Fish Shallow or Fish Deep?

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Going against the grain can pay off in fishing

I’ve been asked a lot recently about flipping on Kentucky Lake and Barkley Lake. If you been following me on Facebook, then you probably know what I’m talking about. I’ve had a lot of fun over the last month flipping on a flooded Kentucky and Barkley Lakes, but I was flipping good weight all the way back in early April before the floods.

In that time I’ve had a bunch of limits of bass weighing more than 20 pounds in the shallow stuff. Meanwhile I hear a lot of tournaments are being won by guys cranking out. Steve Stone, of Paducah, Ky., who we will feature in an upcoming story on faith and fishing has won three major tournaments on the lake in the last month including the Jet-A-Marina Classic which is generally the largest bass tournament on Kentucky/Barkley Lakes, the BFL LBL Division qualifier and the Weekend Series qualifier. He’s amassed more than $15,000 in winnings and catching 25 pound limits of bass out off the banks cranking.

So I’ve been torn on spending the time searching for bass offshore or staying shallow and flipping or pitching shallow cover. For some reason every time I debate where to fish in my mind, the popular Clash song also pops into my head.


“The indecision “˜s bugging me.
If you don’t want to set me free,
Exactly who am I supposed to be?
Don’t you know which clothes even fit me
Come on and let me know
Should I cool it or should I blow?
Should I stay or Should I go?”


I finally thought about it and decided this. I love to flip and pitch. I don’t get to do it except for maybe one month a year on these lakes known for fishing offshore. The other thing is fishing should be fun. It should be a relaxing experience, matching wits with a wild animal in its element.

A lot of people don’t get the allure of flipping and pitching in shallow cover. Fishing up close and personal. Setting the hook on a big fish in all that heavy cover. He has all the advantages, and you just have to hope and pray you can set the hook, move his head your direction and get him back out of the cover before he gets you hung up. It’s fast and furious and a wicked adrenaline rush.

When I was a kid in Hawaii, there was an attraction at the Zoo in Honolulu where this big gorilla was in a glass enclosure and there was a big rope coming out of it. My father and his Navy buddies would all grab the rope and the gorilla would grab the other end with one hand. They’d start pulling on the rope and when the gorilla felt the tension, he’d jerk back against the rope as hard as he could and send all the navy guys crashing into the glass. When you’re five years old, that’s pretty thrilling. Flipping does that for me as an adult. It makes me feel like a kid again, waiting for that gorilla to grab the rope.

Flipping and pitching is not for the faint of heart. It’s 20-pound fluorocarbon and 65-pound braid. It’s heavy drag cranked all the way down and extra-heavy action rods. It’s fast and furious with my Minn Kota, plowing into a bush or a bunch of laydowns to try to grab the bass I can’t get back through the cover before he breaks my line or gets loose. It’s not being afraid to put your Brush Hog, Sweet Beaver or Hack Attack Jig in the gnarliest spot in the cover knowing that getting the fish back out will be hard.

I love to catch them cranking too. When you drive along a ledge with your Structure Scan and you mark a big school of fish. Your heart starts to rush, hoping you found the motherlode. You jump up on the front deck and fire a Strike King 6XD up there on the spot and start winding it as hard as you can until your reel just stops and your rod starts bounding back and forth. You winch on a bass, sometimes two, that has stopped your crankbait like a road block. Then you quickly fire back on the spot again, cast after cast until they finally quit biting, 40 or 50 bass later.

There is always the allure of finding a “mega-scrape” of bass offshore and there’s always the allure of matching wits with a bass in heavy cover. For me it’s about what mood in am I in and what’s going to be the most fun.

So even though the naysayers are telling me to go offshore to find the fish, I put my head down and went shallow again this weekend on Barkley. The fish got the best of us this go around. We caught a few nice keepers but we lost three REALLY big fish in the cover. The point was I was still doing the right thing, because I was having a blast wrestling with them in the heavy cover even though I couldn’t always get them out.

That’s fishing. Sometimes you land them all and sometimes they take you to the house. But that’s really what keeps me coming back for more. Knowing what could have been on a great day of battling bruisers in the brush.