"Slop" is an angler's term for the thick vegetation that carpets the surface of a lake, and it's my favorite place to fish for bass. I'm thrilled by the heart-stopping strike of a bass as it engulfs a surface lure. I also enjoy the challenge of attempting to accurately cast surface lures to bass-holding cover, including patches of lily pads or duckweed.

During the retrieve I can visualize a lunker bass hiding beneath a layer of vegetation, its eyes tilted upward as it watches for unsuspecting prey. At any moment the water might explode as a bass chomps my lure. All of my senses are on full alert — eyes riveted to lure, ears attentively listening for feeding bass, arms taught and ready to set the hook.

Anglers who enjoy fishing the slop generally prefer to use some type of surface lure built to simulate a frog or mouse. It is essential that the lure is weedless — that is, forget any bait with treble hooks or even a single exposed hook, because they'll only get tangled in the vegetation. ­Popular among bass tournament anglers are lures made by Scum Frog, SPRO and Snag Proof. These lures have two upturned hooks guarded by a soft plastic body.

A long, stout rod is needed to haul bass from thick weeds. I prefer a 7-foot, 10-inch heavy action casting rod. A lengthy rod not only allows an angler to horse bass from heavy vegetation, it also allows for longer casts. Most slop anglers use a casting reel loaded with small diameter, low-stretch braided lines in 30 to 50 pound test.

Where does a slop angler look for bass? My fishing buddies and I have discovered the best slop is usually found in mats of floating vegetation that extend from the farther reaches of a bay all the way to the shoreline. But don't discount the isolated patches of cover surrounded by open water.

We also have found the best slop is relatively clear of submerged weeds under the floating mat. The ideal depth is anywhere from 2 to 5 feet, but there are no hard-and-fast rules.

Bass in the slop feed on a variety of prey from frogs and mice to crayfish and sunfish, even birds.

Yes, birds. I once witnessed a sora rail (a small wading bird about the size of a robin) get engulfed by a hungry bass as it scurried across a mat of weeds.

And when a bass hits a surface lure, the water usually explodes. But sometimes a hungry largemouth will just suck down the lure, creating a slurping sound similar to (only much louder) the kissing noise a sunfish makes when it sucks a bug off the water's surface. Slop fishing makes for a back-to-nature experience, that's for sure.

Bill Marchel, an outdoors writer and photographer, lives near Brainerd.