UPCOMING EVENT: Walmart Bass Fishing League - 2016 - Lake Okeechobee

Breaking down the tule wall

A weedless topwater frog is one of Ish Monroe's favorite lures for fishing dead, matted tules and pockets along tule berms.

They might appear as innumerable masses of swaying stalks, but the tules common to Western fisheries such as Clear Lake and the California Delta present multiple opportunities for bass anglers. Moreover, consistent success requires an awareness of multiple strategies and some knowledge of how to break through the tule wall and into the house of the bass that dwell within. Science of Tules Pronounced "too-lee," this durable plant with round green stems has wispy grass-like leaves bearing clusters of light brown flowers. It joins other sedges in the Cyperaceae family. Newgrowth tules might barely reach a bass boat console, while established populations can tower a dozen feet over the waterline. At any height, tules benefit the fishing scene by filtering water, buffering shorelines, harboring multiple forage species, and offering bass the shelter and feeding opportunities they actively seek. From Clear Lake's sprawling fields of swaying shoreline stalks to the Cal Delta's high "tule berms," the predictably random composition stands ever diverse. Tules sprouting from rocky shorelines or the Delta's abundant riprap levees grow in thick walls, while those rooted in mud along contoured shorelines typically present a more featured profile with lots of pockets, points and drains. The variety of forms taken on by tules requires an equally varied arsenal of tactics and lures. Several top West Coast pros offer their suggestions. Interior Space Tules can form solid edge or be sparcely formed. Space between must be deep enough to stay submerged at low tide. Sean Minderman, who won the 2011 EverStart Series Western Division event on the Cal Delta, spends much of his springtime hunting spawners in areas where thick submerged grass grows adjacent to tule berms. The key to this scenario is finding the grass growing a couple of feet off the tules, rather than directly alongside them. "There are tules on the bank, and then you have weeds," says Minderman, of Spokane, Wash. "You're looking for a space between the two. The males will move into those areas and make the nests, and then the females will move into those areas to feed or spawn." Delta tides demand consideration here. Fish need sufficient depth to inhabit these spots, but too much water makes them hard to see. In Clear Lake, where depth remains relatively constant, anglers find sparse tule fields a welcome spawning-season alternative to the narrow and easily crowded creeks and sloughs. Quietly nose into the outer stalks and look for distinct open spots where bass have sufficient nesting space with quick escape routes to deep water. It's the same scenario, but in slightly different areas. Weightless Yamamoto Senkos, drop-shots and Texas-rigged lizards usually meet with enthusiastic response. Dark Side of the Tule Try to target pockets and indentations on the shady side of tule islands and berms.When targeting tule islands, or any angled shoreline, pro Matt Newman of Agoura Hills, Calif., pays close attention to the orientation of tule pockets and the tules exposed to the sun. Gaps in the vegetation present prime bass lounges, but just like manmade real estate, it's all about location, location, location. He has found that the pockets and indentations darkened by shadows are the hottest locales. "You might look at a line of tules and think it's all the same, but there's always a spot that bass like," Newman says. "In the morning, you might find a consistent bite along one side of the tules, but in the afternoon those areas will slow down because the shadows have shifted. Fish the other side of tule islands and you'll often find that the fish have relocated to the new shadow pockets." Deep Drop Fish slide up into pockets in the tules at high tide and slide off into deep water at low tide.When fishing the deep sloughs and channels networking across the Cal Delta, Alameda, Calif., pro Zack Thompson knows that although his drop-shot might land in 6 inches of water when he casts it next to a tule clump, a plunge of 6 feet or more might be within a worm's length away. These deep banks are good target areas for a tule pattern. Bass will follow high tides right up to the tules and into any gaps within sparse vegetation. Outgoing water finds the fish sliding off the shallow ledges of tule growth and into the adjacent depths. Thompson uses the mud lines on tule stalks to gauge water level and likely fish location - up in the tules at high water and off into the depths at low water. Frog Fancy Western frog pro Ish Monroe might occasionally work his namesake Snag Proof Ish's Phat Frog roughly parallel to the tules, but he expects greater opportunities by casting or pitching his amphibian imposter into specific nooks and notches. These target zones are small, so Monroe maximizes his opportunity with a specific presentation. Snag Proof Ish"I call it walking the dog in place," he says. "You want to make a cast to the pocket and leave the frog in the pocket by working it for a longer period of time. Giving the fish time to find it is what triggers a lot of strikes." Pointing his rod tip at the frog creates slack in the line, so Monroe's rod movements don't advance the frog forward as it "walks." Short twitches create the same nose-up walking appearance as a traditional retrieve, but the frog remains on the fish's radar longer.

Tags: magazine-features 


2014 Buyer’s Guide: Soft plastics

No category of lure is as flexible as soft-plastic lures – both in action and in use. Not only do soft plastics move freely, even when deadsticked, but the range of their use is limited only by the angler’s imagination. READ MORE »


2-D sonar strategies

There was a time when experience almost always trumped equipment when it came to finding fish. If you wanted to be a better fisherman, you got out there on the water and paid your dues. You learned the spots that produced at certain times of the year, and culled the 90 percent of the water that was almost always void of bass. The last decade or so of fish-finding technology has changed the paradigm, however. Now anglers can buy a Lowrance HDS unit, cruise likely looking spots on any lake and literally see bass. READ MORE »


Swim-jigging winter grass lines

You can rip rattle baits through winter grass beds like everyone else, or you can offer bass something different: a swim jig. Veteran bass pro Ron Shuffield says a swim jig is one of his preferred cool-weather lures when bass set up camp on grass-line edges. It’s a lure that can be worked quickly, or dragged more slowly when conditions warrant a change-up. READ MORE »


Hog hunters

A five-fish limit is the first measure of success and job one in a tournament. But it’s how you see that quintet shaping up that sets the tone for your performance. Is it an open audition where anything that measures will do, or do you want five stars that’ll rock any stage? READ MORE »


Never (hardly) ever lose a fish

How many good fish do you lose in a season of fishing, whether it’s in a tournament or just when you’re fishing for the fun of it? If it’s more than you can count on your fingers, perhaps it’s time for some constructive self-criticism. Are the fish at fault, or are you? In case it’s the latter, we offer the following advice, observations and tips from some top pros regarding how to put the odds of landing a fish successfully more in your favor. READ MORE »


X Marks the spot

Two things stand out about winter bass fishing: The fish get a little bit pickier about where they want to be, and anglers don’t want to spend as much time running a bass boat around a frigid lake trying to find them. READ MORE »


Q&A with Andy Morgan

I wouldn’t say it was a perfect season, but it sure worked out. I mean, it was a good year, but not a great year. I was surprised to even have a shot to win after Beaver Lake (he finished 68th). Honestly, it was never even on my mind until someone mentioned right before Chickamauga that I had a shot at winning it. READ MORE »


Last-minute holiday gift guide

Naughty? Nice? Who cares – Christmas isn’t far away, and any bad behavior can be overlooked for a while as we celebrate the season with presents for those nearest and dearest. As is our custom, we’ve appointed ourselves Santa’s helpers and came up with a few gift ideas. We’ve also selected goodies that cover a range of price options. Regardless of their cost, the following gear, gadgets and clothing would make any angler beam with joy. READ MORE »


Boat Care 101: Simple do-it-yourself carpet cleaning

If there is one thing I hate worse than seeing a nice bass boat with a filthy finish, it’s seeing one with dirty carpet. I like to keep my stuff clean, but not just because it looks good. A bass boat is a huge investment, and the more you can do to protect that investment the better the returns if you ever decide to sell or trade it. READ MORE »


The Chilly Truth

Not surprisingly, bass fishing has its own set of myths: Bass don’t eat topwaters when it’s sunny, big fish only eat big lures and so on. Winter fishing seems to take myths to a whole new level. Maybe the long hours in freezing cold numbs the mind as much as it does the hands, but one could write an article about how many myths there are regarding this chilly time of year – and whether or not they’re true. READ MORE »


Ask the Experts

If I use heavy-gauge hooks for flipping grass with braided line, why not use the same gauge hooks for fishing all soft plastics? READ MORE »


Sound effects

Though some anglers contend that rattling baits don’t necessarily attract strikes, and might even deter them, the preponderance of evidence favors the rattle crowd. Virtually every hard lure made nowadays – crankbaits, jerkbaits, stick baits and so forth – can be had in rattling and silent versions. READ MORE »


Guide to treble hooks

As a general rule, the treble hooks on the lures of most tournament pros aren’t original equipment. Less-expensive stock trebles are usually replaced with ultra-sharp premium hooks of the angler’s choice. READ MORE »


Dock cranking

Well-honed casting skills are required to send a crankbait deep into the reaches of a dock. It can’t be skipped on the surface easily, but even an average caster can make a crankbait go where dock bass are likely to be if he employs a trick that Walmart FLW Tour pros Bryan Thrift and Wesley Strader call “driving,” or “steering.” READ MORE »


First Look

The following products were originally featured in the 2013 August/September issue of Bass Fishing magazine. READ MORE »


Drawdown tactics

As summer winds down, however, things can change quickly on a drawdown lake – a reservoir where lake managers reduce the water level in late summer and early fall. Come practice for the EverStart showdown, Dan Morehead’s fish were nowhere to be found. In fact, despite the amazing pre-practice, Morehead didn’t catch a fish during the first day and a half of practice. The dropping lake and progressing season had caused everything to change. READ MORE »


All the right turns

Tournament fishing isn’t just about catching fish. It’s about making sound decisions based on experience and applying the proper strategies to make good things happen when they count the most. Of course, sometimes it’s just about trusting your instincts. READ MORE »


Deep-diving details

Anyone who follows big-league bass fishing knows pro David Fritts is legendary for his ability to sniff out and catch bass on a crankbait. True, Fritts is handy with other styles of lures. But he is the iceman with a crankbait, particularly when the bass relate to cover or structure in deep water. READ MORE »


The right trailer for the task

A jig trailer seems simple enough: a piece of molded soft plastic that dangles from a jig’s hook to add bulk, enhance action, temper the fall and suggest a crawfish or other food item. Those basic functions, though, are somewhat divergent and sometimes work against each other. READ MORE »


Lures for the thick of it

While there is more than one way to get to a fat bass that is buried up in the jungle, few methods are more effective than flipping or punching. Both are short-range techniques built around a hard-core fishing system that includes thick line and a stout rod, and any number of lures and rigs designed to slip in and out of thick cover with the skill of a grass snake. READ MORE »