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Written by Pete Robbins   
Tuesday, 30 November 2010 21:53
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Bub Tosh’s Mat Flipping System Exposed

For the average bass angler, the process of learning to punch mats is an exercise in frustration. Each article on the topic makes it sound exceptionally simple – get a big rod, heavy braid, tungsten sinker and a small plastic bait, pull up to the first grass mat you find and start crushing 8-pounders left and right.

It’s never that simple.

In fact, not only is the process physically demanding and laborious (especially if you’re not catching fish), but it’s a technique where each link in the chain is critical. If your line is too loud going through the guides you won’t get bites. If your hook flexes, you’ll lose fish. If your bait is too bulky it’ll catch grass coming back up through the mats. For most anglers, those lessons come with a heavy dose of heartbreak.

But California tournament angler and tackle manufacturer Bub Tosh, known for his mat flipping skills, has done the hard work for you. Through thousands of hours on the water he’s developed strong preferences about products and presentations.

The System That’s Not a System

Tosh loves to punch mats from dawn until dusk, but it wasn’t always that way. It was love born of necessity.

“Conventional flipping doesn’t work as well anymore here on the Delta,” he said. The changing nature of the vegetation, not just over the decades but also from year to year, necessitates that anglers constantly seek out newer, and occasionally thicker, cover to flip. “There are hyacinths, pennywort, both submergent and emergent grass, and it all collects along the rock banks in the bends in the slough.” With big tournaments nearly every weekend and heavy pressure throughout the years, going through the thick stuff became the best way to repeatedly weigh big strings of bass.

Tosh feels he does it better than most.

“Everyone says they can get in the boat, go to my water, use my baits and catch as many as me,” he said, then added that most of them have no idea what they’re talking about. He believes he can put them in that position and half of them won’t catch more than a rat or two.

So what’s the secret? He said it boils down to three things:

First, fish don’t follow rules. If you get locked into a particular pattern, that’s a death knell. Sure, there are times when they’re all in the hyacinths, or times when they eat it only on the initial fall, but those are the exceptions rather than the rule.

Second, fish fast, but slowly. “In a tournament day, I might fish 50 to 100 mats and burn 30 to 40 gallons of gas,” Tosh said. “Like VanDam in the 90s with a spinnerbait, he made more casts than anyone else. I make a million more flips than anyone else. I run my ass off all day long.” But once he’s on a good mat, he doesn’t let the excitement of the next one hurry him along. “I fish my bait slower than everyone else. In a tournament situation I might let it stay (under the mat) for as much as five minutes.”

Third, technique matters. “Guys miss the boat on the mechanics of it,” Tosh explained. “Not only do I make more flips but I’m always in contact with the bait, from the second it goes through.”

While each of these three elements is in some respects obvious, he says when in doubt go back to rule one. For example, he doesn’t have a set distance he tries to pitch the bait. Of course he’d rather be as close to the boat as possible so he can “drag it through the Amazon Jungle,” but noted that he frequently makes pitches of as much as 30 feet. If possible, he’ll pitch it on a low trajectory, but if the situation demands it, he’ll throw his bait up as high as 30 feet in the air so it’ll crash into the mat and penetrate. Once it’s under the canopy there’s no set number of up and down motions, either. “I like to get it through, hit the bottom and go from there.”

While the presentation elements in his “system” are dynamic, many of the tangible elements of his game are not. With that said, the following is a breakdown of Bub’s equipment guidelines:

Punch Skirt

Now imitated by a multitude of manufacturers, Tosh’s Paycheck Baits was the first company to market a skirt specifically for flipping. For the uninitiated, it looks like a regular spinnerbait or jig skirt, but it differs in that it is held together by an unbreakable bead. Placed between the tungsten weight and the hook, not only does the bead prevent the skirt from disintegrating on contact, but it also creates a clicking noise, like a crawdad. He never leaves home without it.

“I always throw it,” he said. “You go to some lakes and the locals tell you, ‘They don’t bite bulky baits. They only bite a two-inch crawdad here.’” Unless I’m throwing a tube, I always use it. I’m not fishing for small fish. There are a lot of them under the mats too. If one bites this thing he goes to the weigh in.”
The Paycheck Skirts are available in a wide variety of colors to match just about any soft plastic, but Tosh goes the other way. “I always try to contrast my colors,” he said.

He only uses one skirt, and in fact he’ll trim it down or thin it out when fishing baits like a Smallie Beaver or a Tiny Paca Craw, but he knows that some anglers seek out even more bulk. “Some guys going down to El Salto, they double up on skirts with a Double Wide Beaver but I generally use just one,” he said.

He recently added white and bubblegum pink versions. They’re not necessarily for punching mats, although they can be used that way. He likes them for bed fishing. “You can fish a Texas rig that flares like a jig, but unlike a jig you’ll never foul hook the fish,” he explained.

The Weight

How much weight do you need to be considered punching? It’s a Zen koan of sorts, to which Tosh’s equally Zen-like answer is “If it gets down through the mat, you’re punching.”

Like most experts, he advocates using the lightest weight possible to get down through. He’ll go down as low as ¾ ounce if feasible, and said that he prefers never to go

heavier than 1 ½.

“If it’s that thick, you lose a lot of fish and it’s not worth it,” he said. Occasionally he’ll go up to 1 ¾, but said that the 2 ounce weights are nothing but heartbreak. Something about the size of that weight bouncing around in a fish’s mouth leads to missed hooksets or fish coming unbuttoned.

He doesn’t advocate a particular brand or shape, saying only that “any tungsten will work,” but did note that he prefers a weight with an insert to prevent line fray. He also prefers a painted weight, one that matches his bait. Once again, however, there are no rules. He remembered an experience at Okeechobee where a shiny chrome weight produced more bites.

What’s Your Line?

Tosh’s rule here is simple: All braid, all the time.

Again, he doesn’t specify a particular brand, saying that most are good, but that it’s key to find one that’s less noisy going through your guides. But he stays away from fluorocarbon, either as a main line or as a leader.

“I never use it,” he said. “I tried the leader thing, but if you do that you’re going to get your heart broke. At Okeechobee we used 30 and 40 pound fluoro and we caught some, but we lost more.”

Sixty-five pound braid is his usual go-to line, although he doesn’t hesitate to go up to 80 if there is wood in the mat or if he’s around rocks. He’ll also go to the 80 in really cold weather, when he wants the bait to fall more slowly.

He doesn’t color the last few feet of the line or modify it in any other way. “Straight out of the package,” he laughed when asked about that. “If it gets frayed or fades to white, I just cut the last few feet off. Most of the brands are smoke or green like the grass. I don’t think they can see it.”

Last Updated on Saturday, 05 February 2011 20:51

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