The “Slow and Meticulous” approach works very well for fishing deep water with structure and/or cover. By concentrating on these types of areas, these areas hold very good quality fish and possibly that trophy that you are looking for. The approach that is used will be with plastics, but would work very well with jigs or any other bait that works the bottom contours.
The areas that are focused on are deep flats, underwater islands/humps or deep weeds and weed-lines. The main focus is that as long as there is a concentration of weeds to work, that is the main thing to look for. We work that bait through some of the thickest weeds that can be found. These types of areas can and will hold some very large fish and if you can work the bait through them, you will be putting the bait in front of some fish that may not have seen a bait in quite some time.
What are concentrated on are the weeds themselves and the scarcity as well as the thickness of them. The scarcity part of it would be the outer edges of the weed clumps not the inner thicker weeds.
The edges have limited weeds growing, as the light penetration is lesser or possibly the bottom content is of a different makeup. These lightly weeded areas hold baitfish and the predators are using the thicker parts of the weedy areas as their ambush spots.
By scarcity we mean that there may be only a few strands of weeds growing or possibly small patches of weeds growing that are not necessarily very tall in their growth. We can imagine looking at a grown man balding. On the back of his head he has much more hair than the front part that has strands of hair here and there.
The thicker weeds that we will look for are the actual middle or anything that is inside of the outer weed-line. Many anglers will never put a lure into these thicker weeds as they are afraid that they may lose their bait, but don’t realize that they are missing out on numbers of fish and bigger fish at that.
After you study weeds and weed-beds for a while, you will start understanding what you are looking for and notice that many weed-beds have holes or pockets in them. These are the areas that this technique will really start to excel in as you are bringing the bait along; they fall into these holes or pockets and in front of a waiting fish looking for a quick meal.
Let us look into the “Slow and Meticulous” technique that works so well for us. Whether you have sparse weeds or thick clumps, this has worked in any weed situation. To setup the rig, we generally use any type of plastic bait on a 3/0-4/0 hook size Texas rigged with a bullet sinker on the line.
The bullet sinker size that is generally used is a 1/8 ounce weight unless it is very windy and then a 3/16 ounce is used. Anything heavier than that will sink too much into the weeds and be hung up more often than not. Many anglers will not use such a light weight when fishing heavy weeds, but time after time, we are finding that these very light weights work very well for sneaking through the weeds. Never let “what you should be using” get in the way as any angler out there knows that to catch larger size fish, you need to do something a little different than everyone else.
There are two different ways that we will fish this setup. One is deep water into the weeds and the other is directly in the weeds. First, the deep water to the weeds approach. On a recent trip to Minnesota, the better quality fish were coming from having the boat positioned on top of an underwater hump and casting the bait into the deep water.
After letting the bait hit the bottom, slowly move the bait only a foot, or less, at a time. It is known that bigger fish will not expend a lot of energy for a meal and will wait for it to come by them. By working this very slowly, it leaves the bait in their strike zone much longer and the bigger fish will be caught.
As you are working the bait back towards the boat, the beginning part of the retrieve, you will not feel any weeds. But as you start getting to the edge of the hump, you will start noticing that there are a few weeds there and now you really need to pay attention to what the line and rod are telling you.
You will slowly and meticulously work the bait through the weeds and this action makes the bait look like a creature coming out of the depths and searching for food in the sparse weeds. As you work the bait over weed after weed, you are putting the bait in front of fish that may not have seen bait a quite a long time. Work it very slowly through and over the weeds all the way back to the boat, as these fish could be located anywhere on the hump.
The other area that we generally use this technique will be in shallow and deep weed flats that numerous anglers will avoid working bait through. As the boat is positioned over a weed patch or flat, cast the bait out and let it sink into the weeds, watching the line at all times. A fish will strike a falling bait out of reflex.
By using the light weight, the bait doesn’t sink too far into the weeds and sort of floats near the top of them. Once the bait stops falling, tighten the line and move it 6-12 inches at a time and then let it sit for a moment. Fishing this way—as slow as you can stand it (and that may still be too fast) patience is the key to catching fish this way.
As you are working the bait back, what is happening is that the bait is sitting towards the tops of the weeds. As you move it a bit, it may get hung a little in the weeds but with the light weight you have on the line, this allows you to be able to pull a little and it comes free easily compared to a heavy weight that gets clogged with weeds.
As we keep working the bait through the weeds, there are holes or pockets in the weeds that once the bait hits one of these, it will fall either to the next level of weeds or to the bottom to a waiting fish. These pockets and holes may hold big fish that are waiting for food to fall into them.
As we continue to work the bait ever so meticulously through the weeds, this gives the fish an impression that food is crawling through there, making for an easy meal for a bass lurking in the weeds. This presentation is painstakingly slow and many people just can’t fish this slow or get aggravated working bait through the thicker weeds. But for those that can figure this out and employ this technique to their body of water, the rewards can be phenomenal.
If you are searching for something different to try to catch some bigger fish, give this approach a try for yourself. We have been doing this for a number of years and it has earned us some very good finishes in tournaments and has caught us some dandy fish while fun fishing.
The main point that is that you cannot fish slowly enough and you will need to get the “I can’t fish a bait through those thick weeds” notions out of your head. By fishing ever so slowly and also fishing some jungles of weed beds, you will notice after some time that it isn’t hard to do and hopefully the quality of your catches will go up as well.
You will be fishing areas that others may never fish. One cast will take as long to reel in as your buddy that has casted 4 times. But your fish may be bigger than theirs and their quantity may be more, but yours will be heavier at the end of the day. The key point is fish thick weeds as slowly as you can and pay attention to the feel of the line. This will let you get an idea as to what a weed feels like, versus what a fish feels like.