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Come Over to My Pad, the other Field of Dreams

Fishing any kind of cover for bass is fun. Watching any bass emerge from below a dock, come out from under a submerged tree or ambush a bait in clear water from a bluff bank are all visual thrills. There is one kind of bite that will win you over once you’ve experienced it, the various lily pad hits. There are giant, full size lily pads and what I refer to as smaller “dollar” pads. Almost every geographic area has some sort of water lilies. Not every body of water but somewhere in your area there exist pads. If you live in the south or a warm zone you may have pads and other types of aquatic vegetation year round.

Why Pads

The basic needs of a bass (and many other game fish) are oxygen, food, cover and a deep water sanctuary. Lily pads fulfill three of these fundamental needs. Because bass are predators they often “hide” in the dark and emerge into the light when a feeding opportunity presents itself. Pads also provide shade and likely a few degrees difference in water temperature. Using the pads as an “umbrella” fish can wait for the multitude of each creatures the frequent the foliage. Minnows, frogs, snakes, bluegill and a variety of insects will rest, fly or swim by the pads. It’s hard to resist room service delivery.

When Pads

Depending again on your geographic location you might see growth of lilies and other cover earlier but as water temperatures rise in the spring so do the pads arriving as stems and later flattening out and in some cases blooming with many different flower colors. As the pads emerge and “green up” several species are in pre-spawn mode and start to infiltrate the pads and other forms of aquatic vegetation. It’s been my experience that the brighter the sun the more likely it is to find the fish cruising under the lilies or merely resting. Advantage kayak with the ability to run the edges or penetrate the field of lily pads (or moss, grasses etc.) After the arrival of summer, a unique pattern rewards the observant angler. Train yourself to look AND listen for the bluegill bite, yes listen. The popping sound coming from the pads could be bluegill feeding on dragonflies, mosquitoes and other winged creatures. This starts a feeding cycle including the apex predator, the bass.

Working Pads

Again the advantage goes to the kayak with its silent entry. There re specific ways to fish pads (and other vegetation) for bass. My preference is to work the edges first. I learned this fishing for bedding bluegill. I could pick off the edge dwellers and not rattle the rest of the fish and continue to work my way in, catching fish all the way into the deepest cover. Similarly, the bass can be caught on edges and then by probing the next section, usually a casts distance, into the cover. I game plan with the quietest baits being presented first. Picking apart a “field” of lily pads can be painstaking. Patience can pay off with a huge fish and multiple bites from a large area. Drifting can be deadly as baits are offered as you silently drop lures into the openings and heavy cover. Consider bottom contours, depth changes and the presence of any other type of cover including rock, submerged wood, boat docks and even natural points formed by the vegetation.

Pondering Pad Baits

Dedicated froggers droll at the site of a vast expanse of lily pads. This calls for nerves of steel and equipment to match. Go in knowing you’ll miss some of the explosive hits on your frog baits and that even a temporary hook up doesn’t always guarantee a bass to the boat. Many times, the fish will dig dep into the cover making it impossible to complete your catch. Stout tackle is the rule for this type of fishing. Recommended are a heavy action rod, braided line (40-pound test at least) and a baitcasting reel with the drag tightened down to facilitate “winching” any size bass from the cover. A fun albeit frustrating approach is pitching “feel” baits into every opening you can. Armed with a jig rig and a soft plastic set up I venture into the pads “pitching” plastics with a low arc to minimize the splash and utilize a silent entry. Be ever alert for the hit as your bait free falls into the vegetation. A gentle yo-yo action of the lure is used and then find your next target. For Texas rigged soft plastics I’m partial to the Flip-N-Tube by Strike King. An erratic fall and less likely to hang up it is a superior bait for most any type of vegetation. Make sure to use a 5/0 or 6/0 hook to make the hook set more reliable through the wide tubes. A curly tail worm is also another pad possibility. If you sense ANYTHING different SET THE HOOK, HARD! Again, on the edges a buzzbait is on the agenda. I throw it last because of the racket created by the buzzer. If you’re satisfied that the slower, silent baits are working run the buzzer around edges, openings and even through the cover. It’s to your advantage to move the fish quickly and wrestle em out of their hideout.

Pad fishing is often seasonal, but it will leave you looking forward to the next years crop of lily pads. You’ll be anxious to answer the invitation, come over to my pad!