Please select your home edition
Edition
Sea Sure 2020 - SHOCK-WBV - LEADERBOARD

Gussy's flipping masterclass at the Bassmaster Classic

by Dr. Jason A. Halfen 23 Jun 18:13 UTC

Few presentations outproduce flipping when bass tuck tight into shallow cover. Such was the case at the 51st Bassmaster Classic, recently held on Lake Ray Roberts in North Texas.

In the weeks leading up to the event, unrelenting rains caused the lake to swell, with high water inundating shoreline brush and trees and providing resident largemouth with nearly boundless opportunities to explore previously inaccessible cover.

"When these big southern reservoirs flood, incredible numbers of bass head for the bushes and stay there as long as the water remains high," reflected Elite Series Pro and two-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier Jeff "Gussy" Gustafson. "Typically, by the time June arrives, the best bite is usually offshore, where fish will bite on everything from football jigs to big crankbaits to topwaters - and that's what I'd prefer to be doing. But the reality is, I'll be spending lots of time flipping those flooded bushes to get the five quality bites I need each day."

And flip, he did. By happenstance, I was paired with Gussy as his marshal on day 2 of the Bassmaster Classic, which afforded me the unique opportunity to spend the day observing - and dissecting - the mechanics and mindset of an elite angler competing in an apex-level event. I would be a student in Gussy's flipping masterclass from the back deck of his Lund 2075 Pro-V Bass boat.

Flipping, of course, is a short-range, shallow water technique that delivers a bait into heavy cover. Anglers swing the lure on a pendulum-like cast and gently feather it into the water, minimizing surface disturbance as the bait plunges quickly to the bottom. "Flipping elicits a reaction strike," noted the Kenora, Ontario native who won his first Bassmaster Elite Series event earlier in 2021 on the Tennessee River. "Bass will often pounce on the bait as it falls or right when it contacts the bottom; frequently, you'll feel that fish as soon as you engage the reel and come tight to the bait. My routine is to drop to the bottom, giving the bait a couple shakes if I didn't get bit on the way down, and then reel in and repeat."

With dozens of miles of flooded shoreline available, all brimming with fishy-looking bushes, where does one begin? Gussy remarked, "during practice, I'd start at one end of a long stretch of shoreline and flip my way to the other end. Invariably, there would be one or two key sections that provided consistent bites or larger average size. What makes those areas different from the miles of flooded bushes that aren't attracting fish? Maybe it's the bottom content; rocks attract more crayfish than does mud. Sometimes it's the density of the vegetation; often, an isolated bush provides more consistent action than an uninterrupted line of greenery. Covering lots of water is the key to locating these fishy targets."

While an individual flip doesn't necessarily cover a lot of water, the rapid, rhythmic nature of the presentation allows anglers to survey significant territory during the fishing day. Out of curiosity, I counted the number of flips that Gussy made per minute while plying these flooded waters searching for Texas largemouth; each time I counted, Gussy flipped between six and seven times per minute. That's at least 360 flips in an hour and closing in on 3000 flips for a solid eight-hour day of fishing. With Gussy at the helm, each flip was short, precise, and purposeful. A bush wouldn't get just one flip; Gussy would flip to the left side, in front, to the right side, and often behind the shrub as well. "You just don't know where that bass might be sitting or what direction it's facing; so, you've got to cover all the options before moving on."

Precision boat control is an essential yet sometimes overlooked aspect of successful flipping. "I try to stay off the trolling motor as much as possible - just a quick touch of my Minn Kota Ultrex 112 here and there as needed - to avoid spooking these shallow fish," remarked Gustafson. "I use the wind to push me along if I can, but often, that speed is just too fast to hit all the key casting targets. So if I find myself in a particularly fishy pocket, or when I need a minute to deal with a hooked fish or re-rig a bait, I deploy my twin Minn Kota Talon shallow water anchors to lock the boat in place."

The tournament day began with a broad selection of rods on the front deck of Gussy's Lund, including rods rigged with a swim jig, a spinnerbait, and even a Texas-sized plastic worm.

"Gotta keep 'em honest," quipped the Canadian cowboy. Truthfully, Gussy did throw those baits occasionally. Ultimately, however, Gussy caught all of that day's fish using a flipping stick. His weapon of choice was a G. Loomis NRX+ 895C JWR - a 7'5" rod with extra-heavy power and fast action - equipped with a Shimano Metanium reel. "This combination is incredibly light and sensitive yet extremely powerful and durable. I can flip all day for a week and never have the slightest amount of arm fatigue. At the same time, once a fish bites, the NRX+ 895 rod has the power needed to bury the hook and to get the fish's head turned quickly, while the 7.1:1 gear ratio Metanium winches it out of trouble." Gussy spooled his Metanium with 50 lb test PowerPro braided line and threaded on a ? oz Flat Out Tungsten flipping weight, held in place using a small rubber bobber stop. Then, Gussy tied directly to a Gamakatsu 3/0 Super Heavy Cover Flippin' Hook using a snell knot.

Flipping lends itself to a wide range of lure choices, with creature baits being one of the frequently presented styles. As we waited out a two-hour storm delay, Gussy engaged his neighbor in the take-off line, Bassmaster Elite Series pro Chad Morganthaler, in some friendly dock talk as Gussy asked, "how am I going to flip my way to five keeper bites today?" Morgenthaler, a seven-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier, responded with one word: tubes. As it turned out, Gussy left his entire tube selection with his smallmouth bass gear at home near Ontario's Lake of the Woods, so Morgenthaler reached into one of his compartments and gave Gussy a handful to try. "Each of us out here wants to see everyone succeed, and we try to help each other out anytime we can," noted a thankful Gustafson as he rigged up his first borrowed tube.

Morgenthaler's tubes would prove pivotal. By mid-morning, Gussy had three keeper fish in the livewell and had sorted through several members of the lake's junior-varsity bass squad - but was down to a single tattered tube. Luckily, help was about to arrive as another Classic competitor, Seth Feider, idled into view. A quick exchange led to Feider recharging Gussy's tube supply with a generous pile of green pumpkin-patterned baits. Those borrowed tubes helped Gussy capture a tournament limit of over 13 pounds that day and secure a berth in the Classic's Sunday championship round.

GIve flipping a try the next time that high skies and high water push bass into shallow cover. Tips and tactics from Gussy's masterclass will surely connect you with flipping success.

About the author: Dr. Jason Halfen is a long-time guide, tournament angler, and specialist in marine electronics. He owns and operates The Technological Angler, dedicated to teaching anglers to leverage hi-tech tools to find and catch more fish. Learn more by visiting www.technologicalangler.com.

Related Articles

Shimano School welcomes Alex Davis
Successful guide and tournament angler covers bass techniques, tools and trends Shimano School returns on Tuesday, August 3, with another informative and entertaining event. JP DeRose hosts these live streaming video seminars, featuring compelling topics and special guests from across the spectrum of the fishing world. Posted on 1 Aug
Shimano heads inshore with Capt. Jason Catchings
Learn to catch bull reds and gator trout along the Gulf Coast Shimano School returns on Tuesday, July 27, with another informative and entertaining event. JP DeRose hosts these live streaming video seminars, featuring compelling topics and special guests from across the spectrum of the fishing world. Posted on 26 Jul
Shimano reveals advanced hard baits
New freshwater and saltwater lures give anglers the advantage Trophy-caliber fish are smart, and fooling them consistently requires ingenuity and innovation. AT ICAST 2021, Shimano introduces three technology-infused hard baits that target freshwater and saltwater giants. Posted on 24 Jul
Shimano reveals new saltwater reels and rods
Leverage Shimano excellence to catch more and bigger fish A tireless pursuit for perfection, Shimano engineers superior tackle for inshore, nearshore and offshore fishing, helping anglers catch more and bigger fish on every trip. Posted on 24 Jul
Shimano Coltsniper Splash Walk
Dominant performance across the saltwater spectrum The rocky shorelines and cold offshore waters from the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast are home to the best striped bass fishing in the world. Along southern shores, snook, redfish and jacks prowl flats, marshes and bayous, feasting on bountiful inshore prey. Posted on 22 Jul
Shimano, G. Loomis and Jackall deliver innovation
New rods, reels and lures at ICAST 2021 set the bar for excellence in performance Whether chasing their first fish, their next trophy or glory on the tournament stage, all anglers deserve to fish with the best tackle available. Posted on 21 Jul
Samplawski reveals premium patterns
Capt. Spencer Samplawski goes deep on freshwater and saltwater giants Shimano School returns on Tuesday, July 6, with another informative and entertaining event. JP DeRose hosts these live streaming video seminars, featuring compelling topics and special guests from across the spectrum of the fishing world. Posted on 4 Jul
More powerful additions to the Torium family
Anglers leverage Torium's power and strength for reef fish, tuna and ulua The Shimano Torium is a lightweight, precision-engineered, star-drag saltwater reel that excels in live bait and bottom-fishing applications. Posted on 30 Jun
Shimano School heads inshore
Capt. C. A. Richardson shares wisdom for skinny water success Shimano School returns on Tuesday, June 22, with another informative and entertaining event. JP DeRose hosts these live streaming video seminars, featuring compelling topics and special guests from across the spectrum of the fishing world. Posted on 20 Jun
Conquer inshore waters with Teramar PX Southeast
Form meets function in dynamic new inshore rod offering Welcome to the marsh, where the breeze rustles the Rosseau cane as innocent morning clouds coalesce and gives birth to afternoon downpours. The smell of salt hangs in the air as tailing reds feast on shrimp fleeing from around oyster bars. Posted on 28 May
Coast Guard Foundation FOOTER 2Composites Constructions 2021 - CAPE50 - FOOTER38 South - Merry Fisher 795 Series - FOOTER