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Embrace the scum of summer and catch big bass in dense vegetation.
La gemou Largemout ass love to Largemouth bass love to ar e ut ass s lu lur lurk under the lily pads and ur de de he il ads an il ads ly d crush unsuspect ng crush unsuspect ng prey crush unsuspecting prey ru n uspect s c tha nt tha nters their domain that enters their domain. h te the domai h omain
-pho o -photo by Andy Nabreski photo pho pho h An y abreski abreski abreski br bre k
pag ag On he ater pa On The Water page 48
BY ALFONSO K. AJELLO
ishing was picking up at my lunchtime pond. I had caught two bass bass per day the last couple of days – though it was nothing to ast couple days hough othing write home about, anything I caught during my lunch hour was a bonus. I was anxious to see if I could make it three good days in a row.
On my way, I passed a man and hi son. I breath, relax a li le, and maintain my sanity on d d his h l littl d i i i watched the little boy pull in a sunny that was gorgeous summer days when I’d rather be ﬁshso small it would ﬁt in a ﬁsh bowl. Finally, I ing than behind a computer. One of the ponds I got to the spot I wanted to target and had it all frequent sits below a residential community in to myself. The entire area was weeded over by a park with a soccer ﬁeld and as early as April, lf i d d k ih ld, d l il greenish-brown scum that extended bank to the fertilizer runoff causes proliﬁc weed growth bank. I noticed a fan pattern across the scum. I and unfettered algae blooms. wondered if somebody had beat me to the spot I noticed that as my lunchtime ﬁshing hole and employed and employed the same tactic or if the trails became overrun by wall-to-wall weeds, all the ame tactic, the trails became verrun wall-to-wall eeds all the were mine from the day before. other ﬁshermen disappeared, cursing in frustraI took my ﬁrst cast, straight out to the middle tion and leaving in disgust as their spinners, of the giant mat of scum. I retrieved my Scum crankbaits and spoons all came up draped in Frog, hopp g it past the occasional ﬂoating green. By mid-June I had the entire place to myg pping g g y p y fast-food container, soda can, spring water self. Rather than give up, I continued pitching bottle and abandoned bobber. I made my second my wacky-rigged Senko worms into any patch cast to the left, parallel to the shore, across the of open water I could ﬁnd. As I dragged my bait face of some shrubs and an over-hanging tree. over the solid islands of bubbling scum, I was My lure landed about 6 yards away from where surprised by perky bass that would swipe at my the guy was ﬁshing with his son. I took one turn lure, sometimes just before I pulled it out of the of the reel and WHAM! Something took my water. I began to experiment with the wackyfrog and went berserk in the knee-deep scum! rigged Senko, dragging it over the thick carpets Whatever it was, it was big, but the size of the of vegetation. Bass were coming through the ﬁsh was masked by the globs of vegetation, I scum and attacking it, many times grabbing backed away from the bank to keep pressure the bait and tearing it right off the hook. I was on the ﬁsh. At times during the ﬁght, I wondered wondered if I still had a ﬁsh on. When I still had hen ﬁnally landed it, all I could see was a mass These plastic frogs are virtually snagless. They of vines and black mud – and then I saw cast well, and work well in very heavy cover. the ﬂop of the tail. When I ﬁnally picked through the vegetation through the vegetation and silt, and lifted the bass up, I was speechless. p I didn’t have a scale or a ruler, but the guy who was fishing with his son stood in amazement. Original Scum Frog g g “That’s between 5 and 7 pounds,” he said. e The huge mouth was ﬁlled with blobs o of weeds. I did my best to measure the length of the ﬁsh against my ﬁshing rod. The father took a picture with his cell phone, but then complained that Koppers Live a he wasn’t sure if his phone was work rking. The Target Frog little boy asked me if he could keep the ﬁsh. p I explained that this was a “big breeder” and e must be released. To this day, when I go back t to that spot, I look for that guy, hoping that he ﬁgured out his phone and could e-mail me that picture.
Thi ice bass crushe Th This nice bass crushed a Scum Frog hi ice c crushe r h Scum Fr Scum Fro ro wo ke worked slowl worked slowly on top of the lily pads. In or ed owl w op of the lily pads. In th lily pad he a th the middl of he day as will see ut the middle of the day, bass will seek out he ddl d dle day ass a ss se ee th hade ea the shade created by dense vegetation. the shade created by dense vegetation. he ade d at dense ve etatio en eg t i
Hollow-Bodied Frogs l B d d
Lea the light ck Leave the light tackl Leave the light tackle at home for this eav h gh e ht kle kl ome ome fo his m his i typ typ type of ﬁshing. You’ll need heavy braided y shing ou’ nee eav ra de sh ng ou’ll nee eav raided ng u eed a e ai ed lin lin nd line and a powerful rod to rip big bass i owerfu od ow rfu rod to rip bi ass we f ful rip as ss out the eed out of th weeds. out of the weeds. u eed e
Introduction to Scum
I’m lucky enough to have a couple of ponds within 5 minutes of my 9-to-5 job – I call them my lunchtime ponds. Though it doesn’t sound like much, that 40 minutes spent by the water on my lunch hour is valuable to me. I use it to experiment with different tactics, try out new lures, hone my skills, take a deep
Spro Bronzeye Frog
TrueTungsten Mad Maxx
Augus August 2012 pag 49 Augus t 20 12 page 49 u st pag a
drawing strikes, but for the most part, I was losing baits and not catching anything but weeds. I surmised that the Senko was just not suitable for these conditions. Later that spring, a friend returned from a vacation in Florida and presented me with a souvenir – a pack of six black-andwhite Zoom Horny Toads. I must have looked at it as if it was a bag of tiny aliens. “Do you like them? Will you use them?” my friend asked. “Um, yea yea yea,” I answered. I jumped on the computer and, as I often do, checked the customer reviews of the product on the website of a couple of the nation’s most popular sporting goods stores for an instant education. As it turns out, my friend had presented me the perfect bait for my scummy lunchtime pond. I pieced together the advice I came across in the customer reviews, but I couldn’t wait until lunchtime the next day. I headed out
with my Horny Toads before work the next morning to a local weeded-over ﬁshing hole. To my surprise, the toads actually worked much better than I expected. Bass just launched themselves at the baits – explosive top-water strikes – what could be better? A whole new tactic I never knew existed was opened up to me, and a structure that I had once found intimidating and discouraging was now welcomed.
As bass ﬁshermen we become accustomed to looking for structure, fallen trees, boulders, weed lines, drop-offs and more. One of the things I had to learn was to unlearn my notions as to where bass hang out when dense carpets of scum are present. Whenever I try to ﬁgure out the riddle of a new ﬁshing spot, my thought process goes underwater. I wonder what the ﬁsh might be experiencing. Think of high noon on a blistering summer day. Instinctively, I look to get out of the sun, to stand under a tree where I’m in the shade and cool. Bass do the same. But, the underwater world is very different than what I’m experiencing as I ﬁsh from the shore. I see a body of water baking in the sun, but when a body of water is overcome by scum, it is as if there is a giant umbrella hovering over the bass’s habitat, creating what I call “all day dusk” in the underwater environment. At times like midday, when it is bright and sunny
Scum Froggin’ Rods
For ﬁshing frog baits in dense vegetation, you’ll want a heavy-power, fast-action rod to keep the bait on the surface, get a solid hookset, and drag the bass out of the muck.
• Shimano Crucial Bass Casting Frog • Daiwa Light and Tough Frog Rod • St. Croix Mojo Bass Slop-N-Frog • Quantum EXO EXC747XF
Everything you need for a day of great bass fishing –
a quiet private lake • no large boats • no jet skis • no houses
and oppressively hot, when you expect bass to be hidden in deep, cooler water or languishing in traditional shady spots, they are instead, I believe, quite active in the cool dark world, under the “scum umbrella.” I keep this in mind as I approach a body of water that has scummed over, whether in full or partially. Once, during a week-long ﬁshing trip to Black Lake in Upstate New York – where I ﬁshed every waking moment – bass were more active in the early mornings or evenings, leaving shaded areas and venturing out to feed. Therefore, we targeted traditional structure with traditional baits. As the sun got high in the sky and the day heated up, ﬁshing at the traditional structures slowed, and we had success targeting the largely overlooked scummed-over corners and coves. In fact, virtually the entire food chain seemed to concentrate in these areas during the hottest part of the day. I liken the world of a bass in heavy muck to Joe Frazier in the h 14th round of the “Thrilla in Manila,” a grueling boxing match, both men pushing each other to their physical limits. By the 13th, Ali had blinded Frazier. Joe was unable to see his opponent, all he could do was sense that Ali was in the vicinity. He followed the shadows, listening to the footsteps and vibrations on the canvas, trying to discern his targets from cheering fans and ﬂashing camera bulbs. He’d take a stab in the dark, throw a haymaker at where he sensed Ali’s jaw might be, hoping to connect. This is how I picture an opportunistic largemouth bass hunting a frog bait that is being dragged across a dense matt of scum. The bass is stalking a creature that is not in the water, but above it. Therefore, I imagine that under these circumstances, the bass is partially blinded, unable to rely on all of the sensory tools it would normally utilize for hunting.
These baits come unrigged, so you will also need some weedless hooks.
Zoom Horny Toad
Strike King Rage Tail
Stanley Ribbit Frog
Since I obtained my ﬁrst bag of Zoom Horny Toads, I have watched the number of slop baits dramatically increase. In fact, there are so many out there now that it is difﬁcult to keep track. Basically the bait that you will have success with will depend on the type of vegetation and slop that you are ﬁshing. I have come across a variety of aquatic vegetation, from “snot grass” with a jelly-like consistency, to a ﬁne green hair that sticks to everything, to the tentacle-like hydrilla and milfoil. Even more important than the vegetation type is how it relates to the surface and the availability of open water. How “dry” are the weeds – do the weeds ﬂoat on top of the water’s surface, or are they partially submerged? Do the weeds
go wall to wall, or does the scum appear more like islands in open water? Is the scum mixed in with leafy vegetation such as lilies or water chestnuts, and are the lilies as big as dinner plates or as small as quarters? As you address the conditions and select a bait, keep in mind that bass are opportunistic feeders that will strike at anything that they suspect might be food. Therefore, when you choose a bait, you should select the one that is easiest for the bass to detect and locate. At the same time, you must use the scum as your ally and pick a lure that looks the most life-like in the conditions.
A hollow-bodied frog consists of a hollow plastic body fashioned to look like a frog, mouse or bird, rigged on a double hook in a way that makes it virtually snagless. The key to these baits is their buoyancy, which helps them cruise over the surface of most obstacles they encounter. Hollow-bodied frogs usually have tassels rather than feet, but some of them include paddle feet. Out of the package, the tassels are a bit long, so you may want to trim
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On The Water page 50
¼- to ½-inch off them. I usually leave a few threads at full length because I think it makes them look more like frog feet. In addition, some of the hollow-bodied frogs come equipped with rattles and built-in drains that expel water and keep the bait sitting on top of the water. A bait that has earned its way into my “go-to” category is the Original Scum Frog made by Southern Lure Company. The Scum Frog is a stroke of genius in its simplicity and design. It’s rigged like a little boat, and if you twitch it just the right way during the retrieve over mats of scum, you can get it to perfectly emulate the hopping of a frog. It casts well, has strong hooks, and has not rusted on me yet. Plus, it is durable enough to take slashings from vicious northern pike and still retain its effectiveness. The Scum Frog glides easily over rafts of ﬂoating vegetation – when it’s like a cement patio of bubbling green that looks like you can walk on it. However, the Scum Frog does have its limitations. If there are breaks in the scum with large patches of open water, or when there are sporadic lily pads present, the original Scum Frog is not as effective. The Scum Frog does not “walk-the-dog” well in open water, and the lilies act as ramps that send the Scum Frog airborne, often ﬂipping over. Hollowbodied frogs like the Spro Dean Rojas Bronzeye Frog or the Tru-Tungsten Mad Max are more effective if there are areas of open water or lily pads present.
when using a single extra-wide-gap hook. The majority of buzz frogs sink, and this can be problematic in ﬂoating mats of weeds. You will have to bring the lure to the surface by reeling quickly and keeping the rod tip way up. If you don’t, the bait will submarine and dredge up weeds. Toad baits also catch frogs! I’ve had bullfrogs chase these lures, grab the paddle foot and hold on for dear life.
These unique soft-plastic baits include the Strike King Rage Tail Shad and the Lunker City Salad Spoon. The best way to describe them is that they are a cross between a curly-tail grub and a toad. They possess a body that is designed to plane across the surface while a single curly tail creates a disturbance. These baits excel in situations when the weeds are sporadic, partially submerged, or barely tickling the surface. Under these conditions, the action of the tail is most pronounced. If you are ﬁshing near scum islands, you can work the swimming spoon over the top, or cast to open water beside the island, allowing the lure to sink and working it past the submerged structure. The Rage Tail Shad creates a large disturbance, while the Lunker City Salad Spoon is the more subtle bait. The Rage Tail Shad’s tail is more rigid and more compact. Therefore it takes more drag from open water to make it produce sound. Because of this, The Rage Tail Shad is not effective over dense, ﬂoating mats of scum. The Salad Spoon has a tail that is longer and more supple, and it needs less drag from water to produce sound and vibration. Therefore, it is the more effe effective bait over heavy, dry mats of scum as the tail will drag behind s the bait and undu ulate. Both are terriﬁc baits that I rely on all season.
Buzz Frogs, or toads, are frog-shaped softplastic baits that have paddle feet and are designed to create disturbance and bance vibration on the surface. They are h meant to be dragged over and r through mats of scum. They make a racket similar to that of a Jitterbug or a buzzbait b when dragged through debris r One of the mo challenging aspects of ost or across the surface. I have v ﬁshing in heav scum is getting a good vy used many different one s e hookset. Reme ember that the bass is parand have had success with t tially blinded by the conditions, so be the Strike King Rage Tail prepared for a fair amount of hits and Toad, Stanley Ribbit Frog, g misses from the bass you are hunting. t Yum BuzzFrog and the Zoom o To help impr rove your hook-up ratio, Horny Toad. The Z-Man Popwhen the strike occurs, stop reeling Frogz have a cupped mouth and t remain calm. Resist setting the hook paddle feet, and also ﬂoat! right away, but don’t “bow to t Toad baits do not come pre-rigged. th cow” and count to ﬁve he You can rig them on a quality size 4 a e either. You must strike a or 5 extra-wide-gap offset hook, or you middle ground. Drop the can use tandem frog hooks designed k rod tip toward the striking speciﬁcally for soft-plastic frogs. When ﬁsh, keep a tight line, and rigging, it helps to “keel” the frog, w when you feel the weight of or fold it down the middle so the e the ﬁsh, set the hook. Most of e belly is slightly distended. This the time you will be rewarded l with a ﬁsh, but many times you ensures that the lure will ride on the water like a boat, end up with nothing but a weedu s cove bait. ered upright. I’ve had problems with these baits spinning in the O n some of the hollowLunker City water if not hooked dead center bodied frogs, the hooks are rather
Setting The Hook T
One thing that scum bassin’ will test, other than your tackle and your knowledge of aquatic vegetation, is your patience. In short, depending on the type of vegetation you are up against, you may have to clear your baits of weeds and scum after almost every cast. You will be Go Heavy or Don’t getting your hands dirty, so bring Go At All a rag with you or wear a T-shirt If you plan to ﬁsh heavy slop, you don’t care about. In addition, your 6-foot, 6-inch mediumunderstand that you may be weight bass rod will not be startled repeatedly by misses enough. Fishing around, over by aggressive ﬁsh, and false and through muck, slop and hits by, of all things, bullfrogs. vegetation requires heavy With all the effects that detackle. I use a heavy, fastvelopment has on our ponds action, 7-foot rod rated for 15and lakes, including overto 20-pound-test line and lures nutriﬁcation and the infrom 3/8 to 2 ounces. I match the troduction of invasive rod with a spinning reel that has vegetation, learning a quality drag system like the how to successfully ﬁsh Shimano Spheros 4000 for the scum has become my slop ﬁshing. a necessary evil in urSometimes, depending ban and suburban areas on the conditions, I will throughout the Northeast. downsize my outfit to a So when you approach a pond 7-foot medium inshore rod with in mid-summer that is scummed Strike King Rage a 3000-size Team Daiwa Tierra over, don’t get intimidated, and Tail Shad spinning reel. This set-up works don’t give up and walk away. great when the vegetation is more sporadic The bass are out there, and they are huntand there are opportunities to ﬁsh patches of ing. Break out your heavy gear and your open water. However, I have found myself frog imitations and have some fun in the under gunned with the lighter setup. As an scum. added bonus, both of these setups can pull double duty for light saltwater applications. Braided line is not an option for this type of ﬁshing – it is a necessity. I go with 30-pound test. Braided line does not stretch, and this characteristic is critical for quality hook-sets. It will also help you keep pressure on the ﬁsh during the battle. Keep in mind, when a hookup occurs, the bass will grab the bait, along with the muck, and head down below the ﬂoating weeds. You will then have to not only contend with the ﬁsh but the muck that gets dredged by your line. It is not uncommon to have a softball-size glob of weeds preceding any ﬁsh that you catch. Braided ﬁshing lines will help cut through some of the weeds. I generally keep my drag tightened so that I can keep in touch with the ﬁsh through all those weeds. I ﬁnd it very difﬁcult to ﬁsh this way without a leader. The last few inches of line take a terriﬁc beating as it is dredged though the vegetation by an angry ﬁsh. I generally start out with a 20-pound-test monoﬁlament leader that is about 8 to 12 inches long, with a clip for the lure and smallest swivel possible to attach the leader to the main line. Depending on the vegetation, the swivel and clip may become magnets for debris. I eliminate the clip ﬁrst if this is the case, but I keep the leader and tie the lure to it. I have noticed that a shorter leader helps to keep your line from drooping and keeps contact with the surface vegetation to a minimum.
tight in the bait’s body, requiring that the bass completely crush the body of the frog in order to expose the hook. Because of this, the hook might not ﬁnd the jaw of the ﬁsh. On some days, it may be necessary to bend out the hooks slightly from the body of the lure to get better hooksets.
August 2012 page 51
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