Early season tournaments held in Florida year after year by Bassmaster and FLW on lakes like Toho and Okeechobee are slowly but surely changing how we punch and flip across the country.
The annual cycle of change emanating from Florida roughly works this way:
- Local Florida tournament anglers and professional guides refine their best flipping and punching approaches throughout the entire season.
- The top FLW and Bassmaster pros from across the country then convene at major events in Florida. They use their network of personal contacts in the local area as well as publicly available Internet info and compare notes with other pros in order to gain a deep understanding of the latest local advancements in techniques.
- The top pros use their vast national experience and practice period in order to assess, adapt and innovate upon the latest local approaches; the pros often take these tactics to the next level.
- As the major Bassmaster and FLW tournaments conclude, the pros’ winning patterns, spots, techniques and equipment are all divulged, analyzed and become the new basis for upgrading the game plans of their fellow pros as well as the local tournament guys. The avid angling public becomes informed of the pros’ flipping and punching refinements at this point as well.
- Tackle vendors may tweak or design new products to better suit changing needs as the techniques evolve each year. However, new products can take time to develop and get into production. So there is a lag between what’s needed and when it becomes available. It may take months or even until next season before new ideas reach store shelves.
- The iterative and incremental annual cycle of change loops back to step #1 as punching and flipping the Florida way is revamped each season.
How the Cycle Began a Few Years Back
It wasn’t that many years ago when punching through Florida’s thick mats with heavy tungsten weights up to one ounce paired with tiny soft plastic crawdads was considered a revolutionary new way to flip in Florida. Again, it may have been local talent who pioneered the approach but it was top pros during the FLW and Bassmaster events in Florida a few years ago who publicized and made the technique known to anglers nationwide.
To compare how the technique has changed since a few years ago, today the pros have steadily ratcheted up to 1-1/2, 2 and 2-1/4 oz tungsten punch sinker weights. It’s not wrong to say some of the very thickest mats may harbor some of the very biggest bass – but those mats are also the hardest to penetrate. By bulking up from 1 to 1.5 to 2 oz sinkers, the heavier weight provides a much better chance to bust a bait through the thickest mats. Quite simply, a 2 oz sinker will be able to penetrate many more mats per hour than will a 1 oz weight.
Also the preferred soft bait has changed over the past few years. Originally, small craws (such as the Gambler BB Cricket) that were popular a few years ago, they aren’t as much in vogue today, except for very early in the season when the water is still cold or whenever a severe cold front, intense fishing pressure or some other factor shuts down the bite, the baby craws still get a work out during the tough times.
Overall, the preferred flipping and punching bait style today includes the Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver and the many different brands and models of creature baits that are loosely fashioned along similar lines as the Sweet Beaver.
Flipping Jigs in Florida
Up until a few years ago, it would not be wrong to say that hardly anyone flipped jigs in Florida, but that too has changed now. Again it may have started with some of the local experts but the top pros do not let any potentially promising local techniques go untried. The latest trend is that everyone’s flipping jigs at the mats now.
The jig weights being used lately are still only up to one ounce, but jigs are a rather new development in Florida for many anglers. It probably won’t be long before 1-1/2 or even 2 oz jigs are used to bomb Florida’s mats.
And although I’ve never seen a 3 oz tungsten sinker, I’m sure some vendor out there is working on one at the urging of some pro who dreams that a hefty 3 ouncer lobbed on 100 lb braid will penetrate even more mats than the measly 2 oz size.
We’ll need to wait until the top tours return to Florida again early each season to see what else will slowly but surely progress with punching and flipping the Florida way.
Vinson perfectly executed his game plan during the 42nd Bassmaster Classic, fishing flawlessly and catching just about everything that took a shot at his baits.
Most of us believe that practice makes perfect..most of us.
To quote a former NBA All-Star; “I’m supposed to be the franchise player and we’re in here talking about practice. Not a game, not a game, not a game! Practice!”
Well, whether we like it or not, practice is more important than game day and when it comes to an individual sport like fishing, you can’t rely on anyone else to play dirty in the paint, battle in the corner for the puck, or take the high heat and deal with the chin music!
With a little bit of down time before his next tournament, Rahfish.com discussed practice with B.A.S.S Elite pro Greg Vinson and practice to Vinson is a big part of his game.
“The guys that win tournaments are the guys that are out there on a regular basis practicing,” says Vinson. “Although I haven’t been able to do a ton of fun fishing, the times I do get out, I definitely look at it like practice. I look at it like a baseball pitcher doing some work in the bullpen in the off season and getting some pitches in, it basically just keeps you tuned up.”
Part of the limited down time that most professional anglers have is spent trying new baits and perfecting new techniques, as this is what will give them more confidence when they travel to unknown waters for future tournaments.
“I also use my practice time to try out new baits,” explains Vinson. “Netbait has some new baits coming out and I know I’ll be able to catch them with these awesome new baits, but I always like to build confidence in a bait before I use it in a tournament. Most of the water these tournaments are on, we don’t have a ton of experience with, so I like to build confidence in my bait. If I know certain baits work in certain situations then I can apply that to the new water I’m fishing to give me a starting point.”
There really is no easy way to improve your fishing skills unless you practice and if you need to improve on a technique, then take it to the water and only focus on that technique. Fine tune your skills, pay close attention to how the fish react to bait size, color and retrieval speed. When you do start to get into a pattern with that technique, take note of; water depth and temperature, time of year, time of day and anything else that you can take away from practice and apply it to game day.
If you ask me, the hardest part about practice is patience. We all like to catch fish! But, if you aren’t willing to try new things, how will you improve?
This article was first published by RAHFISH.com