Ignoring near-gale-force winds, Steve Grace whipped a Lake Fork Hyper Stick across a patch of grass and pads, and let the lure glide into an opening in the vegetation. A split second later, Grace dropped his rod without hesitation and snapped it back with all the force he could muster. About 30 feet out a nice bass boiled on the surface and dove down into the salad patch.

Grace was having none of that, however, and promptly got its head up and started toward the boat. As I netted the first bass of the day, I got a net full of pads and grass with the bass buried somewhere deep inside. And that's how it is when you're fishing for bass in the greenery - they're going to bury down in the grass if they can and hang you up or break your line.

Grace is an accomplished bass angler, and has had good results on the regional and national team tournament trails. During a recent BFL tournament on the lake, he found an area that had pre-spawn, spawning and post-spawn bass. The pattern he established allowed him to catch and release several limits of bass while culling down to his best five.

"I found bass in shallow water, 18 inches to 3 feet deep, in sheltered coves with grass and pads," said Grace. "When I fished the BFL last weekend, I was one of the last boats to take off and a lot of folks got into my first-choice area, so I just picked out a spot and started fishing."

As it turned out, Grace made a good decision to go ahead and fish the same spawning cove, even though there were several other anglers in the area.

Shallow-water coves on the eastern side of the main lake that had grass and pads were the ticket on our trip as well. During the tournament, there was one very subtle nuance that Grace detected that made the difference between his catching a limit and finishing pretty high, or zeroing.

"I found out pretty quickly that you had to stay way away from the bass and make long casts, or you just weren't going to get a bite," he said.

At the weigh in that afternoon, one of the other anglers that shared the cove with him asked how he caught all of those bass when he couldn't get bit. Grace responded that he was using fluorocarbon line, instead of his usual braided line.

"For some reason the bass wouldn't touch that Hyper Stick while I used the braid," he said. "I fished braid about 45 minutes and never got a bite and switched to the fluorocarbon and got bit within 5 minutes.

"So that was the key for getting bites for me, using the fluorocarbon line instead of braid."

 

6:30 a.m. - Grace and I arrive at the public launch site just behind Tommy's Trading Post on Highway 43 on the north end of Ross Barnett's main lake. After loading our gear into the boat Grace advises that we're going to head down lake to fish a cove that will be out of the direct wind. Leaving the landing, we motor out to the river, turn left, go under the Highway 43 bridge, head south for a couple miles and arrive at our first stop a few minutes later.

 

6:45 a.m. - With swells on the water about as wide as Grace's 21-foot Ranger boat, the trip down the lake was rough and got us a little wet, but we're charged up and ready to catch a few fish as we arrive at the cove. Sure enough, the cove is sheltered from the south wind, and we start fishing only minutes after leaving the river channel. Grace starts out with a Ribbit Frog and a buzz bait, and begins to work the pockets and openings in the vegetation.

"I'm going to try and draw a bite on topwater first and see if they're active," he says. "Last week we couldn't get bit on top, but we'll try it today and see what happens."

With the bass in various stages of the spawn, things could be tough at best.

 

6:50 a.m. - I pick up a SPRO Bronzeye popping frog and start working the same area as Grace, and a bass smashes the black lure on my third cast. Rearing back, I set the hook and drive the steel deep into the jaw of the bigmouth bass. A couple minutes later, I wear him down, and my first fish of the day is history.

 

7:00 a.m. - With the wind gusting from 20 to 25 mph, fishing the topwater stuff is pretty tough and unproductive, except for the one frog bite, so Grace switches gears and pulls out his Lake Fork Hyper Stick again.

"Last week you had to cast that lure about as far as you could to even get a bite because the bass were so sensitive," Grace advised. "If you ran the trolling motor in a place, you just weren't going to get bit, so we're not going to move around a lot."

No sooner has he mouthed those words than a bass strikes his worm at the far end of his cast. He swings and misses.

 

7:11 a.m. - Grace pitches the Hyper Stick across a patch of gator grass and pads, and works it back toward the boat. Just as it enters an open pocket in the vegetation, Grace bows up and - wham! - lays the wood to another bass. This time he makes good on his hook set, and promptly boats the bass.

"We're just going to work the area around the boat thoroughly before moving and disturbing any of the fish," said Grace.

 

7:13 a.m. - Grace nails another bass on the Hyper Stick in another small piece of salad.

 

7:17 a.m. - The accomplished bass angler continues to bear down and work the Senko-style bait in, around and through any patch of grass and opening he can find. In seconds, he gets another bite, and his third keeper, a solid 3-pounder is landed and quickly released.

"It seems like I'm getting more bites on the isolated patches of cover that have both gator grass and pads together," Grace said. "Try hitting any isolated cover you can."

 

7:21 a.m. - Taking a tip from Grace, I spot an isolated piece of cover, pitch my Hyper Stick right past it and begin my retrieve. Just as the worm nears a pothole in the salad, I hesitate and let it glide toward the bottom. Tap, tap comes the subtle, almost-imperceptible thumps of a bass inhaling the worm in the high winds. Rearing back on the rod, I set the hook and nail another bass, a nice 2½-pound male.

 

7:41 a.m. - Grace continues working the Hyper Stick in the cover getting bites in the windy weather. This time he detects a bite and quickly sets the hook, but is met with extreme force as the lunker bears down into the grass. Grace's hookset is sufficient to hold the bass, however, and he keeps a tight line as we use the trolling motor to get close enough to net the bass. This is another solid keeper weighing 3½ pounds.

"That's what I was telling you, it's hard to get them out of the grass sometime, "he said. "Last week I lost a couple of lunkers that would have put me right near the top if I'd been able to get them out of the grass."

 

8:00 a.m. - We move to another area in the large expansive flats, and Grace keeps working the Hyper Stick.

"Last week during the tournament, the fish were under extreme pressure from tournament anglers, so I went as shallow as I could to get away from them," he said. "Today we may be able to catch them further out in the cove, so we'll try out there as well."

 

8:06 a.m. - Grace rears back, sets the hook and brings in another keeper bass on the Hyper Stick.

"I think the fish are still real sensitive to fishing pressure and the weather conditions, and that's why the Hyper Stick is paying off," he said. "I'm basically dead sticking it in the holes and grass, and they're picking it up, or catching it on the fall and not even moving."

 

8:11 a.m. - I follow up on Grace's lead, target a patch of isolated grass and pitch my Hyper Stick right near. After working it into the grass and in a hole, a bass strikes, I set the hook and put another Barnett bass into the boat.

 

8:41 a.m. - "There he is!" Grace says as he sets the hook on another bass. Seconds later I feel the tell-tale thump, thump of a bass sucking in the jerkbait, I slam the hook home and we have our first double of the day. As the bass fight us tooth and nail, Grace promptly lands his fish, and I bring mine in a few seconds later.

 

9:00 a.m. - "The weather is looking pretty bad just southwest of here," Grace says.

With all of the fish activity, I had not been paying much attention to the dark skies back toward Jackson. After a quick pow wow and check of the radar, we decide to try it a while longer.

 

9:06 a.m. - Grace nails another 2½-pound male bass.

"Now that's what I'm talking about," he says.

 

9:21 a.m. - It appears that our move to slightly deeper and more open water has paid off as they're really biting now. Grace rears back again, drives the steel home and a hungry 2½ pounder explodes from the greenery trying to spit the worm out to no avail.

 

9:25 a.m. - The savvy shallow-water finesse-fishing expert has learned how to "power finesse," and is really putting it on the fish now. As he sets the hook on another bass, Grace quickly dispatches him and is back fishing again.
The Lake Fork Hyper Sticks are really doing the job, and there's not much use changing tactics or lures at this point.

 

9:39 a.m. - Working another isolated piece of cover, Grace draws another bite and nails another stormy weather bass.

 

9:46 a.m. - Following his lead, I spot another isolated patch of gator grass, work my Hyper Stick right to the edge and a bass engulfs it very quickly. As soon as I set the hook, it looks like a stick of dynamite goes off and another 2½-pound male erupts from the grass and tail-walks halfway to the boat.

 

10:00 a.m. - A crack of lightning lights up the dark gray sky and gets our attention.

"What do you want to do?" asks Grace.

After another quick look at the radar, we decided to head back to the sanctuary of Tommy's Trading Post and a quick meal while the front passes through.

 

10:20 a.m. - Arriving back at the Highway 43 bridge, Grace decides that we could fish a section of the rip rap on the causeway just to the east of the bridge. From there we could make a hasty retreat to the landing.

"I've caught a lot of bass along this stretch of the roadway," said Grace. "After they release bass at the tournaments, a lot them will stage along the rocks while they're resting and recuperating."

 

10:29 a.m. - Grace works the rocks with a Phoenix black/blue Vibrator jig, and draws a strike, but just misses. A few casts later, he bows up on another keeper bass, and quickly lands and releases it. The jig mimics the sounds of a crawfish with the flash of a baitfish.

 

10:33 a.m. - I work a Bandit 200 series, bounce it off the rocky bottom and a feisty spotted bass nails it and fights like a lunker.

 

10:45 a.m. - As the sky has finally turned as black as night and lightning crackling in the sky to our south, we stop fishing, put the boat on the dock and head for a hamburger and weather report at Tommy's.

 

After eating a scrumptious hamburger, a few fries and soft drink we turn our attention to the local radar and weather report. A tornado had hit Clinton a few minutes earlier and blown down trees near the south end of the reservoir near Ridgeland. Another tornado was spotted heading our way from the tower on the dam. It was predicted to be right at our spot in 10 minutes. We quickly seek refuge from the storm, and 20 minutes later, the rain, wind and dark skies had vanished.

 

12:15 p.m. - We leave the landing, head back down lake and stop in our original cove, except further east in hopes of catching more of the same. After about 30 minutes of fishing with only a couple of bites, we get caught in a lightning storm and decide to head back north toward the Highway 43 bridge and the landing.

 

1:30 p.m. - Grace motors the boat back out of Tommy's, turns right, heads back upriver near Horseshoe Lake and makes a long trek back into a shallow cove.

"There's shallow-water spawning areas back in here, and we just might find some bass and not be hammered by the wind," Grace says. "There's a lot of gator grass back in here similar to our first stop."

 

2:00 p.m. - Grace maneuveres the boat into a small channel that has good current running through, pitches a Cane Thumper in the ditch and promptly catches his biggest bass of the day. Our hunch has paid off, and the fish are biting even with the rain pouring down.

 

2:15 p.m. - Grace catches and quickly releases another nice fish on the Hyper Stick.

 

2:33 p.m. - After missing a strike, I make a couple more casts, and another solid 3½-pounder nails my Hyper Stick.

 

3:00 p.m. - Graces pitches his Hyper Stick next to a point of grass, rears back and drives the steel home just seconds after the lure hits the water. His largest fish of the day comes on the last cast.