FLW pro Joe Holland pitches a crawfish bait and layered skirt to a laydown along a Lake Toho canal.

Pitching is an essential skill for effectively fishing shallow cover. The technique allows you to deliver a bait to a specific spot smoothly and accurately.

Pitching is done with a disengaged reel. As with flipping, pointing the rodtip low and then thrusting it forward establishes momentum and trajectory; except with pitching, the bait travels farther on the open reel.

Now, here’s where Elite Bassmaster pro Randall Tharp makes a key distinction. Pitching anglers often palm the bait while dipping the rodtip. A common misconception says that this grip is intended to lightly load the rod, but Tharp said that’s simply not the case.

“The advantage of holding that bait in my hand is that it remains very still and I’m able to make a super accurate cast,” he said.

When fishing fast and covering water, Tharp shifts to a free-swinging pitch where he forgoes palming the bait and uses a sharp forward swing to propel the bait. He’s willing to sacrifice a certain degree of precision in exchange for a peppier pace.

TARGETS

Throughout the year FLW Tour pro Joe Holland pitches to a variety of lake vegetation with dense weed mats and hyacinth rafts meriting particular attention. He’s also keen to give any laydown he finds a thorough pitch treatment.

WHAT TO THROW

Think jigs and Texas rigs (worms, lizards, creature baits). Weedless creature baits traverse just about any cover. In heavy cover, your best bet is a big weight (1 to 2 ounces) a stout 4/0 or 5/0 hook, a streamlined “beaver” style bait and a punch skirt.

In addition to helping baits slide through cover, punch skirts also add bulk to give your Texas rig more of a jig-like profile. Matching skirt and bait colors isn’t wrong, but don’t hesitate to add contrasting or complementary colors like a green pumpkin skirt atop a black/blue bait for a bass-temping bluegill ruse. When bites are tough, Holland often stacks two or three punch skirts for some next-level forage mimicry.

“I’ll leave the top skirt the longest and the one under it I’ll cut shorter,” Holland said. “If I use three skirts, I’ll cut the next one even shorter.”

When the bait falls, fish see the outer skirt color, which is usually more of a subdued natural tone like green pumpkin. When the bait hits bottom and flares, the more vivid under-skirting presents a flash of a color like a baitfish flaring its gills or a crawfish in defensive posture showing the undersides of its claws.

“If we’re in the bluegill spawn, I’ll use a blue skirt with a white and a chartreuse under skirt,” Holland said. “When that thing stops and flares, it really looks like a bluegill making a bed or eating.” FS

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