Flipping and pitching for bass
How to target largemouth in heavy cover and shallow water
Flipping and pitching are two of the most popular techniques on the pro bass tournament circuit, and for good reason—there are simply no better ways to target big largemouth bass in heavy cover and shallow water. Even if you never plan to enter a competitive angling event, you should know how to flip and pitch for bass. Otherwise, you may as well be fishing with one hand tied behind your back when it comes to lurking largemouths.
How to flip
Flipping is used when you’re tight in on your target zone, so you’re usually fishing with less than a dozen feet of line. Holding your rod vertically, hit the free-spool button on the baitcasting reel and let the bait drop so it’s hanging just above the reel. With your free hand, grab the line where it exits the spool and stretch your arm to the side to strip out a few more feet of line. Now lower the rod tip so the bait swings forward. When the bait passes the rod tip, let the stripped line slip through your hand as you raise the rod tip, lobbing the bait. Lower the tip again to guide the bait into the desired nook or cranny, such as lily pads, matted vegetation, submerged tree branches or the pilings anchoring a dock. Pull the line out to the side again to bring the bait back to the rod, then flip again as necessary.
How to pitch
Pitching comes into play when you want to keep more distance between your boat and the cover you’re targeting. To pitch, hold the bait in one hand while you hit the free-spool button with the other. Then swing your bait away from you in an underhand motion, while letting go of the lure and thumbing the spool. The bait should glide to the intended target inches above the water and land gently. To any bass tucked up beneath the cover, your bait will look, sound and feel like a small critter falling into the water.
What to use
With flipping and pitching, your tackle has nothing to do with the size of the fish you expect to catch and everything to do with where you intend to catch them—and that’s in the snarliest, gnarliest, nastiest cover you can find. With that in mind, you’re going to need a stout medium-heavy- or heavy-action 7'2" to 7'10" baitcasting rod. And the reel should be spooled with 20- to 25-pound-test fluorocarbon or 50- to 65-pound-test braid, even when the biggest bass only weighs three to five pounds. Why the heavy-gauge gear? Once you hook a bass, you need to control it, get it up to the surface and into the boat as fast as possible. With anything less than stout gear, you’re taking a knife to a gun fight.
What to throw
Because they’re typically flipping and pitching into underwater jungles, most anglers stick with two lure styles: a compact, bullet-shaped tungsten sinker pegged to the line using a bobber stop (above left), or a silicone-skirted jig with a weed guard (above right). As for sizes, a 3/8-ounce bait is considered light, with most flippers and pitchers relying on a range of jigs and sinkers weighing between ½ and 1½ ounces. Texas-rigged soft-plastic crayfish, creature baits and tubes are tried-and-true trailers. As for colours, I’ve been fortunate to fish with some of the greatest flippers and pitchers of all time and two colour schemes prevail: black-and-blue and green pumpkin.
For these techniques, the best bassers always use snell knots to tie the heavy 3/0 to 6/0 hooks to their lines. This isn’t just for the knot’s strength, as you might first suspect, but also because the line pressure causes the hook to kick out at a 45-degree angle, making for superb hooksets. And don’t doubt it—you’re going to be setting plenty of hooks this summer when you add flipping and pitching to your bag of bass tricks.
To see the technique in action, watch master angler Denny Brauer flip and pitch below.