When it comes to freshwater predators, bass are king. These fish are far from picky, and they’re happy to hit everything from live bait to soft plastics to monster swimbaits.
Every angler has a bag of tricks and techniques that they swear will help you put more bass on the deck. With so many different techniques out there, it’s easy to lose sight of the tried-and-true approaches to catching monster bass.
Today, we’re going to take a deep dive into pitching and flipping for bass. These closely related techniques should be front and center in any bass angler’s arsenal, and mastering them is a surefire way to put more bass on the boat this season.
Flipping & Pitching
Heavy cover might look like a nightmare scenario for some anglers, but others see it for what it is; a veritable goldmine of monster bass. Once you master flipping and pitching, you’ll be armed with the techniques you need to score your next trophy bass.
What is Pitching?
One of the most difficult parts of targeting bass that are off the feed and hanging in cover is delivering a stealth entry into the water for your bait. A loud lure breaking the surface is going to spook all but the most courageous bass, which is why pitching is such an excellent technique.
Pitching is the more precise of the two styles, and it’s ideal for casting into heavy cover about 15-20 feet away from where you are. When anglers are pitching, they generate a pendulum action that helps a bait land softly and quietly as it hits the water. This technique keeps fish from spooking and gives you a better opportunity of landing that trophy bass.
- Let out the line so that your bait hangs somewhere from about 1” above your reel to the but of your rod, depending on personal preference. Most anglers like to keep the bait around even with their reel.
- Hold your rod vertically, and cup your bait with your free hand.
- Keep your eyes on your target, and free spool the reel while keeping your thumb in place.
- Lower the rod tip to your target while simultaneously releasing the bait in your off-hand.
- As the bait falls forward, lift the rod tip backup to flip the bait to your target.
- As soon as the bait hits the water, stop the reel with your thumb and take it out of the free spool.
- Work the bait back to the shore or boat, and repeat the process.
What is Flipping?
Flipping is a very similar technique that achieves the same goal as pitching does, albeit with a different execution. With this technique, you never engage the reel. All of the work of presenting your bait to fish is done with your two hands and the rod.
Flipping makes use of the same pendulum action as pitching does, but it enables you to work several sections of cover with a single cast. Being able to work multiple spots on a piece of cover allows you to present your bait directly in front of fish who are off the feed or seem skittish. When done properly, the bass can’t resist the flip.
- Start with your rod completely vertical, enter free spool, and allow the lure to descend so that it’s about 2’ below the butt of your rod.
- Point the rod in the direction of your target, and use the index finger on your free hand to grab the line between the reel and the first guide.
- Pull the line to the side with your free hand and slowly bring the rod towards that side as well.
- As your bait begins its forward motion like a pendulum, bring the rod forward and release your free hand that’s holding the line.
- Instead of retrieving your bait, grab the line with your free hand again. Pull the line out to the side while raising the rod tip to allow the bait to hop out of the water.
- Land the bait at your next target, and repeat this process until you’ve finished working the area.
When to Flip for Bass
Both flipping and pitching are effective techniques in a variety of scenarios. You can flip all year in any tide, provided the fish are biting. Flipping is usually the more effective of the two techniques when you’re fishing deep cover in murky or turbid waters.
When to Pitch for Bass
Like flipping, pitching is effective at all times of the year in a variety of different scenarios. While flipping is most effective for deeper cover and cloudy water, pitching is the more effective technique when you’re fishing clearer water where the cover isn’t quite as dense.
While both techniques are effective year-round, most waters hold the greatest amount of shallow fish in the springtime, as the fish flock to the warmer water that’s in the shallows.
While you can certainly get by with your regular setup for flipping or pitching, it does help to grab some gear that’s specifically matched to the task at hand.
For the rod, a long casting rod in the 7’6”-8’6” range is ideal. The extra length gives you a bit more line to play with when you’re executing the flip. Since you’re fishing close to the fish you’ll hopefully be catching, a medium-heavy or heavy rod is preferable since it’s got the backbone necessary to muscle a fish to the shore or boat.
For the reel, a baitcaster is most anglers’ weapon of choice. You’ll want something with a high gear ratio so that you can retrieve your lure faster and get back to the strike zone in less time. Something in the 7.1 or 8.1 class is a good place to start.
It can be helpful to pair your line to the conditions you’re fishing, but that’s not always practical.
If you can manage to have two setups with you, you’ll want one with braid and another with fluorocarbon. If you have to choose one or the other, opt for a braided line in the 50-65-pound test range.
A line that heavy may seem like overkill when hunting bass, but the extra diameter helps to cut through thick cover like a hot knife through butter. You can size down to something lighter if you prefer, but you’ll have a harder time freeing yourself from snags before breaking off.
There are some conditions where a braided line isn’t your best bet. If you’re fishing cover in a heavily wooded area, you’ll want to avoid braid. Braid doesn’t have any give to it, and fishing a wooded section of the lake is a surefire way to get hung up.
Braid also doesn’t offer quite as stealthy of a presentation as fluorocarbon does. If you’re fishing in clearer water with less cover, fluorocarbon is the way to go. When fishing fluorocarbon, you don’t need to opt for something as heavy. Something in the 12-25 pound range is usually sufficient when flipping for bass. The clearer the water, the lighter the line.
Since flipping and pitching are such similar styles, you can use similar (or identical) gear for both styles and achieve the proper result.
If you’re looking to build an optimal pitching outfit, there are some slight differences to account for when selecting gear.
When flipping, an extra-long rod comes in handy, as it provides you with some more line to work with as you flip. When you’re pitching, this isn’t a concern. You can size down a pitching outfit a bit, opting for a shorter rod in the 6’6”-7’ range. You’ll still want to select a rod with plenty of backbone, so opt for one that offers medium-heavy or heavy power.
A baitcaster is still the reel of choice when flipping. Since you’ll be burning it back to the boat or shore with each cast, something with a high gear ratio that provides a fast retrieve is ideal. 7:1 is the minimum gear ratio you’ll want for pitching. Something with an 8.1, 9.1, or 10.1 gear ratio is even better, as it’ll get you back your bait faster so you can get back into the strike zone.
For the line, the same rules of thumb for flipping are true when pitching. If you’re pitching into heavy cover in turbid water, opt for a heavy braided line. When water conditions are more clear, or when you’re fishing in light cover, switching to fluorocarbon is still preferable. Opt for something in the 12-25-pound test range. When the water is clear, go as light as possible.
Rigs and Bait for Flipping and Pitching
Flipping and pitching are both incredibly productive fishing techniques, provided you’re using the right gear. If you aren’t fishing what bass want to be eating, it’s going to be a quiet day on the lake. Fortunately, the bass aren’t so picky, and there are tons of different rigs and bait that are effective for pitching and flipping. Below, we’ll cover your best options.
The Texas rig is a proven bass killer that anglers have relied on for decades when fishing heavy cover. The Texas rig is weedless, and it provides a natural presentation that’s perfect for soft plastics of all kinds.
A Texas rig consists of three or four components, depending on your preference. You’ll need a bullet weight, 3/0-5/0 straight shank hook, a soft plastic bait, and if you like, a bobber stop or peg.
Some anglers believe the bobber stop makes for fewer hang-ups and a more natural presentation. Anglers who forgo the bobber stop or peg argue that allowing the weight to travel freely on the line imparts more action to the bait, and allows for a better hookset.
To tie this rig, place a bobber stop, if desired, onto your line followed by the bullet weight of your choice. Depending on the water you’re fishing in and the depth of the fish, you’ll want to go with something between ⅛-ounce and 1 ½-ounces. Next, tie on the hook using the knot of your choice.
As for the rigging, you’ll want to thread the nose of the soft plastic through the hook and out the back. Finally, bury the hook point in the belly of the soft plastic so that the hook is almost completely through the other side of the bait.
Flipping jigs are another deadly option that many bass anglers prefer to use over the classic Texas rig. These jigs consist of a weighted jig head on a hook, a weed guard, and a skirt.
These jigs come in a variety of sizes up to 3-ounces and beyond. You’ll find several different jig head styles lend themselves to different presentations. The stand-up jigs are particularly effective when working over a flat bottom, while more traditional styles are ideal for tearing through structure.
Flipping jigs make an excellent lure straight from the package, but many anglers will also tip them with a soft plastic or Gulp to sweeten the deal. When worked through cover, the right flipping jig looks every bit like a delicious baitfish when viewed by a hungry bass, with or without the help of soft plastic baits.
One thing to keep in mind with flipping jigs is that the hook it comes with is the hook you have. Since you don’t have the luxury of switching to a new hook whenever you need it, you want to spring for jigs that include quality name-brand hooks that can be sharpened as necessary to provide a long life for the jig.
Whether fished on a Texas rig, flipping jig, jighead, Florida rig, shaky head, or any other style, soft plastics are among the most popular baits for bass fishing. Plastics are also your best bet for fishing in cover.
A variety of soft plastics lend themselves well to fishing for bass in cover, with stickbaits, worms, and flipping tubes representing the most popular options for bass fishing.
Most anglers keep an assortment of different styles with them at all times. You never know what the bass are going to be feeding on or looking for until you get the right bait dialed in when you’re on the water. Stickbaits and worms are wise choices in practically all scenarios. When fishing heavy cover, the streamlined shape of a flipping tube will help you avoid snags.
While creature baits are soft plastics, their popularity and variety put them in their own category. Many bass anglers can attest to creature baits as a secret weapon, and bass always seem to be in the mood for one of these tasty-looking baits.
Creature baits are available in a variety of styles, such as crawfish or frogs. Beyond those more traditional shapes, many creature baits look more alien than aquatic. Looks aside, bass can’t seem to resist these curious-looking baits.
Tips for Flipping and Pitching
Flipping and pitching are two of the easiest and most productive styles of fishing in cover, and they’re especially deadly when fishing for bass. While these techniques might be easy enough, they require pinpoint casting accuracy to ensure your bait ends up where it needs to be.
These tips are sure to help improve your flipping and pitching, but the best way to master the techniques is to put the time in. Get practicing early and often, whether that’s on the water or in your backyard during the offseason.
- If backlashes are a problem, feed out about 25 yards of line from your spool. Place a piece of scotch tape over the line at the 25-yard mark. The tape will prevent backlashes from getting too deep into the spool, so they’re easier to take out as you learn to avoid backlashes.
- Don’t overcast or try to load up the rod when flipping or pitching. A stealth entry is key. If your lure isn’t getting where you need it, examine your cast.
- Practice the techniques in the offseason by placing a paper target about 5-20 feet in front of you and casting at it in the yard.
- Be mindful of your shadow when pitching or flipping. These techniques are used to cast short distances, and skittish bass are often spooked away by an angler’s shadow.
- Use the heaviest weight you can for the conditions you’re fishing in. The heavier the weight, the more momentum the pendulum action of flipping and pitching will generate, allowing for longer and more accurate casts.
- A rod with slower action will allow for additional distance for when you need to flip or pitch to an area further away.
- Vary your bait often if you’re not having success. What’s working today might not work tomorrow and vice versa. The more information you can gather, the more productive you’ll be.
- Peg the weight in a Texas rig an inch above the top of the weight with the weight sitting against the hook. This technique keeps the weight where it needs to be while also encouraging a solid hookset.