface is deadly. Just throw it out and crank it back as slow as you can.
This the iconic bass fishing scenario. Picture the little frog sitting on the edge of a pad with a big bass lurking and waiting for the unsuspecting frog to take a dip. Lily pads can be good, and not just for bass. They offer cooler water in the summer and host all sorts of aquatic life. And yet, for some reason I can’t explain, it is not the best type of grass. Again it’s better if some other grasses are mixed in.
If the pads are scattered enough, my first choice would be a spinnerbait on windy days and a chatterbait or a swim jig on calm days. When the pads are tight together, you can still swim a jig but the best option is probably a hollow belly frog. Make sure you use a stiff rod and heavy braided line. This is fun, it works for bass obviously but it’s very efficient for pike as well, more so I would even dare say. Throw the frog in such a way that it will cross paths with the little open water pockets. When traversing one such open water spot try to get your frog to walk the dog and pause it before hopping back on the pad.
Again it’s a bass angler technique for heavy cover but it works very well for pike and perch alike. In fact, in Europe, I might have caught more perch than bass in grass. It’s called punching grass or punching rig. The rig consists of a Texas-rigged soft plastic with a heavy weight such as 30gr (1oz) or more. The bullet weight needs to be kept tight against the lure with a little stopper.
You can use virtually any soft plastic you like but the best option is some sort of crawfish imitation. Use a natural shape for clear water and a kicking legs version in stained water. Not much light gets through the mat so don’t be afraid to use solid colors such as black and blue or watermelon.
The technique is very simple, just flip the rig in front of you with a pendulum cast in such a way that the rig will drop straight down and punch its way through the grass. Matted vegetation blocks light penetration and therefore nothing grows underneath and the water is somewhat open.
Once the bait is through the grass, keep the bait on a tight line and let it gently hit the bottom. Shake it on the bottom a little bit to stir some dust then slowly lift it up. Keep the bait about mid-depth for a while then lift it up further until it’s right up against the underneath of the mat. This is where you’ll get bit 90% of the time. Don’t keep the bait on the bottom for more than 5 seconds.
If the matted vegetation has many holes, big or small, you can use a finesse version of the previously described rig. You can use a 7gr (1/4oz) or 5gr (3/16oz) weight. I tend to select a more slender lure such as a ribbon tail worm or a good ole lizard. Just pitch the lure past the hole and bring it back in. Let the lure drop and just wiggle it mid-depth. It’s a good idea to have a light rig and a heavy one rigged on the deck of the boat and alternate depending on the situation.
A hollow belly frog also works on matted vegetation, just slowly crawl it on the grass and wait for the water to explode underneath. Make sure you delay your hook set to when you feel the fish pulling on the line.
Fishing in grass is so much fun and very productive, frog fishing, spinnerbaits or swim jigs are all techniques that will give you a lot of time fishing shallow water.