Punching requires more than one setup. Here Casey Martin made an adjustment to the Gamber BB Cricket and 1 ounce Picasso Tungsten, because the smaller profile Cricket and 1 ounce weight punches just as good or better than a Sweet Beaver and a 1.5 ounce Picasso Punch Weight. But the smaller profile gets more bites and at times, slides into the thick stuff better. There is significant difference in the size of the Sweet Beaver vs. the BB Cricket, and the hardcore grass punchers have both on deck at all times.
Without a doubt, punching thru hydrilla and hyacinth mats is the winning pattern on Okeechobee right now (well, unless the big girls move up on the beds, which was happening when I left Okeechobee, but still, get a handle on punching if you’re headed to Okeechobee or have shallow grass in your domain). Randall Tharp blew away the field with a 4 day total over 100 pounds (again). Punching is all about putting a small profile bait into and thru the thickest and gnarliest stuff you can find. Heavy rods, heavy braid, strong round bend hooks and small compact baits that slide thru the grass are the tools of punching. The keys to being the best puncher you can be are location, location, location, approach, boat position, and being able to mathematically make the most and best punches (meaning, you rarely have a bunk cast where you don’t punch thru the mat and have to re-try, or spending less time cleaning off your bait of grass, and/or making the highest percentage punches, knowing where the fish are likely to be holding and keying on those areas). Find mixes of ‘good grass’ where hydrilla and hyacynth mix together, or reeds and hyacynths or wherever multiple grasses come together, and find the thickest places you can get a bait and go to work.
Rod: G Loomis GLX 7’5″ Heavy Action Flipping Stick
Reel: Shimano Chronarch 200 E or Daiwa Zillion
Line: 70 Pound Daiwa Samurai Braid
Owner Twistlock Flippin Hook--I asked Casey to try them to help me 'test' them. He was pleasantly suprised at how well the hooks not only rigged the baits, but how beefy and robust the hooks were to withstand the rigors of heavy braided line and stout flippin. sticks. These hooks don't require a snell knot either. Give 'em a try sometime.
Heavy Punching Rig:
4/0 Owner Twistlock Flippin Hook or 4/0 Paycheck Hook w/Barb
Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver Penetration Color
1.5 ounce Picasso Punch Weight w/ Pegged with Paycheck Punch Stop
Grass mats come in all shapes and sizes and have an endless number of places to put your bait. Remember, smaller profile baits require less weight to get them to punch thru, and if the fish aren't responding the Beaver, downsize and lighten up a hair, you'll be suprised how well the fish will respond. They see a lot of Beavers on 1.5 ounce weights!!!
“Lite” Punching Rig:
Gambler BB Cricket (Junebug )
3/0 Owner Twistlock Flippin Hook or 3/0 Paycheck BMF Hook w/Barb
1 ounce Picasso Punch Weight Pegged with Paycheck Punch Stop
The Gambler BB Cricket is to punching and heavy grass fishing, what the Speed Worm or Skinny Dipper is to swimming baits and worms in shallow grass fishing...one of those, don't leave home without its.
Other Punch Baits to Consider: The baits below were working on Okeechobee too and might fit your style or you might want to deviate from the norms a bit, but know they were absolutely catching fish on Okeechobee for the 2012 FLW Tour and Everstart Tournaments.
Yum Wooly Bugger