When the summer sun threatens to boil the water, bass will look for shade. Thick, heavy cover like hydrilla, lily pads, or mats of dead vegetation offer a perfect spot to wait out the heat and set up an ambush for any shad or bluegill that happen by.
Experienced anglers know that in the heat, flipping and pitching into thick vegetation can be amazingly effective, but only with the right rigs.
One of the best - as its name suggests - is the Punch rig.
Designed to plow through matted grasses and other dense aquatic vegetation, the Punch rig allows bass anglers to pitch and flip into the nastiest salad they can find, while still offering an enticing presentation that draws reaction strikes.
Want to know more about the Punch rig?
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Punch Rig Basics: What is a Punch Rig?
A Punch rig is essentially a modified Texas rig that employs a heavy bullet sinker and skirt to penetrate thick cover.
Ideal when used with a sharp EWG or flipping hook and a big creature bait, the Punch rig is perfect for targeting bass that have retreated beneath aquatic vegetation.
It’s easy to assemble.
- Start by sliding a silicone stop onto your line. It’s essential for keeping the weight pegged against your trailer.
- Slide a bullet weight, tip first, onto your line.
- Attach your hook.
- Slide your skirt into place (if you want to use one).
- Slide your trailer into place and rig it Texas style to cut down on snags.
Punch rigs offer you two choices with hooks: standard EWG hooks or straight-shank flipping hooks.
Extra-wide gap hooks are a little thinner gauge than flipping hooks, and they penetrate a bit easier on the hookset overall. But they miss a hookset every now and then due to their geometry, mostly because of the way in which the offset can allow the point to miss a bass’s mouth.
By contrast flipping hooks offer a thicker gauge, stronger hook that’s ideal for pulling big bass out of nasty cover. The geometry of a flipping hook results in a higher hookset percentage, though it takes a bit more force to drive home.
Which you choose is up to you.
If I’m using a Punch rig like a standard Texas rig where I’ll be casting it, I’ll pick an EWG hook, like Gamakatsu in 3/0 or 4/0. At distance, you need that easier hookset the EWG creates, even with premium braid and a great rod.
I tie these hooks with a Palomar knot because I know it’s going to hold.
If I’m flipping or pitching, I can still use those Gamakatsus, but I prefer a flipping hook.
The Strike King burns through a lot less soft baits than the Trokar, as the Trokar’s point is just wickedly sharp edges that eat plastic. But when hard hooksets are essential, the Trokar delivers.
You can clearly see the difference between the Trokar and the Strike King.
For flipping hooks, my preferred knot is the Uni Snell, as it really lines that point up for instant penetration.
A Punch rig works best with a fat, compact creature bait. These have the right profile to slide through thick cover, and they get lots of attention as they flutter through the water column.
In the summer heat, I’m looking to imitate shad or bluegill in terms of color, although I’ll sometimes throw crawfish patterns as well. I tend to lean toward the green pumpkin with red flakes end of the spectrum, but other colors have proven effective, too.
One awesome option is the Yamamoto PyschoDad. 3 ¾ inches of wriggling craw, this creature bait ups the ante with an internal rattle chamber. Designed by Punch rig fanatic Bub Tosh, the “tail” of the Psychodad is reinforced to prevent slipping off the keeper.
I also really like the YUM Wooly Bug. Available in 3 ¼- and 4 ¼-inch lengths, the Wooly Bug has a compact density that punches particularly well. And those crazy appendages on the “head” flutter wildly through the water.
And of course, I like to pitch and flip Zoom’s Brush Hog. This 5 ½-inch creature bait moves wonderfully and pitches and flips accurately.
Punch rigs can make use of exceptionally heavy bullet weights.
I particularly like Reaction Tackle’s Tungsten Flipping Weights. Available in sizes ranging from ⅜ to 2 ounces, I can vary my weight to get just the right amount of punch for the conditions I’m fishing.
I typically don’t go lighter than ½ ounce, but I’ll go all the way up to 1 ½ ounces when the situation demands it. Stepping up to the 2 ounce weight can cause problems with the hookset, so I try to stay away from the heaviest punch weights.
Some anglers like a skirted Punch rig; others don’t.
I prefer them, as I think they add a bit more action, visual interest, and subtle vibration to the package. But there are definitely days when an un-skirted creature works better.
It just depends on what the bass are looking for that day!
If you decide to use a skirt, they’re easy to come by, and there are plenty of colors to choose from.
For flipping and pitching, heavy braid is simply perfect.
Offering a winning combination of ultra-sensitivity and low-stretch hooksetting power, braids like Sufix 832 or Power Pro in 40-pound test are the way to go. They’ll help you feel the bass hit your Punch rig, they’ll assist in driving that fat flipping hook home, and they’ll lend a hand when it comes time to wrangle a monster into your boat.
Some pros go as high as 65-pound test, and if that’s your game, have at it!
Use the Right Tackle for Punch Rigs
Punch rigs used for flipping and pitching are going to need stout rods that can really set a hook and drag a bass from thick vegetation. But your rod is going to need to provide plenty of sensitivity, too, and that backbone can’t be so stiff that it launches your hook from the bass’s mouth every time you go to set it.
Your reel needs to be fast. You’ve got to get that bass out and into open water before it can tie itself up, and you don’t have time to waste.
My preferred flipping and pitching rod is the 7’6” Dobyns Champion XP Series.
The blank is high-modulus graphite with a Kevlar wrapping, making it exceptionally strong, as well as allowing weights as heavy as 2 ½ ounces. It fishes beautifully with heavy braid, offering unparalleled sensitivity and just the right amount of hooksetting power.
And when it comes time to fight a tournament winner or personal best out from the gnarliest cover, you know this rod is going to deliver.
I pair it with a fast reel with a gear ratio above 7:1, typically either a Daiwa Tatula 200 HS or a Shimano Curado K. The Tatula is slightly faster, offering 32.2” per turn to the Curado’s 31”, and both come equipped with smooth, consistent, powerful drags with a maximum rating of 13.2 pounds and 11 pounds, respectively.
Either of these excellent options will provide enough drag to fish heavy braid effectively, and you’d be very hard-pressed to find better reel options for pitching and flipping.
How to Fish a Punch Rig Tips and Techniques
The Punch rig is built for flipping and pitching, and these techniques are relatively easy to master with a bit of practice.
For hitting tight spots and precise casts, nothing beats flipping.
It’s not a particularly hard casting technique, but a little practice will help. I recommend setting a bucket up at about 15 feet and perfecting your form.
Holding the rod in your right hand, pull out a length of line in your left. Lower your rod tip, levering your rig forward in a pendulous arc. If you release the line in your left hand at the perfect moment, you’ll flip your rig forward with amazing accuracy.
As your Jika rig hits the water, let it flutter to the bottom. Many bass will hit it on the fall, but if they don’t, give your rig a few gentle pops with your wrist.
Don’t be too quick to lift it back out of the water - slow down, and more bass will hit your rig.
Pitching is similar to flipping, just minus the left-handed action. By lowering your rod tip, you pitch the rig forward with your rod, giving you more distance than a flip.
Again, this is a technique that you’ll want to practice a bit, and that time will pay off quickly.
When you flip or pitch a Punch rig, you’ll want your rig to penetrate the top of the vegetation and break through to the open water below.
But what separates a weekend angler from a pro is what happens next.
Instead of allowing your rig to drop, hold it high and up against the bottom of the cover you’re fishing. Give it a slight twitch or two, and bass may rise to hit it right there, mistaking it for a struggling crawfish, shad, or bluegill.
If that doesn’t do the trick, you’ll want to let your Punch rig flutter toward the bottom. I like to keep my finger on my line, controlling that descent, and giving me a bit more feel for soft strikes.
That initial descent is often money, and bass will strike more or less before they even see what it is they’re hitting. And while some will simply hammer your Punch rig, others will gently engulf it, and you’ll only know you've got a bass on because of the extra weight on your line.
With a Punch rig in heavy cover, you want to really set that hook.
Especially when you’re using flipping hooks, try to drive that point home and pull the bass toward the surface.
You need to gain the upper hand immediately or she’ll turn back into the thick stuff and potentially tie you up.
Look for green
Dead weeds and aquatic vegetation will sometimes hold bass, but live hydrilla, lily pads, and thick grass are much more desirable hiding spots for big fish.
It can take a while to learn the kinds of vegetation that reliably hold fish, so take your time and keep a mental record of where you get hit often. As you learn to identify the best spots, your Punch rigs will draw more and more attention.
When the bass are holding tight to heavy cover, the Punch rig is almost unbeatable.
Offering an ideal option for pitching and flipping, it has the weight and shape to penetrate thick vegetation while offering an irresistible flutter and fall.
Fished properly, Punch rigs are nothing short of deadly.
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