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Ninja Tactics for Shallow Bass

Putting the Ninja • Credit: Karl Kalonka
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Ninja Tactics for Shallow Bass

Tactic to get you that trophy bass

How to lure Largemouth Bass with the right gear and technique.

Catching largemouth bass in shallow water can be a challenge, especially if the water is crystal clear and the weed growth is paltry compared to the peak summer period. The slightest touch of the trolling motor can spook bass. Even loosening your bait from a weed snag presents enough commotion that alerts any nearby bass into a 'fright and flight' mode.

So how do you fish these locations when you know that most early-season bass are using these same sparse lily pads and weed patches while recovering from the spawn, and are now on the roam in search of their next meal?

I faced these exact conditions this past year while filming a show in the Ottawa Valley Region of Northern Ontario. The lake's water was crystal clear and the ultra shallows had the only sparse weed growth that was alive with sunfish, perch, and bluegills, which in turn had drawn a lot of the bigger largemouth bass.

While investigating these same locations with my trolling motor at a very slow speed, I noticed bass sprinting away from the boat. Easily spooked, anyone?

I knew this was going to be a challenge, to say the least.

But this is where the bass we're feeding so I had to make a few adjustments in my lure selection and cadence/retrieve speed. I had to be extra slow and methodical as I manoeuvred through lily pad patches.

With an average depth of only 18-inches to two feet, inevitably I would be spooking some fish with any movement through the lily pads. Having forgotten my 20-foot push pole back in my truck, I was comfortable knowing that if I let my boat slowly glide through the lily pads each time I wanted to change locations, the slow momentum of the boat would create the least amount of noise and I could deploy my Power Pole shallow water anchor system at any time to keep my boat stationary if I located any deeper pockets or congregations of bass. 

Strike King Rodent

My bait choices were simple—I rigged a couple St. Croix Legend Xtreme heavy action casting rods with either a Strike King Rage Tail Bug or a Perfect Plastic Rodent in the 4-inch size in semi-natural tones (blue craw), onto a 4/0 size extra-wide gap worm hook with a small Strike King tour-grade tungsten worm weight in one-eighth and three-sixteenth sizes. I wanted the weight to provide a slightly heavier presentation so the bait could roll off the tops of the lily pads, but light enough to keep the bait in the tiny strike zone between the top of the weeds and lakes bottom, which consisted of mud and silt.

Strike King Tungsten Worm Weight

I am not a fan of having bass stick their noses deep into the mud to find my bait.

My choice of line was Gamma Edge fluorocarbon in the 20-pound category.

Gamma Fluorocarbon Line
Wide Gap Hook

Some people favour braided lines for this type of fishing. I like the ultra-clear fluorocarbon—which is nearly invisible, especially in these ultra clear waters, and is both strong and limp—so I have confidence pulling in bigger bass out of the thick stuff.

Moving slowly through the shallow pads is a must.

I like making longer pitches to outer weed edges, small dark holes, and thicker clumps of lily pads before moving my boat in any direction.

On this day, the bigger bass were on the outside edges of the lily pads and maybe 20 feet towards the shoreline. Only smaller largemouth bass inhabited the tight shallows near the shoreline brush.

Some days it can be the exact opposite, with bigger bass holding tight to the shoreline cover. It's up to you to locate the bigger fish and pattern the depth and cadence that is triggering the most strikes on any given day, which of course can change from hour to hour as well.

Rage Tail Bugs

Next time you're confronted with crystal clear water and sparse weeds in the shallows, pick the soft plastic creature baits by Strike King and move your way through the weeds with ninja-like tactics to score some of the biggest bass of the season.

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