It may sound strange to some bass fishermen, but much of the time Jared Lintner is happy to get seven or eight strikes a day, even when his competitors are getting 20 to 30 strikes. That’s because the Yamaha Pro’s favorite presentation is a technique known as “punching,” and with it, the bass Lintner catches are nearly always heavier fish.
“Punching is a technique specifically designed for extremely thick, heavy cover like matted vegetation that normal lures can’t really penetrate,” explains Lintner, whose home water is the famed California Delta where such habitat abounds. “The lure and weight are heavier than usual and fall or ‘punch’ right through the vegetation to get to the bass underneath.
“On many lakes across the country right now, from Florida to Texas to California, punching is probably one of the best techniques to use to catch summer bass.”
Punching tackle includes a slip sinker weighing between one and two ounces and pegged on the line; a specially-designed punching skirt that slides on the line and helps camouflage the lure; a straight shank 5/0 hook, and a large soft plastic bait, like a worm or creature bait, rigged Texas style. It’s a bulky package and pros like Lintner use long, medium-heavy action rods and 65-pound test braided line to fish it.
“Basically, I just flip the lure into the vegetation, which might be two to eight or 10 feet deep, and let the heavy sinker pull everything through the cover and down to the bottom,” continues the Yamaha Pro. “Bass have moved into this type of thick vegetation now for shade, protection, and feeding opportunities, and when a big lure like my creature bait drops in front of them, they grab it. Punching primarily brings reflex strikes, so the heavy sinker actually serves two purposes. It not only pulls the lure through the thick cover, it also increases the speed of the lure’s fall, which is what draws the instinctive strikes.”
On some lakes, matted vegetation can cover literally hundreds of acres of water, so to increase his chances of success, Lintner looks for irregularities along the edges of such mats, including small points, cuts, indentions, and even trails or veins leading further into the mat, since bass are frequently attracted to such irregularities. He especially likes places where several different types of vegetation may be growing together.
“This type of fishing can be very tedious because you may go hours without a strike,” explains Lintner, “but the strikes you do get are almost always from larger bass. The heaviest fish I’ve ever caught by punching weighed a little over 12 pounds, and I can’t tell you how many fish I’ve caught in the eight to 10 pound range.
“You definitely have to have confidence when you’re punching because it can be slow, but once you experience just how effective it can be, you’ll become a believer, I promise.”
The Yamaha Pro does not take any credit for developing the punching presentation, but he has helped companies design rods and tackle specifically for the technique. Flipping and short pitching have always been his favorite techniques, so he had no trouble adapting to punching.
“Initially, bass fishermen used heavier jigs to penetrate matted vegetation,” he continues, “but while a jig can get through the cover, it usually snags when you bring it back out, so you’re continually cleaning the hook. Punching eliminates that, because the hook is protected by both the special punching skirt and the plastic bait itself.
“If I don’t get a strike on the lure’s initial fall through the cover, I’ll hop it on the bottom once or twice, or pull it up and then let it fall again, then reel in for another flip, and I never have to clean the hook. It sounds crazy to use a sinker weighing as much as two ounces for bass fishing, but big bass don’t pay any attention to the sinker.
“They just see a large, bulky creature falling down in front of them, and they hit it instantly.”