Sat12202014

Last updateWed, 27 Dec 2017 12am

   201412metrocast

To use weight or not use weight—that is the question

 

OK, so I used a pretty lame twist on an otherwise well known and well written line of Shakespeare. But, the question is valid and the results of how you answer can be quite telling. 

Over the past few years I have done more and more pond fishing and more river bass fishing than I used to do. During those times of fishing I switched from using bullet weights and slip sinkers for bass to using no weight at all on my plastic worms or live bait. 

Before anyone howls about me using live bait for bass, know that I did so in a pond that needed the bass thinned out considerably. Given my lack of time it is much easier to thin the crowd using night crawlers or minnows when you only have an hour or so than it is to play around with plastics. We can debate the issue of using live bait or eating bass at another time. I know there are some tournament bass anglers that are totally against using 

bait for bass, much less creeling any.

I learned an awful lot in those short trips to the pond or river and began applying the lessons to the few times I went out primarily for enjoyment (and eating of course). Many times we assume that some sort of weight is needed to get the bait down quickly to the bottom where the fish are holding. That may or may not be true. 

In a pond environment there is little flow and other than drift of the boat or line due to wind you have untold amounts of time to let your bait settle naturally. The word naturally is the key word here. The more natural the presentation, the more likely the fish are to hit it. That goes for small, large or trophy size fish. 

Fishing conditions vary and going with no weight on a plastic worm may not be easy to do in most circumstances. Once mid-summer hits on the Potomac, the grass beds are thick and you have to have something to punch through it. In a pond the lily pads get awful thick too. However, there are ways around that if you are patient. The answer is to be patient and locate holes to drop your lightweight bait through. Fish hover under the surface of the grass or pads waiting for something to come through or fall in.

When fishing thick lily pads, use a weedless rigged worm, lizard or creature and lob it between pads. That takes accuracy and a long rod in most cases, but the results are well worth it. Last summer I did just that around the edge of a pond in Westmoreland and caught several very nice bass. One was a citation and all were caught on a plastic worm without weight in the late morning on a hot day. If memory serves me correctly the temperature was approaching 90 degrees when I caught the fish. 

So what about river fishing? Certainly you need weight to fish in the current. Not always. When fishing in the river with tidal considerations you have to adapt some, anticipate, and calculate. I try to imagine a fish lying next to a deadfall and suspending, waiting for something to float by. Most worms or lizards that fall into the river don’t sink immediately. They struggle and sink slowly. To mimic that I cast well uptide of the intended cover I want to fish and let my bait drift down and sink slowly. 

It is tougher fishing and requires more accurate casting and boat positioning but again, the results are pretty good. I have pulled fish out of cover that was worked over by other anglers just prior to me who caught nothing. 

Am I a better bass angler? Nope. I just fished it differently. I am stuck with fishing only the top percentage of the water column though.

 On really hot days in a deep pond or reservoir the anglers using weights may come out ahead. Most of the tactics I am describing are for anglers that enjoy natural fishing, have a bit of time to tinker and want to learn something different. Anglers that use bait casting equipment may have a tougher time casting a plastic bait a long distance with no weight. 

Do the described tactics only work on largemouth bass? No, the no-weight tactic works well on any fish from striper to bluegill. Crickets or night crawlers on a wire hook with no weight are tough to cast but with an ultralight rod and reel and thin line they will go out far enough to get the job done. Striped bass can be caught on slow sinking jerkbaits with no weight over a flat or bar just as fast. 

The next time you are in a position where you can try using no weight on your lure or bait give it a try. Be patient and see if you can pull out a few more fish than your partner. 

 

Mark Fike

 

 

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