Flipping and pitching has become a staple in just about every bass angler’s arsenal. But while most might feel comfortable dropping a bait into key spots along a laydown or flooded bush, flipping can seem a lot more daunting when it comes to hitting targets beneath the surface.
Indeed, Bass Pro Tour angler Cody Meyer acknowledged that flipping submerged vegetation can be intimidating. Grass flats can span a square mile or more, all of it looking about the same, and even if an angler identifies an area that holds fish, it might be impossible to see the precise holes and clumps that warrant a presentation. But overcoming the fear of flipping underwater grass is worth it. Meyer, who cut his teeth fishing submerged vegetation on Clear Lake and the California Delta, believes it often holds bigger and less-pressured fish than visible cover.
“The submerged stuff that you can’t see just looking across the water is typically less fished and holds really good ones,” the Tackle Warehouse pro said. “Not to say that grass on the bank, you’re not going to catch big ones, but it’s going to get more attention because everyone sees it.”
It’s a pattern that can play across more of the year, too. From prespawn through fall, the biggest bass in a fishery can often be found living in offshore grass — and even throughout winter in warmer climates, where healthy vegetation remains prevalent all year.
“Spring through fall is a great time to fish submerged vegetation,” Meyer said. “And typically, to me, the better fish, if you can find them, always come out of that submerged stuff — tournament-grade fish.”
While catching bass out of underwater grass can sometimes feel like finding a needle in a field of haystacks, Meyer shared a few tips to make flipping submerged vegetation more approachable.
The challenge of fishing submerged vegetation isn’t getting bass to bite, it’s finding the areas that hold them. Meyer initially tries to pinpoint high-percentage zones before he ever makes a cast. He uses his eyes and electronics to identify areas where the grass edge forms a point. He also utilizes a contour map to locate sweet spots that might not be visible, like a ditch running through a flat.
“That’s the best place to start is somewhere like that where it will make an ambush point,” Meyer said. “It will maybe be at the mouth of a creek or something like that. That’s the easiest place to start, because you can be so overwhelmed with miles of grass. … Or it could be something as simple as this whole bay is really shallow, and it’s all beautiful looking grass. But you notice on your map, your contour lines, that hey, this is a stretch that, instead of 3 foot, it’s gonna be 5 foot, and that’s going to be something to hold those fish there.”
Even after identifying a promising area, though, there can still be a lot of water to cover. When fishing submerged vegetation, Meyer always starts by throwing a reaction bait — usually either a Z-Man Evergreen JackHammer Chatterbait or a Grass Ripper swim jig, also made by Evergreen. Doing so allows him to cover water and find fish more efficiently. Because bass usually group up in grass, once Meyer gets a bite, he grabs his flipping stick and dissects the area.
“When there’s so much grass, especially a new body of water, I want to move, move, move, and then I get one bite, put the Power-Poles down and really pick that area apart,” he said. “That’s something I learned definitely in Florida. Every cast you make, it looks so beautiful that you’re like, ‘how am I not catching a bass?’ But there’s so much of it. Those fish are concentrated in really small areas, so you’ve got to cover a ton of ground, and once you find it, you’re going to pick up a flipping stick and see what you can come up with.”
Another general rule of thumb that can help make an offshore flipper more efficient: In the spring, Meyer tends to target holes in the grass, which bass use to spawn and ambush prey. But during late summer and early fall, fish tend to burrow into thick grass clumps, which offer shade and oxygen.
Once Meyer has located an area to flip, he rotates between a tandem of soft-plastic baits, one with no action and one with tails that kick and displace water. His dead-action bait of choice is the Yamamoto Flappin’ Hog (typically the smaller, 3.75-inch model). For a bait that moves more water, he turns to either the Yamamoto Cowboy or Yama Craw.
While he’s found that fish tend to prefer the Flappin’ Hog in colder water and the Cowboy or Yama Craw as temperatures rise, Meyer likes to rotate between the two and let the bass tell him which they prefer on a given day.
One key attribute of both baits is their compact size. When flipping grass, Meyer shies away from bulky soft plastics or ones with long appendages, which might get caught in the vegetation or allow a bass to miss the hook point.
“Once you have something wider or longer, it just kind of slows it down going through the grass,” he said. “And then those fish react to it so quick that I want something more compact, smaller, that they just jump on, and you have a much better hook-up ratio that way, too.”
Meyer usually relies on a Texas rig for flipping vegetation, but occasionally he’ll turn to a 1-ounce jig with a Yama Craw as a trailer. He does so when fishing grass that’s sparse enough for the bait to come through cleanly and when he’s looking to land a kicker. While a Texas rig generally gets more strikes, jigs tend to garner bigger bites.
“Typically you start with the moving baits and then you get a bite, and then that Texas rig soft plastic stuff is always a bite-getter,” Meyer said. “But a big jig will get you a big one, for sure.”
As for color, he keeps it super simple, sticking to a pair of staples: black/blue or green pumpkin.
Hauling a bass out of its grassy lair can turn into an all-out tug-of-war. As a result, Meyer is meticulous about his equipment selection when flipping submerged vegetation.
His rod of choice is the flipping and punchin’ rod from Daiwa’s Tatula Elite line — an 8-foot, heavy, extra-fast model. He pairs it with the Tatula Elite pitch/flip reel, which features an oversized handle for extra torque. The reel is almost always spooled with Daiwa J-Braid Grand X-8 braided line in 50- or 65-pound test. He believes using an eight-strand braid is key.
“A lot of guys will just get the cheap braid, like a four-strand weave,” Meyer said. “It’s so much louder coming through the grass. Like, you can hear it coming through, and the vibration it puts off, I feel like, will not get you as many bites.”
In the rare instances he switches to fluorocarbon — only if he’s dealing with clear water or heavily-pressured fish and struggling to get bites on braid — Meyer uses the same setup with 25-pound Daiwa J-Fluoro Samurai FC. Regardless of his line choice, he likes to use the lightest sinker he can get away with. He usually starts with a 3/8- or 1/2-ounce 1st Contact tungsten flipping weight. He’ll upsize if the weight isn’t heavy enough to slip through the grass.
“A tip for me is the lightest weight you can possibly fish with fishing that bait effectively — it always seems like it gets more bites,” Meyer said. “So if you go from the side of having a heavier weight just because you feel more comfortable with it, that’s OK, but you do get less bites.”
On the business end of Meyer’s rig is a straight-shank Owner Jungle Flippin’ hook. He uses the 3/0, 4/0 and 5/0 sizes, depending on the size of his plastic. He attaches the hook with a snell knot — another small detail that he believes pays big dividends for his hook-to-land ratio.
“I always, when I’m flipping, I will snell the hook,” he said. “It’ll have that kind of scorpion-tail (movement), come up when you hit them. And when the fish is buried in 4 feet of grass, big weight and stuff, you need every advantage you can get.”