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Soft Punching for Bass in Vegetation

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Like just about every other bass fishing media outlet, we here at Wired2Fish.com have been trumpeting the Jackall Cover Craw as a “glide bait.†That’s how we were told to use it – rigged backwards and weightless so it would swim away from you – and we’ve whacked a green fish or two with this unconventional presentation.

But just when we started to get comfortable with this atypical bait, it takes a bass pro to hit us upside the head with the old “KISS†maxim – “Keep it simple, stupid.â€

The pro who told us not to ignore the obvious was California star Jared Lintner, who when not delivering dairy products this offseason has been putting a hurting on the bass within driving range of his Arroyo Grande home. His tool of choice? That same Cover Craw, but there ain’t no gliding in the picture. He’s punching it through the thickest, nastiest vegetation he can find and hauling out bass after bass after bass. He doesn’t discount the finesse approach, but like a boxer, a fisherman can’t just dance around the edges forever. Sometimes you have to get in close and slug it out.

The reasons for his methods are obvious: First, whacking big bass with heavy line is just about the most fun you can have with your clothes on; and second, if you can’t punch mats, you’re not going to win many tournaments at any level, in any part of the country.

“Even in California, everyone thinks it’s all about finesse,†Lintner said. “But we have Clear Lake, the Delta and all sorts of little lakes loaded with nasty grass and more fish live in the heavy vegetation than most people think. They seem to think that if they don’t bite my frog, they’re not under there. But even if you caught them that way the day before, sometimes a cold front and bluebird skies may cause them to hunker down. They didn’t leave. They just don’t want to come up and get something moving that fast across the top.â€

Like us, he’d used the Cover Craw to get back under docks and overhanging branches, but over the past few months it has become his favorite mat flipping bait, too.

“The think I like about it best is that the profile imitates a crawfish really well and it penetrates really well,†he said. “Other baits are a little bulkier and won’t go through as easy. You end up having to go to a heavier weight than you need. At the Delta, I was flipping it right through the mats with a one ounce weights and my buddy needed an ounce and a half with his normal craw.â€

But even though it’s compact, it’ll easily handle the type of hook you’d typically associate with 80-pound braid and the big fish you dream about. “The four-inch model will support a 5/0 Reaction Innovations BMF hook and not be too overpowering. With a lot of other flipping baits, even a 4/0 hook overpowers them. A tiny bait with that big hook is not too appealing.â€

It may be the softest punch bait around, and that took some getting used to. “At first I was just pegging it and it was sliding down the hook,†Lintner explained. “But now I do two things to prevent that. First, on that BMF hook I put a bit of that rebarb shrink wrap near the eye. That helps a lot. The other thing I use it the Parasite Clip. I was exposed to it last year at Toho. With those two steps, you can punch it through just about anything. I can catch five or six fish on one before I have to change the bait.â€

Lintner said these simple steps are worth it, because the super-soft plastic provides easier and better hooksets. “In three days on the Delta, I only lost one fish,†he recalled. “I normally lose a lot more. I was jacking ‘em, putting holes in their heads.â€

So far, he has identified two favorite colors: “Cola,†which he describes as a “burnt brownish red†and green pumpkin candy. He typically punches mats with a Powell 7105 (7’10â€, 5 power) flipping stick paired with a Revo Premier (7:1 gear ratio) spooled with 80 pound test Spiderwire Stealth. And once it’s rigged up, except for necessary retying, he never puts it away. “It’s in my boat year round,†he explained. The only change is that sometimes he has more than one rod rigged up this way and ready for combat.

While only a few years ago he wasn’t fully aware of the effectiveness and utility of mat punching, today Lintner sees it as a way of life. “Now it’s almost like an addiction,†he said. “I look for it.â€

More importantly, he sees opportunities to use this one bait, the Cover Craw, in various ways in 2009, at tour stops like Amistad, Dardanelle and Champlain. But whether it’s gliding weightless (“float like a butterflyâ€) or a flipping attack (“sting like a beeâ€), Lintner feels he has a puncher’s chance any time it’s on the deck of his boat.