Randall Tharp gives some tips on finding the right way to fish grass in the fall. Photo by Phoenix Moore
By Mason Prince - October 31, 2019
As a cold front pushes through the middle of the country, it’s hard to imagine having any fun fishing with temperatures in the high 30s. One place where the chilly temperatures have yet to reach: Randall Tharp’s home in Florida.
As I was bundled up with a few layers and trying to get the feeling back in my fingers to type, Tharp recapped his pleasant day flipping the hydrilla on Lake Seminole.
The Grass is Still There
Tharp is not bashful about his love for grass fishing, he’s detailed to me multiple times about his affinity for aquatic fescue. But as the temperatures start to get lower and the hydrilla starts to mat up, some anglers begin to shy away from it.
Not the Honey Badger.
“In Florida, some of the hydrilla is still thriving, but in some other areas in the country it’s starting to get matted up and cut its sunlight off,” Tharp explained. “This time of the year you’ll see the lakes in the Tennessee River area start to get matted grass as well. But even if the hydrilla is starting to die off, that can be a good thing.”
Tharp points out that grass fishing isn’t just for the warmer months. While you may start to see the hydrilla begin to thin out and mat up, that shows Tharp just what he wants to see when he’s fishing in the fall in the South.
“When hydrilla starts dying, it mats up and creates a big hollow cave for the bass,” Tharp outlined. “The bass love that because it’s a place for them to hide and ambush prey. Those mats give a fish everything they could want. With the temperatures cooling down, that mat is like a warm blanket over their head and it makes them feel safe and secure.”
Picking the Right Patch of Matted Hydrilla
With an abundance of hydrilla in lakes throughout the South, Tharp can choose to be picky. Thanks to years of trial and error, the Zoom Bait Co. pro knows how important each nook and cranny can be in a particular patch of grass.
“I don’t like grass that’s so thick that a fish just can’t swim through it,” Tharp said. “That’s why you always have to look for tunnels and caves in the grass to target. I like using a frog when I can tell that the mat is really hollow underneath. If the grass looks a little more healthy and alive, I like to flip around the edges of the mat for a more vertical presentation.”
Tharp’s reasoning for when/where he throws a frog or flips around the edge of a mat is straightforward biology.
“Think of a patch of matted hydrilla like a big circle,” Tharp said. “The outside edge of the grass is going to be your healthiest part because it’s constantly getting flushed with fresh water. Once you get past that edge, there’s a wall of thick hydrilla that is hard to get through that can go down pretty deep.
“On the inside part of the patch is where the grass is thinnest because it’s already beginning to kill itself off thanks to lack of sunlight. I think flipping the wall of grass with a vertical presentation is a major key. Also, using a hollow-body frog in the middle of the patch is where that bait can really shine.”
No Bait, No Bites
As is the case with many other fall approaches, locating bait is key to Tharp when he’s fishing grass. But amongst the hydrilla, this simple task can prove to be a little more difficult and time-consuming than in more open water.
Tharp explains that bluegill, shiners and shad are three key bait fish to look for, but there may be times where they aren’t as easy to find. He says that if you stay consistent and keep your eyes peeled, you too can master fall grass fishing.
“There’s going to be days in the fall where you may go a couple of hours without a bite,” Tharp said matter-of-factly. “That’s just the way it is in the fall. I think that during this time of the year you can find a group of bass in the hydrilla if you can find the bait fish and the right type of mat. It’s one of my favorite ways to catch them.”