Acres of grass means acres of bass, but locating bass in grass is a process that JT Kenney has some key insight into. Photo courtesy JT Kenney
By Dave Landahl - April 28, 2020
JT Kenney may be best known these days as an analyst and color commentator for the MLF Bass Pro Tour, but don’t forget his bass-fishing gravitas. From winning tour-level events to fishing weekly in some of the finest grassy bass water in the state of Florida – the Palm Bay area – Kenney knows how to get bit.
When JT talks bass (especially in the grass), anglers need to listen.
“Fishing grass, or any vegetation, isn’t all that difficult,” Kenney says. “You just need to find the prime locations where the bass are living and figure out what presentation to use to get the most bites. It’s really simple if you look at it that way.”
But Kenney will quickly admit that there’s some thought that goes into finding bass in vegetation. The Mercury pro points out some key factors to look for when you’re trying to locate bass in the grass, reminding anglers everywhere that these are common anywhere you’re fishing for bass in vegetation.
Find the irregularities: It doesn’t matter if you’re fishing emergent weeds, matted slop, or subsurface grass, Kenney’s first tip is to locate irregularities (both to the outside edges and deeper into bigger grass beds).
“You’re looking for little points or pockets, any irregularities,” Kenney says. “You don’t want to be fishing just a carpet of uniform grass. Look for things like high spots or low spots in the grass, holes or larger voids. Anything that makes that area a bit different. Those are prime locations, especially in large grass beds.”
Look for a combination of grasses: “I’m sure I’ve said this 100 times and you’ve likely heard it too, but locate areas where two or even three different varieties of grass come together,” Kenney says. “That really is a good place to look. It creates an edge and encompasses pretty much all the things you look for to find bass in grass.”
Kenney suggests fishing the more sparse areas of grass early and late in the day, or if fish are really active. He usually fishes the thicker stuff during the heat of the day.
Getting Them to bite
Now that you’ve located the bass, how are you going to yard them out of their weedy condos? Pretty simple: heavy line and stout hooks.
“I’d say a swim jig is my top lure for fishing grass,” Kenney says. “Fish bite it, and you can cover a lot of water with it. I use the Nichols Sledge Hammer jig, it has an awesome hook. There are a lot of good lures on the market, but this one is my favorite.
“I almost exclusively use NetBait Kickin’ B on the back. It’s a beaver-style body and the legs work great. It also works great as a buzz toad. That set up is like positraction on a 1964 GTO. It just gets up and goes and catches bass. I don’t know why, but they love to bite it.”
The swim jig is perfect for fishing the sparser clumps of weeds, or over the top of submerged vegetation, allowing it to flutter into the holes or depressions. If the fish are active, the swim jig is tough to beat, according to Kenney.
Kenney uses a 7-foot-2-inch heavy-action Halo Kryptonite rod with an Ardent reel loaded with 50-pound braid for his swim jigs.
If the bite fades during the heat of the day, Kenney moves to a vertical presentation.
“If the bass aren’t active, or it’s the middle of day, target heavier sections of grass adjacent to heavy clumps next to sparse areas of grass,” he says. “Flip a jig or a punching rig vertically down into grass.”
Kenney prefers a 3/4-ounce JT Kenney Signature Series Grass Wizard jig and the same NetBait Kickin’ B used for the swim jig.
“I also use a regular punching set up, especially in matted vegetation,” he says. “I tie on a Trokar TK 133 hook and a 1- to 1 1/2-ounce weight and rig a NetBait Dagger. It has a beaver profile, but the bait collapses as it goes through the vegetation like a punching worm, then pops back open when it stops falling. I’m catching a lot of fish on it.”
Kenney uses a 7-foot-11-inch extra heavy Halo TI with 65-pound braid for punching and a 7-foot-6 heavy action Halo Black Widow rod with an Ardent reel spooled with 65-pound braid for pitching his jig.
No grass fishing discussion would be complete without the inclusion of a little topwater chatter.
“By far and away, my favorite topwater lure for grass fishing is the Scum Frog Launch Frog,” Kenney says. “There’s a tungsten weight in it, and you can throw all the braid off your reel. I can easily skip it and it’s so accurate. It’s a little bit bigger, but still has a similar profile to most of the frogs you’ll use, and it has a great hook. Fish this in any of the grassy cover and you’ll get some massive strikes.”