By Dustin Wilks
Special to BassFan
(Editor's note: "Catching Bass with Dustin Wilks" airs four times per week on the World Fishing Network Ė 6:30 p.m. ET Monday, 3:30 a.m. Tuesday, 3:30 p.m. Saturday and 9:30 a.m. Sunday. The six-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier writes about various aspects of the sport in these periodic submissions.)
Imagine this for a minute: The weather is warming, spring is in the air and the fish will be biting! You dreamed all week of going fishing and slamming some fish on moving baits and bam! Instead of that bait-stopping bite, you get a bite-stopping front.
The cold front hits the water hard, dropping the temperature 8 degrees in two days, and you're left scratching your head. It seems there are no bass anywhere. This happens every March as lots of fronts roll through.
This is when the forgotten March technique of punching heavy mats of weeds and debris can come into play. Think of March in the southern half of the country as Florida bass in January Ė constantly moving up in preparation for the spawn, then having to take shelter in a shallow nearby mat when conditions deteriorate.
The limiting factors here are obviously the habitat and depth. If there arenít mats, then it is off the table. But even if it seems there are no mats, sure enough in the course of a day, you will likely come across some sort of debris pile blown into a cove, or leaves from rising water, or a beaver hut . So it seems fishing mats are rarely off the table, just limited.
There is nothing worse than knowing a bass is hiding somewhere and not being able to reach it. So for those reasons, I recommend keeping one rod rigged for punching and ready to go at all times. Even if you only get a few flips with it, the payoff can be a huge bass.
The bass can just swim a little deeper, but Iíve found once bass make their commitment to shallow spawning areas, they donít like to leave, so they seek out the heaviest stuff they can find after a front
The rod, line and bait are so specialized and take quite a bit of time for rigging, so if you can afford a dedicated rod, that's the way to go. I use an 8-foot Falcon Expert rod made for flipping and punching, paired with 65-pound Yo-Zuri Super Braid. Falcon makes a cheaper option that is also very light and strong called a Lowrider. Lots of guys prefer a straight-shank hook and snell the knot. I sometimes do this as well, but I find a wide-gap hook with a welded eye works well, too, and is much easier to tie on. Those straight-shank hooks tend to pop out of the plastic more and hang more, but do have better hook-up ratios.
On the business end, I like three baits made by Culprit. The first is the Incredi-Punch. This is a crawfish bait that's best for really heavy stuff where getting your bait in is the tough part. It's very streamlined without bulky appendages and holds on a big hook well. Iíll pair this with an Eco-Pro Tungsten Flipping weight in 1 ounce all the way up to 2 ounces, depending on the thickness of the weeds or debris. For my everyday rig I use a 1 1/4-ounce weight that will handle most mat situations that spring up.
Other baits I like are the Incredi-Bug, for when the fronts are not that bad and fish are more likely to be eating than reacting, and the trusty 4í-inch Incredi-Craw that's just an awesome bait overall. I prefer it when fish are in between and want a bigger profile.
So when you're rigging up for your dream fishing trip this month, donít forget the big stick with a heavy weight.