Flipping Deep Hidden Grass with Greg Hackney

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8/8/2011 – Story and photos by Dan O’Sullivan

Flippin’ has long been a very popular way to catch bass year round, but in the summer time, Flippin’ can become one of the only ways to catch bass. When on a lake with an abundance of shoreline cover, any angler worth his weight in tungsten Punching Weights will have one; if not more, Flippin’ Sticks on the deck of his boat.

Boat docks, lily pads, lay down trees, emergent grass mats and floating tangles of hyacinth or pennywort all create prime targets for Flippin.’ Many an angler has posted big results Flippin’ to visible targets, usually by picking off individual bass that hunker down into the thick stuff.

Greg Hackney Offshore FlippingHowever popular this approach is across the country, leave it to inventive anglers to find a way to push the envelope and find a new way to employ existing tools of the trade. It’s a well known fact that bass love grass, and that doesn’t mean only the grass we can see with our eyes.

Hydrilla, milfoil and coontail will grow as deep as the light can penetrate. This means that the clearer the water, the deeper the grass will grow. In some areas of the country, submerged grass will flourish in water as deep as 20 to 25 feet. This grass may be as tall as 10 feet, but not quite reach the surface.

Greg Hackney loves this type of grass.

“I love looking for edges of this type of grass,” said the Gonzalez, La. pro. “This is the type of area that might look like a needle in a haystack to most anglers, but I can get real big; in a real big hurry when I fish this way.”

To be perfectly fair; Hackney is a grinder. His style of fishing relates well to catching five or six fish a day, and for a guy like him, this type of Flippin’ is a dream. “It may take me all three days of a practice period to find two or three groups of bass in the deep grass,” he said. “But, when I do, they’re usually the right ones.”

When to Flip Deep Grass
Hackney said that he finds this approach to be most effective when bass have left their postspawn recovery areas, and have settled into their summer haunts. “It’s best to try this from the early summer through the fall,” he said. “Bass Bass are preoccupied with spawning before hand, and the grass tends to die off and become really sparse in the cold weather months.”

Greg Hackney Trailer InstallDeep Grass Gear
Hackney uses his signature 7’11” heavy action Quantum Tour Hackney Flippin’ Stick and a 7.0:1 retrieve speed Tour Edition PT Burner reel. “I need the length and power of the rod to set the hook in deep water,” he said. “And I need the speed of the reel to gather up the line quickly when I get a slack line bite.”

While many anglers would likely stick with the same setup they choose for Punching, he prefers to tie his lures onto 50-pound-test Cajun Braided Line because it helps the lure fall more naturally. His choice of lures is the Strike King Hack Attack Jig he designed for close quarters battle with heavy bass.

“I use the one-ounce version in water up to 15 feet, then go to the ounce and a quarter if it’s deeper,” he said. “I usually use the Rage Craw in some sort of matching color to get some action that mimics a swimming bream.” He uses colors that mimic bream; and let’s water color dictate the final choice. Two of his favorites are Gator Craw and Candy Craw; he pairs them with Rage Craws in matching colors.

Why They Live Deep
Hackney knows that his prey requires a few necessities to thrive in their environment, and he has it narrowed down. “Bass live out deep looking for shelter and food, and those deep grass edges give them both,” he said. “They have shade, cooler water and plenty of food.”

Greg Hackney BattleHe likens these fish to fish that take up residence on those deep ledges on Kentucky Lake, Guntersville or Pickwick. However, while those schools may have hundreds of fish chasing shad, these bass have a different makeup, and focus.
“These groups may only have 15 or 20 bass in them, but they are the right kind of bass,” he said. “These are the bigguns that I’m looking for; they are bream eaters, and those are the fish that make a difference at the scales at the end of the day.”

Finding Deep Grass Bass
Hackney said that the best way to find where those bass might live is to use your underwater eyes, and then start the needle in the haystack approach with the Flippin’ Stick. “I don’t want to be right on top of the grass,” he said. “I want to be off the edge of it, and flip into the edge.”

To find his prime areas, he uses his fishfinder and watches the screen to see where the color just begins to show up signifying grass. “On my fishfinder, the edge of the grass is where I just start to see that soft red shadow start showing up,” he said. “If I get solid red, then I’m on top of the grass, and the technique is not effective.”

Once he locates the edge, he uses his trolling motor to stay along the edge and he pitches his lure in front of him and allows it to free fall to the bottom. He has a unique technique that allow the lure to fall, and signals the strike at the same time.

Pitch and Watch
While he is moving down the edge making short pitches to the edge of the grass, Hackney actually pulls extra line off of his spool by lifting his rod tip up and dropping it back down with a little swirling type action. The result is a little loop in the line on top of the water that allows the lure to fall more freely, but also acts as a strike indicator as the lure falls.

Greg Hackney Jig Fish“I watch the loop on top of the water as the jig falls, and if it twitches, or stops, I set the hook,” he said. “If I don’t give it the extra line, then the lure swings away from the grass, and I can’t see the bite.”

He said it is important to work quickly when fishing this way. “I always have two or three rods rigged identically,” he said. “There are only a few bass down there, and when they get fired up; I’ll miss my chance if I have to tie on a new jig, or fix a trailer. I’ll work quickly to get the fish in the livewell then pick up a second rod – it ‘s the best way to capitalize on the aggressiveness of the school.”

Hackney said it’s a lot of work, but it can pay huge dividends. “It may be a difficult technique to master, but I can guarantee you, the competition isn’t ready to put in the time,” he said. “I feel like I have a little edge on the others when I do it, and that’s what it’s all about.”