From Weed-Snagged Rags to Fish-Catch Riches

Most fishermen have learned how to fish from a family member or friend. I learned from my dad. I remember many times reeling in a ball of weeds after attempting to set a hook after a noticeable bite. While learning from family and friends is not wrong, it may be leaving bigger fish in weedier areas where we fishermen of tradition usually avoid. The first time a person fishes in, on, or around weed mats in a body of water, the frustration felt might be measured in money due to loss of gear, or in loss of sanity and self-control, expletives deleted… or not.

If you think about every time you fished an area where there were weeds blocking your immediate casting area, and fish were visible or jumping, you may have passed up fishing there because you remembered the times of frustration past. This frustration can be turned to elation with some preparation and practice.

Like it or not, due to increased agricultural needs, the runoff of farming chemicals into local waterways has caused weeds to grow in many otherwise clear lakes, ponds, and streams. During spring and summer months this blooming of aquatic vegetation will become most pronounced from the increased sunlight and heating up of the water. This, while being a constant source of agitation for many anglers, can be quite enterprising for those exercising patience. Besides, if you passed up fishing weedy areas every time you went fishing, you might not ever fish again.

Over half the struggle of successfully fishing these weedy areas is having the right tackle. Using plastic or rubber worms and special barbed worm hooks can make a marked difference in results. If the barbed end of a worm hook is placed back into the plastic worm body, it becomes a weed-thwarting, fish-hooking, machine. This can also be done with a live nightcrawler and standard barbed hooks. You may also want to attach a weighted worm sinker above the hook for greater casting distance and accuracy. This style of rig is called a Texas Rig.

Often times having this cone or bullet-shaped worm sinker above your plastic worm will pull weeds in when retrieving the worm. To avoid this, try fishing with only the worm and use a lighter test line around the weeds in shallower water, as opposed to right on or through the weed mats in deeper water. If you need to use a weighted sinker for casting, try a clamp-on sinker placed further away from the plastic worm rig, or use a slip sinker pegged onto the line with a wooden toothpick. This type of setup is a Carolina rig. Not only does the Carolina rig pull in fewer weeds on retrieval, it also allows your plastic bait to move more independently from the weight. This allows for increased movement and action in the water, making it more attractive as a potential meal for predatory fish.

While having the correct tackle on hand greatly increases one’s chances for success in fishing in weedy areas, without the skill and proper technique to use the equipment, there is a high probability of continued frustration. When fishing near weedy areas, if fishing from the bank (as opposed to in a boat on the water), avoid fishing directly on top of weed mats. This will minimize snagging and dragging weeds. Allowing the bait to settle near the edge of weedy mats generally works well and maximizes chances for fish strikes. Fish such as bass will often choose a cooler void in the weeds where the mass borders a section of open, weed-free water. They will wait for smaller minnows to swim by and pounce for a quick meal. Casting rubber baits in these areas generally allows for more strikes.

The next time you fish and you see the weeds, you may be better prepared to catch fish when most others are leaving empty handed. Why wish for fish when you have the knowledge and equipment to take them? It might then be a case of a fish in hand is worth two in the weeds.