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How to hit the green: Tharp employs winning techniques for vegetation.

When Randall Tharp earned a seventh-place finish at the Bassmaster Elite Series event on the Potomac River Aug. 14, he did so fishing a tidal river scenario not so different than Florida's St. Johns. Important, but the biggest similarity between the Mid-Atlantic fishery and Tharp's home state happenings was grass--thick, shallow grass where heat-weary bass seek shelter and feeding opportunities.

Hailing from Port St. Joe, Tharp also caught fish on docks, but we'll focus on the vegetation strategies here. Tharp targeted a small creek punching into a massive hydrilla mat on day one; but when that deal died, he transitioned to a bed of topped-over milfoil and rode a pair of Florida-friendly patterns to the tournament's end.

First was punching a Zoom Z-Hog rigged on a 4/0 heavy duty VMC flipping hook and pegged with a 1 1/2-ounce Reins tungsten weight. Tharp's punching rig comprised a 7-foot, 11-inch extra heavy Halo Twilight flipping stick and a 7.5:1 Team Lew's Magnesium reel with 60-pound Gamma Torque braided line. Faster reels may seem like overkill for punching--until you consider Tharp's strategy.


"In between casts, I can recover the bait a lot quicker, so it saves me time and allows me to make more presentations in a day," he said. "It used to be that you had to have a lower gear ratio to get power, but with the reels that we have now, you can still have that power in a high-speed reel."

Describing his optimal punching targets, Tharp said: "Most of the bites I had in the milfoil were in places that actually had slime on top of the mat. I feel like those were the most hollowed out places. A big fish, whether he lives in Florida, or on the Potomac, he likes some area to move around so he can ambush what he's going to eat."

Essentially, slimy algae (often called "cheese" mats) collects atop matted-over grass, blocks sunlight, kills the weeds below and allows caverns to open amid dying stalks. The slime also attracts aquatic insects, which attract ravenous bluegill. Symphonies of bug-smacking bream are music to an angler's ear, as this indicates a lively mat section that surely attracts opportunistic bass.

Tharp also fished the milfoil edges with a 3/8-ounce Jack Hammer Vibrating jig with a green pumpkin Zoom Z-Hog trailer. "The Z-Hog makes it look like a crawfish, but you can instantly change that to a baitfish by switching to a swimbait style trailer like a Zoom Fluke." Tharp fished his jig on a 7-foot, 4-inch Halo composite cranking rod and a 6.8:1 Team Lew's Magnesium reel with 16-pound Gamma fluorocarbon.

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Title Annotation:On The Bass Beat
Author:Brown, David A.
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Geographic Code:1U5FL
Date:Nov 1, 2016
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