FRANKFORT, Ky. – I recently fished Cedar Creek Lake recently with an old and trusted buddy with whom I’ve fished a thousand times. A slow fishing day by Cedar Creek’s standards, I brought only one largemouth bass to hand by 2:30 p.m.
After unsuccessfully casting a jig and craw combination on a baitcaster for a big part of the day, I picked up my spinning rod. I earlier tied on a straight-tailed brown with orange belly soft-plastic worm on a 3/16-ounce Shaky head on the spinning rod. I made a cast into a pocket near shore overlain with logs and fallen tree branches. The lure never hit bottom or wood.
My line came toward me and I reeled down to eat the slack. My rod tip began to bend from the weight of the fish before I set the hook. This feeling usually means I’ve hooked a pig.
I swept the rod upward and my medium-power spinning rod immediately bent double. The reel started burping drag. I had no control at all as the fish swam toward some of the flooded timber that lines much of the shore of Cedar Creek.
By the time my buddy asked if I needed the net, it was over. The fish escaped by spitting the lure. I blew it.
In retrospect, the best option would’ve been to cut off the jig, retie the worm on my baitcasting rod and make a nice pitch cast to the cover. A baitcasting rod contains enough power to turn a large fish hooked in heavy cover. Plus, 12-pound test line gives an angler much more leverage than the 8-pound line on my spinning rod.
I grew up fishing flowing water for smallmouth bass. I fish Lake Cumberland or Dale Hollow for most of my lake trips. These fishing situations favor a spinning rod and light line.
My baitcasting skills languished as a result. In the past few years, I’ve improved markedly, but I am still below average with a baitcasting rod, especially when it comes to the pitch cast.
“With this high water, pitching is going to be important,” said Chad Miles, an expert bass angler who’s deadly with a baitcasting rod. “The whole thing is to keep the bait as close to the water’s surface as possible on the cast. It allows you to target small areas and not spook fish with a big loud splash. With a pitch, you can cast your lure under overhanging limbs, docks and the like. ”
You’ll need a medium or a medium-heavy power baitcasting rod at least 6 feet, 6-inches long. A 7-footer works better for pitching. Single hook lures such as a jig, grub or worm work best for pitching with a reel spooled with 10- to 17-pound test line.
“Grab the lure and let out enough line to bring it about waist high. Pre-load the rod by pulling on the lure a bit,” Miles explained. “Then, use an underhand pitch motion, let the rod release, and point the rod above where you want the lure to land.”
Miles also said move the rod toward the target at the end of the pitch. “That way, you don’t pull the lure back toward you and make a big splash,” he said.
The underhand roll cast is another option for presenting a lure just above the water. This cast employs an underhand hand action like you would use for skipping a rock on the water’s surface or pitching a softball.
“I can keep that bait waist high above the surface for 40 feet and that cast is extremely accurate,” Miles explained. “Just before the lure hits the water, I extend my hand and point the rod toward the bait, killing the splash.”
Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley both reached new record high levels this past week, as did Cave Run Lake. The shoreline of most Kentucky lakes and reservoirs will be up in trees for quite a while. A low and quiet presentation will bring more bites in these conditions.
If I would’ve only used the pitch cast with my baitcaster at Cedar Creek Lake, I may have held the longest, fattest largemouth bass of my life. Instead, I arrived at a gun fight with a pocket knife and went home brokenhearted.