Fishing in thick weed beds is one of the angler’s most challenging and yet rewarding experiences. Tangled line and lost lures are the bane of the fishing experience and a lot of fishermen call it a day out of sheer frustration. Deep beds of coontail, long pondweed stalks, grass beds, lily pads, and emergent shoreline vegetation all have one thing in common for the unprepared angler. That’s spending more time peeling weeds off the hook than fishing.
Fish end up in the weeds for several reasons. Predators like northern pike, muskies, and bass spend much of their time lying in thick weeds as concealment. This cover provides great ambush points from which to dart out and grab a preyfish that wanders by too carelessly. Fish head for cover during periods of changing atmospheric and water conditions. Recreational boating and angling pressure can send fish deep into the aquatic jungle. Sometimes a lake or river just gets so weed-choked that even open-water loving species find themselves surrounded by green as well.
That fish end up buried in the weeds is a fact. At times, if you want to catch fish, you’re going to have to go in after them.
The first consideration when tackling thick weed beds is the bait. There are a couple things you can do to lessen the amount of time you spend getting untangled.
The most common trick is to bury the hook point inside the body of a soft plastic worm. A weedless plastic worm can slither in and out of the thickest vegetation without hanging up. If you do lose it you’re only out a few cents.
Crankbaits can be made relatively weedless by removing the treble hooks and replacing them with manufactured weedless trebles or single hooks. The system isn’t foolproof and the downside is that your weed guards may cause you to miss a few strikes. The upside is that you’re fishing where you’d never dare to go before.
You can also cut off the front-facing hook of the trebles to allow baits to glide through weeds. The existing hook points are facing the rear and not as likely to get caught on weed stalks and grass.
Another option is to buy baits that are weedless right out of the box. Manufacturers have created a variety of pre-rigged weedless plastic worms and spoons.
The second consideration in fishing thick weeds is the vegetation itself.
The principle is to fish the path of least resistance.
Current is particularly troublesome until you learn how to fish it. Position yourself downwind and cast up into the current. The bait will be moving in the same direction as the weeds are lying and the chances of hanging up are greatly reduced.
If the lily pads are thick try fishing right on top of them. Bass will hit the underside of pads in the attempt to catch a plastic frog or worm dragged across the pads. Let the bait slither downward for a few minutes in the openings and then bring it back up to the top.
Weed lines are excellent places to fish for just about everything that swims. Not only are the muskies and bass patrolling the edges but open-water fish such as yellow perch, walleyes, and saugeyes will occasionally move in to chase minnows and insects. Fish relate to edges instinctively and in most waters the weed lines are the most pronounced edges.
Ticking the tops of submerged weed beds is irresistible to predators in many instances. Use a floating crankbait with weedless hooks and reel fast until contacting the vegetation. When you feel resistance let up on the retrieve to allow the bait to rise into view.
Dropping jigs and spinnerbaits into gaping holes is a productive weed-fishing tactic. Look at the hole as an opening in the water surrounded by edges. Larger fish feel protected by the abundant cover and let down their guard. Let the bait glide to the bottom and hang on tight.
Fishing thick weed beds isn’t a problem if you bring the right equipment for the task. The weed beds are where a lot of the fish are and it’s where you should be as well.