Grass is grass is grass to many anglers, but Matt Loetscher knows that’s not really the case — there are some keys to finding the beds of vegetation most likely to hold big bass.
And he knows you have to be on top of your game full your full time on the water.
“You have to be willing to fish for five bites,” the aspiring pro angler and Toledo Bend guide said. “You’ve got to start with that mentality.
“If you get caught up in catching schooling fish, you’re not going to get on (big bass).”
Punching vegetation is the best bet for pounding out a good limit for Loetscher, who fished for the Louisiana Tech college fishing team and is planning to move into the Bassmaster Opens.
And he hits the water ready for a full day of work, since it takes time to figure out exactly what will trigger bites.
“With the punching thing, you’ve really got to put your time in, and by the end of the day you’ll have a pattern,” Loetscher said.
And once he’s figured out that pattern, he’s able to target his efforts more efficiently.
“I might only catch one or two, but I can catch one or two on each mat of grass,” he said.
The key to his Toledo Bend, La., bite is focusing on hay grass, but he looks for pretty much the same thing no matter what type of grass is available.
First, he wants the vegetation to be matted.
That’s what confuses many anglers: After all, one mat can look very much like the next.
Loetscher, however, said he passes those that are obviously thick masses of vegetation.
“You want it to be an umbrella (of grass),” he said. “I want it clear under the surface mat.”
The key is to look past the surface of the water and see what lies beneath the edge of a mat. Do you see a wall of grass, or does the surface mat seem to be floating unattached?
It’s that latter characteristic that defines Loetscher’s “umbrella,” under which big bass can seek cover without being hemmed in by wads of green stuff.
That allows him to narrow down his targets, passing the vegetation mats that are more walls than umbrellas.
But he’s not working those mats in shallow water; instead, when bass come off the beds Loetscher looks for the topped-out vegetation near deep water.
“They’re going to be close to deep water,” he said.
Now, these living umbrellas are often fairly thick and impervious to lightweight lures.
Loetscher uses Beaver-style lures like the Stanley ItzaBug tipped with hefty pegged weights to push through the thick stuff.
“You want to just use whatever weight you need to get it through,” he explained. “You can use 3/4 ounces up to 2 ounces if you need to — whatever it takes.”
When that lure pops through the top of the mat, it whizzes to the bottom. But that’s OK, since Loetscher is looking for reaction bites.
“They’re going to grab it on the fall,” he said. “Usually I just punch it through and jig it once or twice, and if I don’t get a bite pull it out and do it again. They’re usually going to hit it on that initial fall.”
That approach means he doesn’t have to camp out on any particular spot — he can really move along until a fish nabs his lure.
And every bite is a clue to how to refine his presentation.
“I just cover water until I get bit, and the I try to make an assessment of why that fish was where it was and why it bit,” Loetscher said.
Understanding what triggers each bass is important, because the bite can — and usually does — change throughout a day on the water.
“There’s no one pattern that’s holding up,” he said.