I would just agree with them, and try my best to stay downwind so they couldn’t smell all the bass slime I was covered with. Had I not changed tactics quickly I would have believed them. My first couple trips were a disaster - totally fishless. I knew I needed a weedless bait, but even with a Texas-rigged worm I would bring back a ton of “salad” on each cast.
A chance sighting changed my fate on that lake. and I have a frog to thank for it. On the way down the bank, a spooked green frog skittered across the surface. It was completely crushed by a bass in a pile of pads on the surface. I had nothing in my arsenal that would work, except my bags of worms and lizards. I re-rigged with just a hook and did my best to mimic that frog’s path across the surface. The moment that bass blew up on that worm, a smarter angler was born. These days folks have fishing shows, magazines or the internet to learn from. Back then the internet wasn’t even a dream. There was only one fishing show, and the host, “Ol’ Red”, knew nothing about weightless soft plastics!
I kept at it with different styles of baits and in different situations, and kept learning (and catching.) I even experimented the days I fished with my dad out of the boat on the river, or later when I was gifted a tiny leaking jonboat. These days, my soft plastic arsenal is massive and loaded with worms, lizards, craws, flukes, and creatures that look like they came from outer space - but I still rarely use weights. By slowly dragging these weightless soft plastics through treetops and around rocks, I can get a very natural movement with little chance of snagging. Drifting them through current around structure allows them to follow the current seam, and end up exactly where a large fish expects them to.
I have learned some serious lessons through the years with weightless soft plastics, though, and am better because of it. The number-one tip I can give is, “Become a line watcher.” Since there is less “feeling” without the weight, a strike is often seen in the line rather than felt. If your line jumps, twitches, or starts to run, cross his eyes! Hook sets are free, and I will hand out extras from time to time. Sometimes that running line is because a small bluegill is running with your bait; other times, it is the target species. Learn to keep your eye on your line and your catch ratio will drastically increase.
Another tip is to vary your line weight with the situation. Fast moving lures or extremely heavy cover calls for heavier line - and I am fine with that - but I downsize if at all possible with lighter baits or open water. I like braid, and tend to use a 10lb with a 2lb mono diameter, tipped with a 3’ or 4’ mono leader. This allows me to skip way under docks, or let the baits sink a little deeper around the edge of structure. Lighter line also allows the bait to act more naturally in the water, and a small amount of rod action will amount to a huge amount of lure action in the water. Also, with smaller line pay particular attention to your hooks. Good hooks, honed till they are sticky sharp, can be a huge advantage when you are fishing lighter line.
The next time you are fishing a weed-choked place, think beyond the normal floating frog that folks always use. Pulling a Texas-rigged worm, lizard, or craw across those patches can be deadly - especially if you let them drop into any open pockets and sink a bit. Be sure to watch that line, though! Don’t just think of them for weedy areas, either. The next opportunity you have to fish docks, rocks, or logs, try to lose the weight and see what happens. It seems to be the only way in life that I can lose weight, but if it leads me to catch a fat momma of a bass, I am fine with it!