By Nick Simonson
The steep bank of the small lake’s southern shore was first guarded by a stand of green pencil reeds. An overhanging willow covered the pocket of water behind the verdant sentries and a tangle of sticks and other wooden debris denied entry to the hole which had “largemouth bass” written all over it. Drifting along, a runway about a foot wide through the reeds opened up, and I set up for the cast, pulling the rod low along my side before whipping it back toward the small clearing. The green tube skittered along the surface and came to a stop a foot short of the shoreline, a perfect placement if there ever was one, and I quickly reeled down in time to feel the weight on the other end that had begun to move off with the bait.
For the little lake, it was a bruiser largemouth of 17 inches that broke the surface, and I hoisted it up through the reeds and out into the open water with a strong hookset. Coming to hand, the chunky green fish was the ideal payoff for a well-placed cast which was a function of practice and timing, and of course, hundreds of other attempts elsewhere under structure, along impediments, and other places big bass hang out that are well concealed by natural and manmade obstructions. For every perfect placement, there have been five, ten or fifteen or more snags, dinks, doinks, blocks by docks, too short casts, overly long casts and other rejections and near misses that have helped further refine my casting skills. But as this kind of practice goes, there’s no other place it can be done than on the water.
Despite the training limitations for such situations being limited to the real aquatic world only, I’ve taken plenty of tips from those experiences and getting casts into those perfect stretches where both largemouth and smallmouth bass lurk comes down to some basic guidelines. Among the best for such moments of casting through a bit of hell to get to that piece of angling heaven are utilizing a lure that is easy to cast and skip while being attractive to fish, staying handy with the line to let things ride or slow things down, and being aware of the strong eyesight of bass and ready when a not-so-ideal cast can still get the job done.
The Right Lure
When fishing any structure or heavy summer weed cover, a bait that can get in and out of the troublesome area with ease is key when casting. The sleek profile of bass tubes makes them a great first choice, as they are easily skipped and skittered across the surface, allowing them to be flung under docks, boat lifts and overhanging trees. Other plastics such as sticks like Senkos, or traditional bass worms can be utilized as well, but the longer they get the less skipping they’re likely to do. Multi-appendaged lures such as creature baits will work, but the resistance their arms, fins, legs and tails provide will slow down skip-style casts. In areas where there’s not much overhang or horizontal cover, these baits can be used with greater effect, and they can be cast across open cover or pitched into pockets where fish may be lurking.
Feather Light Feel
Line control is also an important part of placing the perfect cast for bass. Whether firing an offering under that cover or bombing a cast out into an opening in a stretch of lily pads or the matted surface of a stand of summer weeds, managing the line that comes off the reel helps get baits where they need to be. Whether with a spinning reel or a baitcaster, be familiar with how line comes off in a cast, especially with the former, where it’s easier to finger the line on the spool or cut a cast short if it looks like the bait is sailing off too far. While it’s usually better to go long, even up on shore, and pull a weedless style bait back into the opening where a bass is likely waiting, even short casts deserve a quick pause before another cast is required.
Even in those instances where a cast doesn’t hit the perfect spot, drops in front of a dock or a boat lift instead of under it, or perhaps is to the side of the target destination, don’t give up on it right away. Both largemouth and smallmouth bass have well-developed eyesight and hunt prey with this advantage, and even on the brightest days, they’ll give up their shady spot under structure to take a bait if it isn’t too far out of their comfort zone. So, for those tubes that ding off the pontoon of a watercraft and drop, or that soft stick that just didn’t have the oomph to get under the dock, be ready regardless. There’s still a distinct possibility a bass will take it; stay vigilant and keep a tight line to feel for that tug.
In the end, practice makes perfect when it comes to casting in and around areas of structure and hitting those hard-to-reach places that bass love to shelter in when summer sets up. Utilize baits that can get into those spots, control and adjust the amount of line going out on the cast, and don’t give up on those imperfect casts. With the latter, take the lesson along with the possibility of a charity bite, and learn a little more about how to connect with these structure-loving fish, so the next time the ideal opening occurs, the cast will be second nature, and the angling will be first class for largemouth and smallmouth bass.
Simonson is the lead writer and editor of Dakota Edge Outdoors.
Featured Photo: A Space That Has It All. Natural and man-made obstacles provide great hiding places for bass. Getting the bait in the right position comes from a good cast, which in turn comes with practice on the water. Simonson Photo.