A Total Guide to Pitching & Flipping Techniques
Pitching and flipping provide the angler with a specialized skill set, offering a precise method of catching bass. Here we cover what is meant by the terms pitching and flipping, how to actually carry out the techniques, where to use them, and even some tips to increase your success.
What Is Pitching and Flipping?
Pitching and flipping for bass require stout baitcasting gear paired with a sinking lure, such as a jig or soft plastic creature bait. Rather than simply casting and retrieving your bait, these techniques involve swinging and dropping your bait accurately and softly into a selected area.
Despite being commonly discussed together, pitching and flipping are two different approaches. At their core, they are two close quarter fishing techniques used to accurately and gently present a bait to the bass. Unlike a classic cast, pitching and flipping involve keeping the bait close to the water’s surface as the bait travels to the target location. This allows for a soft entry, thereby minimizing any disturbance.
If these techniques are hard to visualize in writing, we’ve included a step-by-step visual guide on how to pitch and flip later in this article.
The Benefits of Pitching and Flipping
By pitching and flipping, you can position a lure or jig directly in front of the bass, even in heavy cover, without spooking them. Not only do flipping and pitching afford a level of accuracy not given with traditional casting, but these techniques allow lures to reach areas where casts can’t be completed, such as overhanging branches that hug the bank.
The flipping technique for bass fishing is particularly quiet compared to skipping or standard casting. The lure has a shallow approach angle with limited time in the air, resulting in less splashing and fewer spooked fish. The soft “plunk” of the lure hitting the water draws the bass’s attention to the now sinking object fluttering past them. Strikes are reactionary and vicious. Fishermen can recycle the approach repeatedly, allowing them to pick apart dense cover to ensure that any large fish lurking below have ample opportunity to be caught.
The Pitching Technique: Bass Fishing
Step 1: Cruise up to the spot you want to pitch your bait to.
Step 3: Let the line out until you can hold your bait in your off-hand at about waist level.
Step 4: Keeping your thumb on the spool, engage the free spool.
Step 6: As the bait is falling, bring your rod tip back up while letting your thumb off the spool. Your bait will pull the line as it swings towards the target.
Step 8: Wait for the bait to flutter to the bottom before reeling in and trying again.
Step 9: If you aren’t getting bites on the fall, try to let your bait “dead stick” or lay motionless on the bottom for a few seconds. Subtle movements here can trigger strikes from large, less aggressive fish.
The Flipping Technique: Bass Fishing
Step 1: Follow pitching steps 1-6.
Step 2: After the bait has settled to the bottom, don’t reel in.
Step 3: Grab the line between the reel and the first eye in your off-hand, and pull this line away from the rod.
Step 4: Lifting the rod tip, combined with the previous motion, will lift the bait out of the water and back towards you.
Step 5: As the bait swings back away from you, aim the rod tip to the hole while letting go of the line in your off-hand. These actions will lower your bait back into the hole you retrieved it from.
When to Pitch and Flip
Pitching is used when the target cover is within a rod length or two, effectively dropping a bait directly into any openings in the cover, such as a half-submerged branch.
The flipping technique expands upon pitching with a bit more wrist work. By adding a few extra feet of slackline in your hand, like a fly fisherman, an angler can repeat their precision strikes with almost no effort.
It’s important to remember that your range is limited with these techniques; both pitching and flipping are done when the targeted area is within a few yards. When bass are stacked up under hard-to-reach cover, it’s the perfect time to grab your flipping setup and land a monster.
These techniques are ideal for approaching hard-to-reach areas
The Ideal Setup for Pitching and Flipping
There are several factors to consider when looking for a solid pitching and flipping setup.
Longer rods offer more accuracy when flipping baits; look for a rod between seven and eight feet. A heavy power, fast action rod is a must since hooksets need to be hard, and plenty of backbone is required to muscle big fish out of the heavy cover they hang out in.
For your reel, you want to go with a high gear ratio to quickly retrieve the slackline when the bass eventually makes a run straight at the boat. A 7:3:1 ratio reel is a great place to start. It’s equally important to have a reel with a smooth spool, as any resistance when flipping will reduce your accuracy.
Generally, I suggest you opt for a braid of 50 lb or so for your line. Braid’s abrasion resistance is critical for fighting fish in cover; this will give you a better success rate when dealing with submerged vegetation or docks. The breaking strength of your line is critical when setting the hook, and as we’ve mentioned, a hard hookset is a must when these fish connect with your lure.An alternate option to braid is fluorocarbon. Fluorocarbon is less visible than braid in clear water conditions. Fluorocarbon does have some stretch, and this can be an advantage when fishing around tree limbs that would fatally tangle most braid. If choosing fluorocarbon, opt for at least a 20-pound test.
On the topic of hookset, it’s wise to look at the hooks you use when flipping and pitching. I recommend using hooks that are heavier gauge wire with a straight shank. These features allow less flex in the hook on the hookset, and more force directed to the hook’s point. The Trokar Flippin hook would be my choice for the best of them.
Lures should be fast sinking with plenty of movement. A 3/8 – 1/2oz pitching jig or a creature bait like Riot Bait Fuzzy Beaver, rigged Texas-style with a bit of weight, provide excellent results in my experience. Colors and patterns are subjective, but a good rule of thumb is to opt for a dark pattern like “Junebug” or “watermelon”.
A soft creature bait, perfect for flipping and pitching
Locations and Conditions
Flipping and pitching are great when fishing for bass in shallow waters. While jigs can be used in deeper areas, the flipping technique doesn’t cover enough water to make it worthwhile over simply casting a jig. Luckily for bass fishermen, most heavy cover is located in shallow water. Cover can include natural elements like lily pads and fallen trees or artificial structures like docks and drainage culverts.
The heavier gear and bulky lures favored when pitching perform best in water with low visibility. Equally, heavy braid and large jigs will be less effective than a finesse-style offering if the water is crystal clear.
Spring tends to be the best time for pitching and flipping, as the fish move from their deeper winter holds to the shallows to spawn. Summer pitching will be largely dependent on water temperature. If water temperatures rise too much, bigger fish will seek refuge in deeper, more oxygenated water. Fall can also be an excellent season to try flipping, as bass will stalk the shallow areas, looking to eat as much as possible before the temperatures drop.
One great aspect of flipping and pitching is you can practice practically anywhere. In your backyard or even in your living room, all you have to do is set up a few targets made out of paper plates or trashcan lids. Practice landing your hookless bait into the targets at varying distances. If you can’t find a hookless lure, use an eraser or foam earplug to make a safety cap for the hook.
Your practice pitching course can be whatever you have in your backyard
I have low ceilings in my house, so I practice outside (when I should probably be cleaning the yard). I set my improvised targets between 10 and 20 feet from my imaginary bow and practice pitching and flipping my way through the “holes”. Practicing ten minutes every few days will save you aggravation when on the boat; it is much easier to learn how to thumb a spool and fix a backlash on land than it is on the water.
Three Top Tips for Flipping and Pitching
1. Watch Your Shadow
Regardless of the time of year, it’s essential to consider where your shadow falls and always take care to avoid placing your shadow over the spot you are pitching to. Shadows crossing over fish will cause them to take shelter and not strike your lure. Remember, the name of the pitching game is stealth. Whenever possible, angle yourself so you are casting into the sunlight. This will keep shadows from falling on the spot you are pitching to.
2. Understand the Rate of Fall
While jigs are not often thought of as baits that move through the water column, that is precisely what they are used for in pitching. Selecting a trailer for your jig will make all the difference. A trailer is an attachment for a jig that adds additional movement when threaded onto the hook. Trailers made from pork rind will slow down the lure as it falls through the water. This slower fall rate gives more time for bass to observe and strike.
3. Slow Your Hookset
After everything we have said, this one may come as a shock. We don’t mean set the hook gently; we want you to plant that hook. However, between the slackline from the pitch, and the fish most likely swimming towards you, it’s imperative to reel until you see a straight line, before setting the hook.
Setting the hook as soon as you see or feel a line twitch will result in a good number of lost fish. If this seems too hard mentally to overcome, set yourself the goal of dropping the rod low with no slack line when you get a bite. This will give you maximum range to set the hook and pull that big fish from cover.
Pitching and flipping for bass can appear daunting, but it will become as easy as rigging a worm with the right equipment and practice. Tempting as it may be to head to your favorite lake and start pitching like you are in the bass master classic, I can guarantee you will want to practice first. Practice on land where you have the time to hone your craft. Once the buckets of the backyard have been mastered, it’s time to master the bucket mouths of the lake.