Techniques – Reed fishing

Techniques – Reed fishing

Aug 8, 2012

Three killer presentations for bass in the reeds!

By Mike Pehanich

Thick beds of deep reeds (bulrushes) house the bulk of the adult largemouth bass population in many multi-predator lakes in the northern U.S. (See “Read the Reeds for Northwoods Largemouth” and accompanying videos to understand largemouth location in multi-predator lakes in the Northwoods waters of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Canada, the Northeast U.S. and other northern waters)

Duane Peterson pitched an Impulse Brush Beaver over the tops of reeds to reach this hefty largemouth. He advises a vertical presentation, working a targeted pocket or clump, then pitching to the next rather than working his bait back to the boat.

But catching them takes the right lure, proper tackle, and, often, flawless presentation!

Let’s cut to the chase! For the kind of thick reed beds with good depth (four- to six- feet or more for at least a portion of the area), narrow your presentations to three categories of lures: Texas-rigged soft plastic beaver- and creature-style baits, stickworms (the fat cigar-like worms represented by the Yamamoto Senko, Northland Dip Stick, Yum Dinger, etc), and skirted jig/trailer combinations.Other lures will work. But these styles of baits produce consistently.

Soft Plastic Beaver- and Creature-style Baits

Compact Texas-rigged plastics are great baits for working pockets and along edges of the reeds. Pitch them over the reed tops and work them vertically in the most promising pockets. Then reel them up and pitch to the next pocket or clump.

Duane Peterson’s bread-and-butter bait for the reeds is the Northland Impulse Brush Beaver. He emphasizes its effectiveness when worked vertically and cautions against a horizontal presentation. Tough reed stems will punish the plastic and cause you to drive the hook point into the plants if you try to work through them. You’ll spend more time fighting reeds than fish!

Exclusive SWF video at Cass Lake, MN: “Reed Fishing Technique with Duane Peterson” for fishing beaver- and creature-style soft plastic lures in the reeds.



Bass have to find your bait before then can hit it. Sometimes the bait needs to sit in an area with just the faintest amount of movement for the fish to find it! Stickworms are ideal for working the edges and front faces of the reeds because you can cast them into pockets and let them sit…or work them slowly to entice a nearby bass to bite.

Tough presentation challenges help narrow your arsenal. Stick with a handful of proven lures and techniques when fishing the "jungle."

John Peterson, who founded Northland Fishing Tackle with brother Duane, fishes the Northland Impulse Dip-Stick on a an offset worm hook or, a weighted Northland Lip-Stick Worm Hook. He Texas-rigs the worm to limit his snags in this tough, hard-to-work vegetation. (See SWF video on his tackle & technique!)

Janet Parker, who made some of the biggest news in Bassmaster Open competition in 2011, fishes a wacky rig variation, called the “J-Rig,” in emergent vegetation like reeds, maiden cane and wild rice. She uses a 2/0 Owner Mosquito-style hook, wrapping lead golf club tape around the shank to add weight. She embeds the point of the hook lengthwise in the center of the worm so that the hook and worm are on the same plane. “”Keeping that point buried in the worm makes it more weeless, more snagless, yet you don’t have that little piece of wire that’s on ‘snagless’ hooks to interfere with your hookset,” she says. “The Owner hook is so sharp that the fish will set the hook on themselves just reeling in the slack line…It’s great around bulrushes and rice beds. And awesome on bridge pilings, grass lines…you name it. And on bed fish, too.”

Jig and trailer combinations

A jig and plastic or pork trailer is ideal in the rugged reed world. It allows you to fish vertically and, where possible and practical, to work your bait horizontally as well.

Don’t bother trimming the brushguard. You’ll need it! It will help you work through reed stems.

But don’t plow through them. Though a jig permits minor horizontal bait movement in thick reeds, you will be most effective working the bait vertically, then pitching to the next pocket or prime clumps.

Crawfish, pork frogs and twintail grubs are my three favorite jig trailers. We also found a trimmed Impulse Curly Worm an effective trailer last fall.

I like pork because it is tough and will stand up to punishment in the reeds. The new Uncle Josh MEAT Crawfish and Frog products not only add the lifelike feel of pork, but they are less likely to dry out when you are not using them. These two styles – Crawfish and Frog – also give you the option of a large or small profile bait.

A rubber bait-keeper device not only keeps the bait on the hook but provides a more integrated bait appearance coupled with the jig.

Reed ready!

Use tackle suited to the tough presentation and even tougher combat you’ll encounter with big bass in the reeds.

You’ll want a flipping stick and braid for pitching jigs and soft plastics.

John Peterson beefed up his tackle to fish the Impulse Dip-Stick in heavy cover. He Texas rigged it on a weighted Lip-Stick hook to get down to bass situated near the base of deep reeds.

You’ll want to beef up your wormin’ gear too. Trade in the lighter spinning gear you generally use for wacky wormin’ for a medium heavy rod (spinning or baitcasting) and braid.

You’ll need it!

See exclusive SWF video “Fishing Reed Largemouth with John Peterson & Eric Naig” in Small Waters strategy feature “Read the Reeds for Northwoods Largemouth


  1. A J Faria /

    I’ve been bass fishing for 40 years (started at 12) and reading B.A.S.S. and In Fisherman for almost that long.

    Mike, you’ve always been a great writer and I have too say, I’m loving the layout of your new site.

    Informative and succinct, with such a wide variety of articles for the small water fisherman.

    I’m Hooked!

    Sincerely, A.J. Faria

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