From the 16 June 2006 New
York Outdoor News
FISHING THE SLOP: BUCKETMOUTHS IN THE SALAD
As the summer progresses and the waters warm, many smaller ponds and some shallow lakeshores across New York become choked by thick weeds. Floating mats of green slop cover many a body of water, making the waters unappealing to the eye and a turn-off to most anglers.
These weedbeds should not be looked at with such disdain. They offer some of the most fantastic largemouth bass fishing around and are at once productive and exciting.
The Biology of Weedbeds
Largemouth bass are attracted to slop for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, the biomass supported by these weeds are what bring in the bass. The incredible volume of plant life on the water’s surface and below it attract the entire aquatic food chain. Slop brings in the most microscopic of organisms which consume the plants and are then consumed by insects and small fish which are then consumed by larger fish which ultimately are consumed by bass. Mats of slop are thriving environments with bass as the king.
Bass also choose slop as homes based upon heat. Slop typically grows in the shallowest and warmest of waters, which bass prefer. Bucketmouths are said to desire temperatures in the range of 76 to 87 degrees, which in New York can only be achieved in the shallowest of waters.
In a slight contrast to this, the slop also provides much needed cover from the sun. Intense heat and direct sunlight can stress fish, with some biologists citing UV as being as damaging to fish as it is humans. Therefore, during the dog days of summer, the bass take to slop as means to at once get the heat they need while hiding from the sun’s direct rays and also any predators – like a herons or ospreys – that may be scoping out the shallows.
This being said, slop offers you the chance to fish all day long, even on the most intense of summer afternoons when most anglers have called it quits, preferring sunrise and sunset angling pursuits.
Heavy Equipment Required
In most cases, standard bass tackle cannot be used while slop-fishing. It’s too light to handle the stress of hoisting a trophy bass and a few others pounds of weeds along with it. Therefore, you need to think heavy…really heavy.
Many slop anglers use large saltwater-style reels because they can operate the reel as a glorified winch. It offers the power, line retrieval speed and impossibly-tense drag required to horse a fish out of such weedbeds. This reel should be outfitted with heavy line, minimally 14 pound test with 17 to 20 pound line being best.
The pole should be a heavy-action rod, a glorified pool cue, but one with a fast tip that allows for a quick and powerful hook set.
Some great catches can be had with plastic worms rigged texas-style. Use a larger worm, something 6" to 8" in length. This allows you to drag the worm on top of the slop which then moves the slop, triggering airborne bass strikes. Smaller and lighter worms would never allow you to achieve the necessary surface disturbance.
A benefit of using worms is that you can drop the worm into the various open holes found throughout the slop beds. Just be careful as to not get the worm snagged by being too creative with underwater movement in these holes. Be conservative.
Worms, unfortunately, do not have a good hook-up percentage because the hook is so embedded in the worm’s body. So, when the bass swallows the worm and weeds, you need to rip the hook through the worm and plant life, figuratively keeping your fingers crossed that you can still set the hook.
This is why the lure of choice should be a weedless surface lure.
Many anglers swear by the cute, soft plastic floating frogs and mice which have the hooks at the sides of their bodies. These do allow some success, but in many cases prove to be too light to upset the slop.
The best lure is a "floating spoon", like Heddon’s Moss Boss. This lure floats, has the weight necessary to move surface weeds, and has a huge exposed hook that increases the hook-up rate significantly. At first glance one may believe this hook design would catch weeds. It does not as the lure is designed in such a way that it lands body-down, hook-skyward on every cast.
When throwing any of the above lures at the bass, there are a range of specialized tactics that must be used.
When casting it is absolutely necessary that you close the bail before the lure ever hits the water. It lessens the impact of the lure upon the weeds and ensures you can start retrieving as soon as the lure lands. Both objectives are needed because they ensure your lure does not get gummed up with weeds, because even the most weedless of lures are not 100% weedless.
It is important you vary your retrieval speed. Work the lure slowly. Bring it in quickly. You can even attempt to retrieve it at full speed. Bass that live in the warm waters of slop have fully-optimized metabolisms and reactions and will strike at variety of speeds, whichever may at the time tickle their fancy.
Once a bass ingests your lure through the weeds, you need to think rather than react. Immediate hook sets will fail every time. You need to give the bass time to bust through the slop, suck in the lure, turn it in his mouth, and spit out the weeds. Therefore, you need to be unusually patient and wait anywhere from 2 to 2.5 seconds before setting the hook.
In order to set the hook and fight the fish your drag must be set so high that you cannot budge it (hence the need for a larger reel). Really slam that hook home and set directly upwards and never right or left as you need leverage and power to set the hook through the weeds.
Never let your rod tip down or bring it sideways while fighting a bass. You must always keep the fish’s head up. If it is given the chance to turn it will, using its leverage and the weeds around it to rip the lure right out of its mouth.
Practicing the above tactics is a great way to take advantage of some of the most exciting and different fishing of the year…and it guarantees you will catch some of the largest bass that a body of water can offer.
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