Bass fishing flats, now you’ve got an exciting journey ahead of you. Let me be your guide. Today, we’re going to explore a popular and productive structure that has the potential to transform your bass fishing game — the flats.
What is a Flat?
A flat, in bass fishing terms, is a broad, expansive area in a lake, pond, or reservoir that has a consistent and relatively shallow depth. Picture a wide underwater plateau, the aquatic equivalent of the vast grasslands of the savanna, but beneath the water’s surface. Bass, both largemouth and smallmouth, are known to flock to flats during different times of the year.
Types and Variations
While all flats share this broad, shallow characteristic, they are not all created equal. Some flats are devoid of structure, presenting as bare expanses of sand or mud, while others are richly populated with weed beds, stumps, and even cypress trees. These vegetation flats and structure flats are the most attractive to bass as they provide both food and cover.
The differences in flats can greatly influence their attractiveness to bass. That patch of weeds on a flat could be a hotbed for insects and smaller fish, drawing bass in like a dinner bell. Likewise, a stumpy flat might offer that perfect hiding spot for a bass waiting in ambush.
Unique Features and Characteristics
The defining characteristic of flats is their expansiveness, which can make fishing them a little intimidating. You’ve got so much water and so little time! Another notable feature of flats is the uniformity of depth. You won’t find sharp drop-offs or underwater mountains here; it’s a plateau all the way.
Time of the Year to Fish
Fishing flats can be rewarding year-round, but it’s particularly productive during the summer months. When the sun is high and the wind stays flat, or is very light and variable, bass often pull up onto a flat and bury themselves in the thickest, nastiest vegetation available. The fall is another prime time when bass school up on flats to feed on baitfish.
Best Time of the Day
Flats are typically best fished in the early morning and late afternoon when bass are most active. On cloudy, windy days, you might find bass prowling the weed edges even in the middle of the day.
Largemouth Bass & Flats: 6 Pro Tips
- Master the Flipping and Pitching Technique: Flipping and pitching is a bass fishing staple and it works like magic in flats, where largemouth love to lurk. Practice this technique to present your lure into the tight spots without alarming the fish. Just remember to do it smoothly.
- Know the Habitat: Largemouth bass are ambush predators and they love the cover. A flat filled with submerged logs, rock piles, and vegetation is a prime spot. For example, in a grassy flat, use a frog lure to create the illusion of a small creature hopping on the surface.
- Use Weedless Lures: You don’t want your lure to get stuck in thick weeds. Therefore, choose your weapon wisely. Soft plastic lures, like a Texas-rigged worm, are perfect for breezing through the vegetation without a snag.
- Be the Early Bird: Bass are most active during the twilight hours. So, capitalize on their feeding pattern and hit the water early morning or late afternoon. As we say, “the early angler catches the bass.”
- Try Different Retrieves: Varying your retrieve can trigger a strike. Don’t just reel in; try a stop and go or a twitching retrieve. Pay close attention to the lure’s action and the bass’s response.
- Go Big on Baits: Largemouth bass aren’t called “largemouth” for no reason. These guys aren’t afraid to go after big prey, so don’t shy away from using large lures. A swimbait that mimics a juicy shad, for instance, could be irresistible for a lurking lunker.
Smallmouth Bass & Flats: 6 Game-changing Moves
- Cover More Water: Smallmouth bass are known roamers, so fan casting is a crucial technique. Fan casting helps you to cover a wider area on a flat.
- Jerkbaits are your Best Bet: Jerkbaits can imitate a variety of injured baitfish, a favorite snack of smallmouth bass. They create a side-to-side motion that smallmouths can’t resist. Remember to retrieve with a twitch-twitch-pause motion to mimic an injured baitfish’s erratic movement.
- Be the Finesse Angler: Lighter lines and smaller baits work great for smallmouths. For instance, a drop shot with a finesse worm or minnow-style bait can be extremely effective, especially in clear water conditions.
- Take Advantage of the Seasons: Spring and fall are prime times to target smallmouth bass on flats. During these seasons, smallmouth bass often move to shallow waters in search of food, making flats an ideal spot.
- Look for Signs of Activity: Watch the water for any signs of baitfish activity. Breaking water, birds diving, or even slight ripples can be indicators of a feeding frenzy. Smallmouth bass are likely nearby.
- Experiment with Colors: Smallmouth bass can be particularly responsive to different colors. Don’t be afraid to switch up your bait colors, you might find that a chartreuse or pumpkin-colored lure could be the ticket on a given day.
Springtime brings bass closer to the shallows for spawning, making the flats a prime real estate. These fish are hungry and ready to strike, but you’ve got to know how to get their attention. Now, to master the spring flats, there are a couple of things you should have in mind.
Awareness is Key: Watch out for signs of bass activity. Spawning beds, disturbed sediment, or even bass chasing baitfish in the shallows can be giveaways. For example, if you spot a bunch of bluegills frantically skimming the surface, chances are, there’s a bass prowling nearby.
Consider Water Clarity: Spring brings varying water conditions. If you’re dealing with clear water, opt for natural, subtle-colored lures. However, in murkier conditions, you might want to switch to something brighter and more visible.
Alright, so you’re on a flat, ready to cast. But what’s on the end of your line? Here are some proven springtime bass slayers:
- Spinnerbaits: These are a favorite for many anglers due to their versatility and ability to cover water quickly. Slow-rolling a spinnerbait parallel to the grass line, especially in windy conditions or stained water. – it can be deadly in spring.
- Jerkbaits: Jerkbaits erratic motion mimics injured baitfish, a tempting meal for any self-respecting bass. Remember to use a twitch-twitch-pause retrieve for the best results.
- Crankbaits: Squarebill crankbaits in particular are great for fishing flats. They bounce off cover and create a lifelike swimming action. Toss one around some submerged timber or rocks and get ready for a fight.
- Soft Plastics: From Senkos to flukes, soft plastics can be a big hit. Rigged weedless, they are perfect for navigating through thick cover where bass might be lurking.
- Jigs: Few lures are as effective at imitating a crawfish—a favorite snack of bass—as a good flipping jig. Bounce one off the bottom and watch as bass pounce on it.
- Topwater Lures: As temperatures rise later in the spring, bass will often feed on the surface. Lures like poppers or frogs can be dynamite during this period.
As the sun blazes, bass behavior changes and so must our approach to hauling them in. Let’s dive into some strategies and tips that will keep your line tight all summer long!
Summer Bass Behavior on Flats: During summer, bass are often more scattered, patrolling the edges of flats during cooler morning and evening hours. As the day heats up, they tend to retreat to deeper, cooler water or find shade under cover like lily pads or dock structures.
Awareness is Essential: Stay alert for signs of feeding bass, like baitfish activity or birds diving. It’s not just about seeing bass, but “reading” the water and recognizing the signs of a nearby predator.
Play the Shadow Game: Bass use shadows for cooling down and ambushing prey. Casting into shadows cast by overhanging trees or docks can yield surprising results.
Alright, you’ve found a promising flat, and you’re primed to cast. But what’s your weapon of choice? Here are a handful of summertime bass busters:
- Frogs: Perfect for fishing over heavy vegetation are frogs and toads. Remember to let the ripples dissipate after the frog hits the water before starting your retrieve. Bass will often hit it while it’s stationary!
- Jigs: A football jig is your friend in summer, especially on rocky flats. It imitates a crawfish and can trigger strikes from even the most lethargic bass.
- Plastic Worms: Rigged Texas-style or as a drop shot, these can be killers on summer bass. Worms in darker colors often work best in clear water, while brighter ones shine in murkier conditions.
- Poppers: During early morning and late evening, when bass are more active, poppers can trigger explosive surface strikes.
- Spinnerbaits: Spinnerbaits can cover a lot of water fast and are ideal when bass are feeding actively. Use a steady retrieve, or add some twitching to imitate an injured baitfish.
- Punching and Flipping: Bass love to seek out shady spots under thick mats of vegetation on flats during the hotter parts of the day. It’s time to bring out your punching gear! Using a heavy tungsten weight, rig up a creature bait, and punch it through the mat. This unexpected intrusion can often provoke a strike from a lurking bass.
- Lipless Crankbaits: When its early summer when bass are feasting in the shallows you gotta try a lipless crankbait! Try a ‘yo-yo’ technique: Cast it out, let it sink to the bottom, then jerk your rod tip up to make it dart off the bottom, then let it fall back down. This mimics a wounded baitfish and can often trigger an aggressive response.
- Deep-Diving Crankbaits: When the flats’ edges dip into deeper water, deep diving crankbaits come into play. Keep a steady retrieve so they dive to the right depth, bumping the bottom and imitating a foraging baitfish.
- Shallow Crankbaits: In the early morning or late evening, try tossing a shallow-running crankbait. Retrieve it with an erratic stop-and-go action to mimic a fleeing or injured baitfish. This can really get a bass’s attention and trigger an aggressive strike.
- Topwater Lures: On calm, hot summer nights, working a topwater lure or buzzbait with a slow, steady retrieve can tempt bass to break the surface in an explosive strike. Nothing gets the adrenaline pumping like a bass exploding on a topwater lure in the dark!
Additional summer tips…
Don’t Forget About Dusk: As the sun sets and the water begins to cool, bass will often move up from deeper water to hunt in the shallows. This is a great time to target flats with moving baits like spinnerbaits or chatterbaits.
Watch the Weather: Bass on flats can be very responsive to changes in the weather. A sudden summer rain can break the surface tension and oxygenate the water, often triggering a feeding frenzy. Keep a rain jacket in your tackle bag, because this can be an incredible opportunity to catch bass.
Fall & Winter Strategies
You might think flats are devoid of bass action during these periods, but they’re actually just a new challenge that can be quite rewarding if you approach them with the right strategies.
First off, you gotta keep in mind that water temperature is crucial during these seasons. As temperatures drop, bass become less active and their metabolism slows down. But don’t let this discourage you; bass still gotta eat, and if you can offer them an easy meal, you’ll get bites.
- Slow Your Roll: Slow presentations are your best bet during the colder months. A jig can be deadly effective when presented correctly. Work a finesse jig or a football jig slowly along the bottom and around any structure. Remember, bass aren’t as willing to chase down prey when it’s cold, so you need to make it easy for them.
- Lipless Crankbaits: Lipless crankbaits are a staple for fall bass fishing. They can be especially useful on flats with scattered grass. Try a steady retrieve or a “yo-yo” retrieve – letting it sink and then reeling it up quickly. The vibration and flash can trigger aggressive strikes from otherwise lethargic bass.
- Blade Baits: Similar to a lipless crankbait, blade baits like the Silver Buddy can be extremely effective in colder water. Use a lift-fall retrieve to mimic a dying baitfish – a prime target for an easy meal.
- Suspending Jerkbaits: Suspending jerkbaits hang motionless in the water during pauses in the retrieve, which can drive winter bass wild. Make a long cast, crank it down, and then let it sit. The longer you can stand to let it pause, the better.
- Finesse Tactics: A drop-shot rig with a small finesse worm can be a great way to tempt sluggish bass. This presentation can be fished slowly and methodically, allowing the bait to remain in the strike zone for an extended period of time.
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