California’s Jared Lintner is widely recognized as the expert on punchin’ soft plastics into matted vegetation. He honed his skills on the California Delta and Clear Lake and has continued to refine his skill as he competes across the country on the Bassmaster Elite Series trail. Even other Elite pros acknowledge that Lintner’s tops at this technique and seek out his advice. This is his preferred way to fish and he believes that the bigger fish in a body of water will always gravitate to mats of aquatic vegetation.
Punchin’ has become increasingly popular within the past few years and has spawned a long list of products designed specifically for the technique. Lintner sees the advances in equipment and products as a natural progression and has changed some of his philosophy on what makes good punching gear.
Jared’s Gear from A to Z
Rod: First off, a standard flipping rod is often not suited for this technique. “The rod used for punchin’ is one of the most crucial parts of the whole setup,” says Lintner. “When I started punching ten years ago, I would choose the heaviest rod I could find. Those rods were so heavy that I called them meat sticks, they were literally like broomsticks.” Over the years Lintner found that the heaviest rod is not always the best rod and he has worked with Powell Rods to design the perfect punching rod, aptly named the ‘Punch Rod.’ Through trial and error, Lintner noticed that the very heavy rods often did such a good job hooking fish that they would actually cause a big hole in the mouth of the fish, which lead to a lower landing percentage. He chooses to use a rod that is 8 feet in length for better hooksets.
He still prefers a rod that is a heavy action, but focuses more on the tip action of the rod. “When I designed the Punch Rod for Powell, I wanted a fast, quick tip. It still allowed me to get a good hookset, but it had some give in the rod. The parabolic bend made a huge difference and my percentage of fish landed went way up,” exclaims Lintner happily.
Reel: Lintner prefers a high speed reel, a 7:1 gear ratio for many reasons. He wants to be able to pull the fish in quickly before they can become wrapped in the grass.
Line: Braided line is a must for this technique, and 65 lb to 80 lb test is ideal. Lintner will decide on the line size based on the thickness of the mats. “When you are fishing cover that is that thick, the fish can’t see the line and you want to make sure you don’t lose fish because of the line being too light,” states Linter.
Hooks: The hooks used in punching have continued to advance each year. The current trend is to use a straight shank hook with a welded eye to prevent the knot from slipping out. Lintner believes that this type of hook is crucial to hooking fish and prefers to use a Paycheck Baits Punch Hook. When asked about hook size, he says “The 4/O is my favorite all-around size and it seems to fit well with a variety of baits.”
Tungsten Weights: Like braided line, tungsten is a must have for this technique. Lintner prefers to go as light as possible to penetrate the mat. Most often he is using a 1.5 ounce weight, but will adjust to a 2 ounce Eco Pro Tungsten “Monster” when either the mat is too thick or in heavy winds.
Punch Baits: Lintner, like most bass fisherman who practice this technique, varies his bait selection based on the season, the cover and the mood of the fish. He prefers to rotate between three main types of baits: the Berkley Havoc Pit Boss, Jackall Sasuteki Craw and a very small crawfish imitator. When asked about the last option, he referenced a new product that is yet to be released from Paycheck Baits, a three inch craw imitation. “Sometimes, the fish really prefer that smaller, bite-size bait. Plus that smaller bait allows you to have a much better hookset,” states Lintner.
Colors: Jared likes to rotate between different colors. “I have thought about colors quite a bit and realized that the visibility under these mats is next to zero. I prefer to use darker colors, but think in the thickest mats, it doesn’t matter as much. When fishing sparser stuff, or when the sun is very high, I like to use a more natural color. Watermelon red is my go-to for these situations,” states Lintner.
Punch Skirt: The Punch Skirt is another relatively new item and Lintner is a believer in using one. “It allows me to bulk up my bait a little more and I will always have one rigged. I think the bigger bait will catch bigger fish,” he says.
To Peg or Not to Peg: Pegging the weight is a must for punching according to Lintner, and he relies on Eco Pro Tungsten’s Pro Pegs. “I like these pegs because the larger size can peg a weight up to two ounces, which is something that is becoming more and more popular.”
Seasonal Approaches: Jared believes that “It really depends on where you live. In Florida, the bass seem to be in the mats during the pre-spawn, spawn and post spawn. In the rest of the country, it is almost completely opposite. There is usually not enough grass to form mats during the spring, so it becomes primarily an early summer to fall technique.” He advises that “As long as you have vegetation that is matted and to the surface, fish are under those mats.”
The Perfect Mat: All of the right gear and equipment means very little if you cannot locate a suitable mat to start punchin’. Lintner believes that the perfect mat is one that consists of a mixture of different types of vegetation. His favorite is one that combines Hyacinth and Hydrilla. “This combination almost always produces for me,” says Lintner. Another blend that has produced for the Elite Series Pro is Pennywort and Hydrilla.
In addition to locating the right mixture of vegetation, Lintner believes that the color and stage of the mats is just as important. He mentions that “You want to find the mats that are really healthy, really green and alive looking. The mats with tints of brown or completely brown are usually not as good. In general the baitfish and bass prefer the healthiest looking mats.”
Punchin’ is an exciting way to fish and can often yield monster bass. As the technique continues to evolve, more and more bass fishermen will realize the potential of fishing this technique.