Lakecaster Online

Ice Fishing - Southern Style - (Punching Grass) -
By Ed Snyder

Dog Day Bassin' on Lake Sam Rayburn. TX.

"Where are we going? Was my first, of many questions as Scott Soisson nosed our bass boat away from the launch ramp. "Oh, I dunno, he answers, "Solley's, Buck, Needmore, or maybe even Five Fingers, "Nah, interjects Scott Springer, the larger bass will probably be holding on "Sawdust, "Nickel, or maybe "Red Tape". Not having "ANY IDEA" of what Springer was talking about I zipped up my life-vest and braced for our run as Soisson throttles out and across Lake Sam Rayburn. What's really "cool" about running the lake in a sleek "Ranger Class" bass boat is its "ultra" smooth, nose down high-tech posture and high-speed performance run. Kinda' like being on a Harley run without a helmet. "But I must give caution that if you're an outdoor writer looking for a story-line that you best stow extra pens in your camera bag to replace the ones that'll get "sucked" out of your pockets, much like the ones I had to replace after arriving at our fishing destination.

"Ok, where are we now, "Sawdust? I re-probed for my curious notebook? "Nope, chuckled Soisson, "Shower-Shoe. As he and Springer move up to the foredeck to prepare for fishing, I take quick note that they were using 7 & ½ foot flippin' sticks and Shimano Calcutta reels spooled with 45 pound test braided lines rigged to one/ounce bass-jigs with hawg-craw trailers.

Today's fishing would deal with one of the most "TEDIOUS" of all fishing techniques known to any bass angler, flippin' the grass-beds with heavy bass-jigs. "Flipping grass, "Grass punching, or "Ice fishing-Southern style" is what we call it, informed Scott Soisson, owner/operator of Needmore Tackle & Guide Service. "This type of fishing is a "dog day" method for catching bass during the HOT summer months when the bass start concentrating under the Hydrilla mats, Soisson advised. "Which provides protection from the summer sun as well as access to bait-fish, adds Springer. Scott Springer, a former Rodeo Pro/Bull-rider champion -turned- Pro/Fisherman, is regarded as being one of the best jig-n-craw anglers on Lake Sam Rayburn. "During the summer, Springer informs, "the Hydrilla beds will begin topping out on the lakes surface as they begin to thicken and matt up. "This is why we choose to use the heavy one-ounce, or heavier, bass-jigs at this time of year, Springer advised, "as it's going to take a "heavy" jig to penetrate through the thick matted grass-tops to be able to work their way to the bottom where the bass will normally be hanging out.

As this writer/angler recalls experiencing the "frigid" ice-fishing techniques from more northern climes, I wasn't really connecting to what we were doing on an East Texas lake during a "HOT" August summer day as being ice-fishing -"until"- after watching Soisson and Springer flip their heavy jigs into the grass-beds, punching holes through the thickly matted grass-mats, which allowed their jigs to flutter and fall to the bottom. "Huh, I thought, maybe not quite the same as "auguring" holes through two foot ice up north to drop baited lines while bracing against wintry "minus-thirty" wind-chills in heavy sub-zero snowmobile suits, as we instead "greased-up" with 45 SPF sun-block in preparation for the100 -plus- degree heat in sleeves & shorts. Definitely not the same.....but?

With both Pro/Anglers "front-ending" me with their bass-jigs, I was given the task of "mopping-up" from the rear-deck with a Florida rigged craw-worm. As the boat begin moving parallel to the outside grass-edges, both anglers took turns manning the depth electronics and troll-motor navigations as they eyeballed the depth recorder's LCD screen, which displayed the changing contours of the bottom, as well as the grass-wall of the Hydrilla mat. In this way they were able to control the boats forward movement, keeping us nudged along the edges of the grass-wall as they flipped their jigs to just inside the outside edges where they were expecting the bass to be holding.

As we began moving and fishing along the grass-mat edges the boat started taking on the motion and sounds of "punching-grass" as the troll-motor would move us forward every few yards where they'd flip their jigs to the grass, allowing them to drop to the bottom, then jiggling the jig off of the bottom for a second before retrieving it back for another cast. After a while this "tedium" began to take on a "cadence count" as we moved, flipped, dropped, jiggled, then retrieved, "Wrrr, flip, drop, jiggle, retrieve, "Wrrr, flip, drop, jiggle, retrieve, which developed into an almost monotonous fishing pattern. With both anglers totally focusing their attention on what their jigs were doing as they fell and fluttered through the grass-strands, they would feel for the slightest bit of vibration that might signal that a bass had hit their baits.

"The bass will take the jig-n-craw in several different ways, explains Scott Soisson, as he inputs some info for my notes. "Although they'll usually hit it on the bottom, they sometimes will hit while the jigs still falling through the grass, which can be very difficult to feel. "So we prefer to use the braided lines for this type of fishing, Springer advised, stating that the new braids are super sensitive and will transmit the slightest vibration back to the rod handles. "These braided lines are also super-tuff, adds Soisson, telling of how these new fishing lines will withstand the abrasive abuses of fishing thick brush and grass structure. "Sometimes, Soisson advised, "the bass-bite may be nothing more than a "mush-mouth" type hit as the bass will just inhale the jig and hold it right on the bottom, which is why we always pick up our rods after each drop and just jiggle the bait a little to see if they're on it. "The jiggling sensation will usually startle the bass, explains Springer, "causing it to move off with it still in their mouth, or they'll just to spit it out. "This is why we have to concentrate our focus on the jig as it falls through the grass as often times you'll have only a milli-fraction of a second to set your hook before the bass has a chance to exhale the bait.

The tedious nature of this fishing procedure becomes very obvious to me as I watch and note the almost monotonous "wrrr-ing of the troll-motor as we move forward, flip, drop, jiggle, reel, "wrrr, flip, drop, jiggle, reel, "wrrr, flip, drop, jiggle, reel, as we slowly fish our way around the "Shower-Shoe". (writers note: an upside down anchored shower shoe gives this spot its name. Most guides, and anglers, will secretly mark promising fishing areas with odds and ends that they may have in the boat such as fishing corks, pieces of Styrofoam, a old ball cap, an inflated balloon, or in one case, a red & yellow bikini top we saw hanging from a tree limb......??!! This is where they come up with most of their code-nicknames for prime fishing spots).

"Well, they ain't here, Soisson advises as he begins to secure the rods to make a run to another grass-bed. "The bass sometimes may not be where you're fishing at the time, he explains, "but will often move in and out of the structure to feed at different times of the day, so we'll keep moving to check other spots until we've found an active feeding area, Soisson advises, "but we'll sometimes come back to check on these unproductive spots again later to see if they've moved in to feed.

A quick run to another area of the lake has us moving in on "the haystack" as we prepare to fish a circular grass-bed that is wedged within a timbered area with drainage drop-offs on either side. "We'll often find some of the larger bass holding on a spot such as this, Springer informs as he maneuvers the Ranger along its circular edges. "THWIP"!! "Gottem!! Gives possible credence to his big bass statement as our routine is suddenly breached by Soisson's arched rod. As I leap for my camera and Springer gives fighting room to Soisson, he has lands our first "grass-bass" of the day, not the lunker that we're hoping for, but a nice "keeper" which he flips to the fore-deck. After quick pictures, and just as quick live release, we return to the "Wrrr, flip, drop, jiggle, reel, "Wrrr, flip, drop, jiggle, reel, routine of "Ice-fishing-Southern style".

With our "Wrr, flip, drop, jiggle routine broken only by occasional flips of humor as Springer and Soisson trade guide-talk critiques, I find that their verbal sparring only ceases when they spot a likely prime-bite area on their LCD screen. Quickly picking up on these occasional verbal breaks in their routine, I'm able to take notes and relax a little before they suddenly become re-focused on a prime-bite area.

During one of these "relaxed" moments I suddenly feel a vibration on my rod, much like something was grinding something at the end of my fishing line, but before my "relaxed" senses finally woke-up enough to alert me to "SET THE HOOK" it's already too late as I retrieve a pitifully "discombobulated" craw-worm which had almost been "chewed" from my hook.

After suffering through some well-deserved chuckles and flippy gawfaws about the bass having time to salt & pepper me before going to lunch, Soisson explains that when feeling that "chewing" sensation, which was actually a bass trying to eat my bait, you "MUST" be alert enough to set the hook immediately, or you'll miss the fish, such as what happened to me. "It's not like fishing with plastic worms, chuckles Springer, "where you have time to let the bass move off with it before setting the hook. "This type of fishing takes a lot of practice and time to learn, he adds, further informing that it's not for everyone. "Yeah, sure-nuff not for everyone, Soisson agrees, "but this is probably the #1 method for catching the larger bass during the hot summer days, as it is also the #1 method for winning most bass tournaments at this time of year.

"Proper eyewear is also a very crucial tool for this type of fishing, Soisson informs, stating that special polarized fishing sun-glasses are an absolute must for being able to cut through the suns glare to see the grass structure below the waters surface. "And the higher the quality that the glasses are the better off you'll be, Springer stressed, further explaining that real glass lenses "rule" over the plastic lenses every-time.

"THWIP". "Gottem!! "THAWP". "Losttem!! Dominates our next few seconds as Springer leaps two feet "straight up" to try and set his hook into a milli-second bass-bite. With rod & angler seemingly hovering in mid-air, it looks very much like Springer was back riding a bucking rodeo bull rather than trying to set a hook into a bass. But this 'almost comical' scene is typical of experienced jig anglers as they try to connect to the milli-second bass-bites. "Shucks, Springer exhales as he frowningly inspects his jig-hook, "I shoulda' had that critter fer sure, he complains!! "Yep, I'm afraid that was the one we were looking for, Soisson probed deeper to enhance Springer's pain. "But sometimes, Springer craw-fishes, "even when you seem to do everything right you can still have everything go wrong, "Ya'know!! "That was a good bass, Springer re-pained as he guess-t-mated the lost fish to have weighed between 6 or 8 pounds.

Inspecting his jig-hook, Springer pried its gap out wider in hopes of getting a better hook-bite on the next bass. "Sometimes the bass, especially the larger ones, Springer advises, "will just clamp down HARD on the jig-head as it tries to crush the critter before inhaling and eating it. "And if you don't have enough of your hook inside its mouth when this happens you just wont able to set the hook properly. "And that's what happened with that one, Springer grumbles, as he flipped his adjusted jig back for another chance.

"Yep, over there, Soisson points as he gives directions for Springer to turn the boat, "that's where Pete Shivers told us to go, "stumps eight foot apart, then fifty yards in to a grass-hump that should be next to a cactus-shaped stump. "Yep, looks pretty good too, Springer appraised as he eyeballed the depth recorder which displayed a grassy ridge-hump dropping off from 11 foot to 23 foot. "We should get something here "fer-sure, fer-sure", Springer promises, as we Grab flippin' sticks and quickly get back into the grass-punchers cadence of "Wrrr, flip, drop, jiggle, retrieve, "Wrrr, flip, drop, jiggle, retrieve, "Wrrr, flip, drop, jiggle, retrieve, while a Snowy Egret eyeballs us from a cactus shaped stump not far away.

"We'll call this the "Snowy Egret Hole" Soisson notes. "But, what if the Egret fly's off, I ask the obvious? "Then it'll become the "Bye, Bye, Birdy" hole, chuckles Springer. "Wrrr, flip, drop, jiggle, reel, "Wrrr, flip, drop, jiggle, reel, "Wrrr, flip, drop, jiggle!!!!!!?

"THWIP". "Gottem!! Grabbing for my camera I position just in time to image Springer landing his milli-second bass-bite, as another "Typical" chunky grass-bass comes to boat. "Not anywhere near being the lunker that he had lost earlier, it is however a nice bass of about three -plus- pounds. Releasing the bass after pictures, both guides began retrieving gear and strapping down their rods for heading back in.

"Hey, watchadoing? I ask in surprise as my adrenalin is still pumping for another fish-pix! "Whelp, pressangler, Springer advises to my nickname, "You've got enough pictures for your story-line, and as I've got another fishing party coming in at High-Noon, I want to save this active fishing area for them..."Besides, look behind you at those thunder storm clouds..."Uh, "ok!! .....(trips over)

Located on the east side of the Dam, on Hwy 255, Needmore Tackle can be accessed within Piney Point Plaza next to the Stump Restaurant. A quick phone call to (409)-698-9430- will put you in touch with everything that you'll ever need to fish Lake Sam Rayburn with, which includes the Needmore Tackle Guide service that is now booking trips to the "Bye, Bye, Birdy" hole for some "Ice Fishing-Southern Style". For internet access click to www.fishingworld.com/needmoretackle -or- just e-mail to <needmore@jas.net>


Soisson -L- and Springer prepare to "Wrr, flip, drop, jiggle, retreive

Ex Bullrider, Scott Springer with "milli-second" grass-bite
< photos by Ed Snyder >

Soisson launching his "Ranger Class" bass-rig for some "Ice Fishing-Southern Style

Scott Soisson with nice grass-bass

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