With nine tour-level wins and 70 Top 10s to his resume, North Carolina’s Bryan Thrift is clearly able to do it all. Versatility is key in his profession and he’s embraced it all – even if it’s not his preferred way to fish, Thrift knows when it’s time for a specific technique.
Punching vegetation is an approach that Thrift admits isn’t his favorite, but he knows it has a place and time, and is a great way to catch big fish. And like everything else he does with a rod in his hand, Thrift very good at the technique. He approaches punching like he does all other fishing methods: with efficiency in mind.
One overwhelming situation for fishing vegetation is identifying the most productive areas.
“I start by looking for any irregularities,” Thrift says. “I want to find something that’s a little out of the ordinary from everything else. It could be a mix of grass or little holes in the grass, just something different.”
Thrift goes punching whenever he sees a plethora of overhead cover, whether it’s hyacinths in Florida, hydrilla in Alabama, or milfoil on northern fisheries.
“You always have to do your due diligence to see if the bite is happening,” he advises. “Bass are always going to hide under something, and you punch year-round. Even when the grass has started to die later in the year, it’s still hollow underneath and bass will always live there.”
Thrift subscribes to much of the common thinking when selecting his punching gear, but adds a few tweaks and personal preferences. That includes the bait color and hook type.
“Everyone seems to punch black and blue all the time, but that’s not the case,” he says. “I use the same theory for selecting soft plastics for all techniques and base it by the water clarity. If the water is clear, I’ll use a green pumpkin or watermelon just like I’m fishing in open water.”
“The Air Craw is a nice slender bait that goes through stuff very well,” Thrift says. “The hook I use is bigger than a lot of guys use, but I haven’t seen an instance where a bigger hook doesn’t go through a mat as well. Plus, I want the biggest hook I can get to make sure I get a big one into the boat.”
For weight size, Thrift scales up or down for whatever it takes to get through the cover.
“It could be anywhere from a 3/4-ounce weight to a 2-ouncer,” he says. “The real key is to get through easily. Punching is about being efficient and making as many presentations as you can in a day.”
“I like the faster reel to get as much line in as possible to get the fish to the top of the mat,” he says. “Getting them buried up is the fastest way to lose them. The rod is also critical, and I like a 7-foot-8 Fitzgerald Fishing Heavy Mat Flippin’ Rod. Trevor (Tackle Warehouse Pro Trevor Fitzgerald) is well-known for his punching skills and they’ve perfected rods for the technique.”