Tim Mead Fishing
Navigate the Veggies: Best Lures for Fishing Weeds
By Tim Mead        May 2, 2018

Clockwise from top: Spook, a walk-the-dog lure: Pop-N Image; buzzbait; spinnerbait; Johnson Spoon; Swimmin Image.
Clockwise from top: Spook, a walk-the-dog lure: Pop-N Image; buzzbait; spinnerbait; Johnson Spoon; Swimmin Image.

The following article is copyright by Tim Mead and may not be duplicated or reproduced without his expressed written permission.

Many years ago, Dad and I were fishing Currituck Sound in North Carolina.   At the time, weed-choked Currituck was one of North America’s largemouth bass hot spots.   “Nope, I’m going home to Ohio,” was the response Dad got when he asked if we would see a visitor to the Sound, “tomorrow.” A few short hours earlier Dad assured the then enthusiastic angler the bass were “right out there in those weeds you can see.”

After trying to fish the famed Currituck milfoil, however, the Buckeye was loading his boat in the back of his pickup and returning to Toledo.   “Nobody can fish in weeds that thick.   I’m not even going to waste my time trying.   I can’t see why this is such a famous spot for largemouth.” While Currituck has fallen on evil days for largemouth bass, largely due to saline intrusion and die-off of milfoil, lots of places in the upper mid-west offer comparable fishing in weeds.   Among the spots close to the Mead site in the Upper Peninsula are the Dollarville Flooding near Newberry and the Dead Sucker Flooding east of Grand Marais.   There are dozens of others.

Weed Types

Emergent weeds reach to the surface, perhaps even extend upward beyond the surface.  

Perhaps the most famous the emergent weeds are lily pads.   Among the UP lakes where I cut my angling teeth, lily pads abound.   Dense lily pads provide shade and cover for small fish.   Both qualities attract bass, pike, muskies.   Anglers overlooking lily pads miss a bet.  

Pencil reeds, sometimes called bulrushes, also reach to the surface or beyond.  

Submergent weeds are rooted to the bottom and do not extend above the surface.   In our region, pond weeds, also called pike weeds or cabbage, are prime examples.  

Lures and Approaches for Weeds

Lures for emergent weeds need to catch fish and come though weeds without tangling.  

Among the most spectacular lures are buzzbaits.   They can be cast well into weed beds and come through without tangling.   On Nawakwa Lake in the UP, an excellent pike spot, the buzzbait has become my “go to.” Nawakwa does not have trophy pike, at least I never caught one, but the shoreline is covered with pencil reeds.   Most of the pike I’ve caught have been within three feet of the edge of the weeds – inside or out.   A buzzbait can be worked from well within the weeds to the boat without tangling.

Several years ago, fishing Jackstone Lake in Ontario with Clyde Osborne, I told Clyde there were always hammerhandles, small pike, near an incoming creek – like the one we were fishing.   “They’ll always hit a spinnerbait,” I told him.   I reached in my box and tied on a quarter ounce black version.   I cast as far into the small creek as I could and brought the lure along the emergent weeds at the left.   Swirl and I missed the strike.   A few casts later with a comparable cast on the right, same result.   Later I noticed I had not removed the plastic tube the manufacturer put over the hook.   But the buzzbait works.  

In my youth, my favorite lure for fishing emergent weeds was a Johnson Spoon with a pork rind trailer.   Mom let me put the spoon and pork in a water glass on the kitchen counter.   In the small lake near our cabin (no driver’s license, I was constrained to the lake at the bottom of the hill) lily pads were the principal cover for pike.   Sixty-five years later, the Johnson Spoon still wanders through the emergent weeds.   More recently, however, I have used a plastic trailer rather than pork rind.   If using a curly tail plastic, rig it so the curly tail faces toward the convex side of the spoon to avoid tangling.  

Other varieties of spoon can be modified by removing the treble hook and replacing it with a single hook to maneuver through weeds.  

Spinnerbaits can also be tossed into the densest weed patches and retrieved.   The best spinnerbaits for weeds have heads coming to a point rather than bulging.   Big eyes poking out of the head may look great in a tackle shop, but they catch on all kinds of debris in the water.   Preferences vary.   Some anglers choose tandem safety pin style and some single blade.   Some think a narrow willow leaf as the upper blade comes through weeds better than wider Colorado blades.   Usually, whatever the cover, I use a tandem blade with a willow leaf on the top.   In colored water I use a bright color, probably chartreuse.   In clear water, my favorite colors are white and blue.   Experiment and develop your own theory.

In-line spinnerbaits, called bucktails in musky country, also work over and through weedbeds .   Big treble hooks, however, are weed collectors.   Among the bucktails I have it seems the trebles are hard to replace.   Thus these lures are tough to work around and among weeds.  

Topwaters may be the most exciting way to catch fish in weeds.   Bill Steenson and I fished pencil reeds in Loonhaunt Lake several years ago.   Smallmouth bass were scattered throughout the weeds.   Not near the edge, in the weeds.   We motored to the upwind boundary of the massive collection of weeds.   We shut off the engine and drifted, perhaps a mile.   We cast PopN Image, Jr.s into lanes or pockets in the weeds.   Over many years with many partners, I’ve duplicated this trick.   Some sort of walk-the-dog lure, a Spook Junior for example, has also worked for bass and pike in pencil reeds.  

Shallow running crankbaits are excellent choices over submergent weeds.   Bass and pike locate near beds of pond weeds, also called cabbage or pike weed, milfoil or coontail.   Many years ago, fishing a lake near our cabin in the Upper Peninsula, I learned a technique which has served me well.   Casting a favorite River Runt, I reeled slowly over the cabbage until the lure reached a pocket in the weeds.   Then a couple of fast revolutions made the lure dive into the opening.   When it came to the edge of the pocket, I slowed the pace and the lure floated over the next patch of weeds.   While I no longer use a River Runt, a Swimmin’ Image comes about as close to the same option as possible and it works well.  


The Ohio angler Dad met at Currituck missed a bet by not fishing the weedbeds.   Don’t miss the same bet.


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           Last updated on August 25, 2018