By Louie Stout
Today’s bass anglers are not only good, but well-armed.
Not just pros, but average anglers, as well. Today’s learning curve is short thanks to a proliferation of how-to techniques in various forms of media.
Bass, however, become wiser, too. By mid-summer, they’ve seen it all, become more wary, and seek solitude beneath hard-to-reach areas, especially in shallow water.
Of course, bass aren’t hiding under stuff simply to avoid the barrage of anglers’ lures. That overhead cover provides shade and cooler water during hot summer days and is an attraction for smaller creatures that bass like to eat.
To reach them, anglers must step up their game with a skipping technique that requires above-average casting skills that put lures quietly and seductively in areas where conventional casting can’t reach.
Skipping – the art of making a lure skirt across water and under low-hanging cover – is achievable and oftentimes a must if you want to out-fish the masses during a weekend on the water.
It requires, however, a bit of practice and the proper set-up.
“The motion is very similar to skipping a flat rock across the water,” describes Pro Angler Jon VanDam. “With the proper gear and feel, it becomes second nature.”
VanDam grew up in Michigan where the waters are clear and the developed shorelines are lined with boat docks and bushes that hang over water along the shore.
“Some of the best shallow water fishing on natural lakes from the post-spawn period through early fall is beneath docks and pontoon boats,” he says.
Trees, like overhanging willow trees and those that have fallen into the water provide great tough-to-reach hideaways as well.
“The key to skipping effectively is to keep the rod parallel with the surface of the water,” VanDam explains. “I like to let the lure hang a foot or so beneath the tip and then do the roll cast, where I rotate the rod counter-clockwise and then release the lure as it aligns with the target. There’s a tendency to over-cast, or shoot the lure out too hard; that’s where accuracy falls apart and the lure crashes and doesn’t skip its way in.”
It’s also much easier with spinning tackle but it can be done with baitcasters.
On baitcasters, VanDam uses 17- or 20-pound Bass Pro Shops Fluorocarbon, noting that anything heavier makes the technique a bit more difficult.
“Spinning tackle works well but you need a reel with a larger spool that can accommodate heavier line, which you need to move fish away from cover,” VanDam explains.
He fills his spool with 30-pound braid and a 14-pound fluorocarbon leader, noting that you must keep your connecting knot (between braid and leader) small enough that it goes through the guides without resistance.
He likes the 7-2 Favorite Jackhammer, a medium-heavy action spinning rod with a size 30 Shimano spinning reel. His baitcast gear is a 7-3 Favorite Pro Series heavy action rod with a fast tip paired with a fast retrieve reel.
“Shorter rods are easier to skip but you lose some leverage for moving fish away from cover quickly,” he offers. “The rod must have a fast enough tip to load and release the lure. The Shimano DC reel is a good choice for learning because it has good anti-backlashing qualities which make it ideal for this technique.”
Even so, the technique should be practiced in open water and not around objects until you become proficient. Homeowners don’t take kindly to anglers banging lures off their boats or docks.
Prior to casting, adjust the baitcast tension knob to allow the lure to fall freely from the rod tip without it causing a major overrun. During the skip, apply thumb pressure on the spool as the bait gets closer to the target.
Lure choices matter, too. Lighter lures with flatter bottoms skip best.
VanDam uses a ¼- or 3/8-ounce jig in most situations with small, flat-sided trailers, such as the Googan Bandito, to enhance the skipping.
“I also will trim the jig skirt for a smaller profile,” he explains. “I’m trying to mimic the little bluegill and sunfish that frequent shady areas.”
Other good skipping baits are soft-bodied frogs, bladed jigs, tubes and stick worms.
VanDam points out that skipping on the edges of the cover might get you a few bites, but those who can get a bait far under a dock or way under a low-hanging object will catch fish others will miss.
“You may not get a lot of bites, but the ones you get generally are good-size fish,” he adds.