The terms flip, pitch and punch are often used interchangeably. But even though there are some overlaps here and there, these three are actually distinct and separate techniques. Let’s take a look at what these three styles of fishing are, how they differ and when to use which.
You’ll hear a lot of anglers refer to pitching and punching as flipping. For example, if a guy has been fishing shallow vegetation all day and says he’s been flipping, he’s likely been pitching and/or punching instead. Flipping is the old school, close quarters, short string version of pitching; when you get close to the cover, and dob a bait over and over without ever making a cast.
When you flip a bait, you let out just a dozen feet or so of line, then engage your reel and use your dominant hand to hold the rod while using your other hand to hold the line. For example, I’m right handed. So, when flipping, I hold my rod in my right hand and take the line just above my reel in my left. Pulling the line in through the rod guides while lifting my rod tip into the air, I swing my bait in. Then I pendulum the bait back out towards my target by simultaneously letting my rod tip back down and letting the line slide back through the rod guides slowly.
This style of fishing was really popular back in the day and made famous in competitive bass fishing by legendary flippers like Denny Brauer and Tommy Biffle. Though it’s rarely used anymore, flipping does still work well when picking apart shallow cover like grass lines, lily pads, bushes or stumps. And it’s a great way to repeatedly and accurately present a bait to a bedding bass.
Pitching is what many anglers are often doing when they use the term flipping. Pitching differs from flipping in several ways. For starters, you’re usually positioned a little farther from the cover when pitching. And instead of letting a short stretch of line in and out as you would when flipping, you’ll actually disengage the reel by pressing the thumb bar and then use an underhanded forward motion to pitch the bait out away from the boat or bank.
This is a very useful way to fish, as it allows you to gently present your bait to a bass or piece of cover that’s sitting a little too far away to flip to, but still too close to need to use an overhead, sidearm or roll cast. This technique comes in really handy when fishing down lines of vegetation, stumps and bushes in clear water, where staying back a few feet and pitching will likely yield better results than getting right up on top of the cover and flipping.
You will need to be on guard a little more when pitching though, since you have to engage your reel and swap your hand from the rod back to the handle after each pitch. These pitches happen much faster than casts, so there’s less time for the transition. And, since this style of fishing is usually used to present your bait close to cover, there’s a good chance the bite will come quick when pitching, often on the initial fall.
This increases the need to make a quick and smooth transition from rod to reel, as you may need to set the hook within seconds of starting the pitch. For this reason, many anglers will actually swap over and learn to pitch with left-handed reels (if right handed). Or learn to pitch with their left hand (again if right handed.) Making one of these two adjustments eliminates the need for the award and fast transition, allowing the hand you want to set the hook with to stay on your rod the whole time you’re pitching, and the hand you’ll reel with to be in position as well.
Punching is essentially just flipping or pitching, but into super thick cover. The mechanics of getting the bait to the mat are the same as those of flipping and pitching, depending on how close you are to the cover. But it does help to hold your rod tip higher in the air when punching, so that your line stays vertical as your bait enters the mat and isn’t dragging across the surface of the mat as the bait falls, the way it would if your line were more horizontal.
You’ll need a heavier weight with this style of fishing so that your bait can “punch” through thick mats of vegetation or other floating debris. The breaking point weight-wise when going from flipping and pitching to punching usually comes around 1 ounce.
Bass love to hole up under overhead cover shallow. They’ll sit out of site, and often react instantaneously when a bait breaks through the mat overhead. Sometimes, you’ll need to bob the bait up and down a few times if the bite doesn’t come on the initial fall. This is especially the case when the water temperatures are colder than 60 degrees or after a cold front, as the fish will be more lethargic and less aggressive.
Bait selection -
Jigs and Texas-rigged soft plastics work well for all three of these techniques. Again, when punching, you’ll need to use baits weighing weighing more than an ounce. You may even need to use a punch weight up to 2 and 1/2 ounces at times, to get through super dense vegetation. Typically though, a punching rig with a 1- and 1/2- ounce weight is a great all around setup to get through most cover, without sending your bait to the bottom too quickly.
For flipping and pitching, anything from a 1/4- ounce jig or Texas rig up to 3/4 ounce is pretty common. You should base your weight section on how far away from the cover you are, how fast you want your bait to fall and how thick the cover is. Even though you may not need to punch through a mat, you can still flip and pitch a bait into some fairly thick stuff that a heavy 3/4- ounce jig can get down into better than a 1/4- ounce jig would, for instance.
Jigs, craws, ribbon tail worms, tubes, lizards and creature baits work well when flipping and pitching to isolated cover like stumps and bushes. But when punching, flipping and pitching into denser cover like mats and standing willow grass, it’s best to use sleeker baits like a MISSILE Baits D-Bomb, since these baits will slip through cover better than a bait with large flapping appendages would. You can also pitch and flip Tokyo rigs, drop shots, shaky heads and more to isolated and sparser cover.
Final thoughts -
The gear to use with these techniques ranges widely. When flipping and pitching sparse or scattered cover, start with a 7- foot heavy action baitcasting combo spooled with either 30- pound braid if the water color allows for it, or 17- pound fluorocarbon in clear water. You can step the size and strength up on the rod and line the thicker the cover gets. When punching, a 7- foot, 6- inch extra heavy rod is kind of the base level, spooled with 65-pound braid. You can go up from here even a little if you’d like, to a 7- foot, 11- inch rod and 80- pound braid.
Pick the gear and presentation that best fits your needs for the day, flipping cover that’s close, pitching mid-range cover and punching the thickest stuff. These three techniques are all a little different, but they are also all very affective. So, spend a little time trying them all and see which one you like best.
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