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Finesse the Pads

By Will Claunch

Lily pads make great sunshades for late-summer largemouth, but they are difficult to fish without snagging. One solution that works very well is casting small, weedless-rigged soft plastics along the outer edges of shoreline pads.

We put the tactic to work recently on the pad-lined canals of western Broward County, out of Everglades Holiday Park.

Editor Jeff Weakley and I hopped aboard Capt. Al Sherman's bayboat and set a lofty goal for the three of us: 100 bass during a half day of fishing. As we reached our first spot and dropped off a plane, there was life all around, from spotted gar to alligators, and we quickly began to rig up.

Sherman, South Region Field Editor for this magazine, explained that bass are very size-selective in summer, favoring mostly small lures in the Glades canals. I rigged a 3-inch splittail worm Texas-style but without a weight. This would allow the bait to walk through cover without snagging and to tantalizingly hover when stopped in open patches. The bait was a new model in the Berkley Havoc series, a pumpkinseed “Deuce.”

That splittail worm proved to be the hot bait of the day. Sherman also picked up a good number of fish on a Rapala Original Floating Minnow in silver with black back, size 07. Because the water in the Everglades is a darker, tannic color, lures such as black and pumpkinseed provide a more vivid silhouette, appear more natural, and often attract the most strikes. That proved to be the case on our trip.

Seven-foot medium-action spinning rods were light enough to accurately throw these little baits, yet had enough backbone to pull bass out of their lily pad hideouts. Ten-pound braided line with a 20-pound-test leader was sensitive enough to feel even the slightest taps, but had enough muscle to wrestle bigger bass from the deepest part of the pads.

After sunup, the bass pushed deep into the vegetation to seek shade and slightly more comfortable water. Although we caught a good number along the edges of the pads, pitching the weedless soft plastic into pockets and edges of the lily pads was the most effective pattern. Using the trolling motor to quietly move down the canal, we searched for areas where lily pads met another type of structure, such as a fallen tree or submerged rocks. Cover such as this provides an ideal location for lazy bass to hide and ambush prey. Areas of the canal with a creek or another canal intersecting also created hot spots where we often doubled-up on fish and were able to catch good numbers before moving on.

We covered a good amount of water using the trolling motor at a slow pace while thoroughly picking apart anywhere there was a pocket, edge or inconsistency in the lily pads. As the day got hotter, we slowed our presentations, slowly crawling the baits through the pads, often stopping and letting them sink with small twitches. We didn't quite make our goal of 100 bass, but at somewhere around 30 fish, we decided to call it a good day.

First Published Florida Sportsman Aug. 2011

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