Article by: Jerry Puckett
Lay down trees, flooded stumps, current breaks, primary and secondary points, flooded grass - just how many classic, bass-producing combinations of structure or cover are there? Probably hundreds of patterns, possibly thousands. And, in their own time and place they all work.
But there is one pattern that seems to show up frequently. From the earliest pre-spawn period through the late fall ballistic feeding period, this dog will hunt. The pattern is nothing more than the Inside Line (convenient isn't it?). Not the magazine, the combination of the local structure and cover that opens into the extreme, and many times more open, shallows. At sprawling Lake Mead you will see small cuts and mini-canyons, their bottoms choked with non-emergent grasses that hold quality fish.
Wind-driven tumbleweeds accumulate and create the same type of cover in every downwind pocket along the 2,000 miles of Lake Powell's shoreline. On the Cal-Delta elodea grass beds stand tall at high tide stages, creating an inside line between grassed and tule patches. And who hasn't dreamed of working a jig or RAT-L-TRAP along the hydrilla grass lines in mighty Sam Rayburn?
But how many realize that the effort required to get inside the grass at Sam Rayburn is time well spent? In so many cases it is this INSIDE line that pays off in the heaviest stringer.
So much of this inside line pattern involves the natural tendencies of our target species. The largemouth bass is a pure opportunist. By depending on its highly camouflaged natural coloration and its tendency to seek out any brushy or cover laden hiding spot, the bass has set up his ambush opportunities. Using his keen senses of sight, sound and vibration detection to identify prey our largemouth hero rushes out and makes a short dash to put a quick, and rather savage, end to its chosen target.
The bass is very good at converting the smaller members of the local bio-mass into lunch. Fast, efficient and requiring the absolute minimum of effort on the part of the bass, the feeding pattern is a study in efficiency. But much of the targeted prey species inhabit very shallow water - crawfish, minnows, sunfish and the like. But the shallow water causes the bass to be concerned. Depending on the availability of cover suitable for hiding and based on local conditions as to water clarity and light penetration, the bass tend to be edgy or nervous in the extreme shallows. You see this with pre-spawn males and almost all bedding fish. The fish are scared by their exposure but compelled to stay in the shallows.
Although in most cases the mature largemouth commands its world from atop the food chain, what it remembers from its childhood is a fear of exposure. Exposure that as a fry or fingerling could lead to being lunch instead of eating lunch. These childhood lessons seem to be well remembered as the mature fish seek out any cover. It makes you laugh to see a four pounder hiding behind a single, pencil-thin stick-up but that tiny piece of cover adds greatly to the comfort level of the bass. In their mind, they're hidden.
These natural tendencies and habits of the bass make the inside line a natural. Locate this condition and in three out of four seasons you've found the actively feeding fish and should be able to develop a viable (and economically pleasurable) pattern.
Okay, so we've found an inside line condition. How do we go about getting "paid" for our efforts. Let's go back to the Lake Mead example we talked about earlier. Clear water, small cuts or mini-canyons with non-emergent water grass lining the bottom. Average depth from two to ten feet with pre-spawn fish in the grass. Easing the boat into the first cut we see four or five keepers rocket out of the shallows, under the boat they go toward the sanctuary of deeper water. Darn!
Cut number two and we're getting smarter. Holding the boat outside we make long casts into the grass with the old jig and twin-tail trailer. This will surely work. Again we watch the keepers abandon ship, spooked by the entry splash from the long cast with the jig. Sorry Charlie, thanks for playing, please accept these parting gifts, you lose. Dang it!
Okay, cut number three, the tournament clock is ticking and we've got a very empty live well to show for our efforts. This time we note that inside the grass line there is a band of open water between grass and shoreline. The light-colored sandy bottom makes it look a little like a sidewalk. Hmmm, what if?
A longish cast and the jig is on the bank a foot above the water's edge. We hop the jig seductively into the water and can hardly believe our eyes as a pair of light green rockets literally zoom out of the grass and fight over who gets to eat the jig. Aha! In the next half hour we were able to cull a good limit from the three little cuts by concentrating on the inside line. Good for a nice check and a third place finish and invaluable in terms of what the fish taught us.
During the following months I was amazed at how many inside lines I was able to identify, and they all produced results. The pattern had always been there in front of me. I had just failed to recognize it.
Big Al Robinson turned me on to another example, brush standing in two or three feet of water in the back of a clear water cove. We could see the fish but they wouldn't come out after a bait and spooked if we pitched a bait on their heads. Too clear to get close enough to flip...what to do? Inside line it! Choosing much heavier line Al pitched a big grub (a twin-tail #17 as I recall) over the brush and onto the shore above the water. He hopped the bait into the water and bingo, we lined up at the inside line pay window. Sure, we had to go in after the fish in order to land them but otherwise we weren't able to get bit at all.
In numerous lakes and conditions it seems that the fish are looking inside to feed, not outside. As a press observer at a Red Man Regional Tournament on the Cal Delta I watched as noted Delta pro Leroy Bertolero pitched (almost flipped) a spinnerbait into tiny pockets of open water inside the grass. These were tiny pockets, only two or three feet deep and no more than two feet in length. The spinnerbait would hit the tules and slip softly into the water. Leroy would then pull the bait about 18 inches and then jerk it out of the water and over the thickly matted grass. Sometimes. Usually when he jerked the rod tip there was an angry largemouth pinned to his bait. The inside line scores again, this time with a very novel bait presentation.
From Mexico to Texas, from Arizona to Northern California I've seen this pattern pay big dividends in all types of cover. Look for this pattern at your lake and let the "Inside Line" pay off for you.
An article from Gary Yamamoto's Inside Line Online
. Check it out!