The last weekend before the river closure is a weekend that every river angler wants to be on the water. The fish are biting, weather is usually nice, and fish can be caught a variety of ways. This pattern held true for the last weekend of April. I iced down the Engle Cooler Friday Evening and fished 25 hours over the course of the weekend without ever having to add ice. Over the course of two days, we caught largemouth and smallmouth bass on a variety of techniques.
Once the sun came out, I went very shallow looking for largemouth because I saw a lot of bluegills and minnows in the shallows from my cabin all week long. The largemouth were caught incredibly shallow. We caught those pitching a Strike King Denny Brauer Baby Structure Jig in green pumpkin with a Strike King Baby Rage Craw in green pumpkin. I used a 1/4 oz jig and 12 lb Hi-Seas Fluorocarbon so that the fish would not be as spooked. They were caught by flipping the jig onto the bank (dry land) and dragging it into the water. We also caught some fish on a Jackall Aska supershad crankbait and a Yamamoto 5 inch senko in watermelon red flake.
As for the smallmouth, the smallmouth fishing was incredible. We caught fish on hard cover banks, rock flats, islands, grass beds, and creeks! You could catch them on a variety of baits dragging the bottom from a Cabin Creek dirty dark green pumpkin 2.5 inch tube to a Reaction Innovations Little Dipper swim bait in sungill. The bigger fish, (generally speaking) wanted a reaction bait.
Ok.. here's the secret from last week, for all you Whopper Plopper fans, it is time! We caught some big fish super shallow on a River2Sea Whopper Plopper in Monkey Butt, Sexy Shad, and Bone White. You had to make a long cast and fish it slow. We also caught fish on a 3/8 oz. War Eagle Spinnerbait golden shiner, sexy mouse, and chartreuse/white with a slow retrieve. Once again, the Strike King KVD jerk bait caught fish by aggressively ripping the bait cross current.
There were some very large fish caught on the swim bait rig that I discussed a few weeks ago. The swim bait rig that I am using is a Strike King Squadron head 1/8 or 1/4 oz paired with a Keiteich 4.3 or 4.8 swing Impact Fat in Pro Blue, Sungill, or Bluegill flash. The technique that I use for this is very important. I fish this rig on a G Loomis GLX 843 casting rod with a Shimano Citica 6:1 reel and 12 lb fluorocarbon. This is almost like a finesse approach to catching fish that want a reaction bait and won't eat a spinnerbait! With this setup, a long cast is made and I let the bait sink to the bottom. By reeling the bait slowly you can feel the bait barely thumping. The sensitivity is super important, because the way the fish eat this rig, they eat the bait while it is swimming at you. I lost a bunch of fish a few weeks ago by setting the hook too hard, so I now resort to a sweeping hookset. Some of the biggest fish of the weekend were caught using this technique.
Stay tuned for more tips and tricks! If there are any techniques you want me to discuss in further detail, let us know!
Fishing in the rain isn’t a guaranteed fishing success. Truth is, there is never a “golden hour” in any particular weather pattern that offers the best fishing. However, rain does eliminate some of the things that prevent fish from biting. Here are 5 things to keep in mind when you hear a rain storm is coming.
A Noisy Fishing Opportunity
Trout anglers probably understand the need to be quiet better than any other angler out there. They move in total stealth mode covered in their green and brown clothing, disguised like the true fishing ninjas they are. Every movement is premeditated and done effortlessly. The quieter you are, the more at ease big fish will be, and rain is some of the best noise reduction you’ll find on the water. It’s also great at masking what’s going on above the waterline, so it’s highly unlikely you’ll be seen. These two factors are a couple reasons why reaction baits are so effective during the rain. Baits that take bass by surprise are very likely to generate reaction strikes. Bass feed heavy in the rain because they can ambush their prey while they’re frantically swimming (or darting in the case of crawfish). If nothing else, bass are opportunistic and they take advantage of easy meals when they can.
Necessary Gear for Rain
Gear, believe it or not, is the single most important part of fishing in foul weather. When you’re drenched you lose your focus. You start thinking about being cold, forgetting about the action of your bait. You slow down, make mistakes, miss bites, and that leads to the end of a frustrating trip. Be prepared to not just survive in the rain, but to thrive in the rain. Buy the best suit you can afford. We recommend the Simms Challenger Bib or the Gill FG2 Tournament Jacket for the really rainy and chilly days. If money is tight you can buy a shell system and get one that leaves you with enough room to layer up underneath for the colder months. It’s also best to get a suit that’s designed for fishing. These tend to be tailored to the movements anglers make when they’re on the water. Others may leave you vulnerable during casting or while scooping fish. Remember this, “Some people fish in the rain, and some people just get wet.”
Placement for Fishing in the Rain
Whenever you have a hard rain it’s key to find transition areas. Creek mouths, points, shoals, reefs, and channels are all great areas to find moving fish. I’m not saying it’s impossible to catch a fish under a dock during a storm, but it’s likely. Remember that fish look for cover like that to avoid sun and predators. Rain gives them the confidence to roam, and they’ll cover a lot of water. Most people won’t play in the rain, so if you can stick it out you’re likely to find you’ll have large areas all to yourself. Targeting the transitions with search baits like squarebills, lipless cranks, and big spinnerbaits with a Colorado blade are great options.
Safety During a Rain Storm
I will never forget a story I was told about a guy who got caught in a really bad lightning storm. The guys in the boat next to him started screaming for him to put his lifejacket on. He did so, and felt this huge sigh of relief as he laid down in the boat. When the storm passed he couldn’t wait to tell the guys all about how thankful he was that they’d given him that advice, that he didn’t know wearing his lifejacket would protect him in a lightning storm. The guys looked at him and said “It doesn’t protect you. It’s so search and rescue can find your corpse if you’re struck by lightning without having to call in a dive team.” I still laugh when I remember that story. But I don’t laugh about fishing in electricity. If there’s lightning during a rain storm, get off the water. You shouldn’t even be fishing from shore. If you’re crazy enough to try it and you see your line starting to float, get ready to see how Ben Franklin felt.
Fishing After a Rain Storm
This is perhaps my favorite time. The days following the rain are the best, especially in rivers. Fish are easy to find, gorging themselves to replace the energy they spent fighting the increased current, the water is murky, and again you’re probably alone. Don’t get me wrong, fishing floods can be downright dangerous. That being said, it does create some really amazing conditions. Wherever you find slow moving water or eddys that are near a current, you’ll find stacks of fish setup on the current break just watching for an easy meal to pass by. Position your boat downstream and cast above you. Fish will be positioned with their nose into the current and this will present the bait to them. Tubes are your best bait for smallmouth.
Fishing in and after a rain storm can present you with some of the best fishing opportunities you've ever had. Be prepared for the weather and have fun! If you have any questions, contact us!
Waking up to find out that Saturday morning was just the beginning of a 4 foot rise over the next 24 hours was not the ideal start to the weekend. As I launched my boat Saturday morning, I was hoping to beat the mud from coming down river from way up north. When I realized the mud had already taken over where I was fishing, I immediately adjusted and ran into the creek in search of clean water. When I got into the creek, it just looked right with a very distinct mud line being at the mouth of the creek and the water being slow and clear in the creek. I proceeded to pull out a Strike King KVD Strobe Shad Jerkbait. I never threw it before but I figured it looked good with the overcast due to the chartreuse underside. They were all over it! As fast as I could twitch that jerk bait the fish were eating it. We also caught them on the Jackall Squad Minnow in Ghost Minnow and Super Shad.
The main bait that the fish were dialed in on was crayfish. This was the tube bite of a lifetime! They wanted that dirty dark green pumpkin Cabin Creek 2.5 inch tube! Once it hit the bottom you had to let it sit there for a few seconds and they would just start swimming off with it. I must say, I put the new G Loomis GLX 803 spinning rod to the test, and I am super impressed with this rod. It certainly did not let me down. One thing that we did to get the fish to hold onto the tube longer was we did use Smelly Jelly. We relied on Garlic, Crawfish, and Crawfish Anise to increase the length of time the fish had the tube in its mouth. All in all, we ended up catching over 100 fish on this day.
After fishing all day Saturday and watching the river rise, I already knew my game plan for Sunday. Sunday was going to be a day of relaxation and fun fishing on the river with my buddies Hunter Moffitt and Ben Cluster. The river was at 9 foot in the morning and all of the creeks were clean water. The smallmouth and largemouth were sitting right on the mud line, and also on any main river log jams that you could find that created slack water behind them. By the end of the day, we caught some giant fish and ran over 35 miles as tracked by the Anglr App.
We relied on several baits to have success on this particular day. First was a Spro McRip. I have not talked about this bait all year long, however today is the day. The reason that I went to this bait was because the high water from the main river raised the creeks several feet. A typical jerk bait would not get deep enough to get into the ideal strike zone. The Spro McRip was getting down 8-10 feet where the fish were. In clean water I used the Spooky Shad and in dirty water I used the Norman Flake.
The go to bait of the day was a square bill crank bait like the Megabass S-Crank and the Strike King KVD 2.5 in Black Back Chartreuse and Gold Sexy Shad. You just had to keep covering water and beating the banks near hard cover to catch these fish. We used this in the dirty water mainly and the jerk bait in the cleaner water. We also pitched targets such as wood, and flooded bushes with a D and L Finesse Jig (black and blue) with a Strike King Baby Rage Craw (Black and Blue). One big fish was caught on a Missile Baby D-Bomb on a War Eagle 3/16 oz Shaky Head.
Spring is quite possibly a bass fisherman’s favorite time of year. Winter has been longer and colder than we wanted and the fish are fat and aggressive. When it comes to finding those heavy giants, it can be a little difficult if you’re not looking in the right place at the right time. Here are three tips every angler should know when it comes to catching big bass in the spring.
Tip #1-Creeks are Goldmines
This is a fact that I can’t stress to you enough. Even streams that feed lakes in the spring, but dry up in the summer can be loaded with big fish! Why? Because the water is so much warmer. There’s a lake I fish a lot that has a swamp-fed creek. In April on a sunny day, when the air temperature is 55 to 65 degrees, the water temperature can be as warm as 83-85 degrees in the afternoon, all while the main lake temperature sits at 45. Even something as simple as spring flooding that produces runoff which spills into a lake will be as much as 10-15 degrees warmer than the lake itself (depending on depth).
Elevated temperatures like this act like giant magnets for largemouth bass. But the key is to not get overly anxious. The water won’t really warm up until late afternoon and the warm water needs time to empty into the lake and draw the bigger bass in. If you hit the creek at 10 am you’ll find temps in the lower 50s, and the fishing will be mediocre. Come back at 3 and you’ll find it outstanding, with thousands of fish there and all of them feeding heavily.
Tip #2-Explore Every Area
When you look at a lake, especially smaller ones that you’ve fished for years, you can often get too complacent in where you fish. If there’s a particular side or pocket that is normally very good but suddenly isn’t producing, look to see if there’s a nearby reason that can explain the sudden change. Did a homeowner recently dump gravel or sand in and around their home to create a more kid-friendly swimming area? Or is a new culvert from the nearby road diverting water into a different place? These factors could have huge impacts on fish early in the year.
It’s also possible that the bass have found new cover, or that their former cover has been altered or removed. Laydowns, brush piles, and grass beds are all subject to change. If there was a flood in the fall, it’s possible that it created some sort of transition area nearby that has become a new favorite staging area. Remember that bass do almost nothing out of want, and nearly everything out of a need to follow their food source.
Tip #3-Downsize Your Bait
Most days you can get more big fish in early spring by throwing a shakey head than you will by throwing that giant football jig. Fish are still lethargic when they first come in and don’t want giant meals. Even when they’re spawning or guarding fry they will tend to lean toward eating numerous small meals because they are afraid of getting a food coma from eating something too big. It’s also true that they’re seeing a lot of bait hitting their waters from people like us all trying to get out at once. This will cause the fish to get a little finicky.
Spring is a great time of year to throw a little 1/4oz spinnerbait or a little 2.5 inch swimbait. It’s big enough to get their attention, but small enough so they’ll eat it if for no other reason than the fact that they felt a lack of respect. Bass ARE predators. It doesn’t take much to get them to act on it.
With spring in full swing, take advantage of the weather and get on the water as much as possible. Looking for some more spring tips? Our blog is filled with suggestions of baits to use, or fishing techniques to try to catch that fish you’ve always dreamed of. As always, if you have any questions about bait, contact us or visit the store for professional insight.
The water was clear, the sun was high, water temperature was rising and the mudline was in the middle of the river. Little did I know this would be one of the most epic reasons to get out of Easter Dinner in my life! We started out by running into a creek and caught a few on the Jackall Squad Minnow in Ghost Minnow and Super Shad. We also caught a few on Strike King KVD Jerkbait in Green Gizzard Shad. As we fished our way out of the creek we ran to some islands in the middle of the dirty water part of the river.
In the dirty water, we relied on covering a lot of water for the bites that we got. When we got a bite however, it was a GIANT smallmouth. We used several baits like the Z-Man Jackhammer chatterbait in Black/Blue with a Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper Penetration swim bait trailer. We also used a War Eagle Golden Shiner Spinnerbait (1/2 oz non screaming eagle version due to bigger blades) and a Chartreuse and White double colorado bladed Hawg Caller Spinnerbait. We then decided to go back to the clean water and found a mega school of smallmouth loaded up on a steep drop rock bank.
We started off by fishing that steep drop bank with the jerk baits, and proceeded to catch them on swim baits, spinnerbaits, and dirty dark green pumpkin Cabin Creek tubes. The fish were just crushing the tube. One particular technique that I used to catch some bigger fish was slow rolling a Keiteich swing impact fat 4.3 and 4.8 size swim bait in pro blue and bluegill on a Strike King squadron 1/8 oz jighead. In order to do this technique you had to fish the drop-off at a 45 degree angle to maximize your bait in the strike zone. Remember to not be afraid to try bigger baits, because big fish will eat bigger baits. At the end of today, both boats caught well over 200 fish and it was an epic Easter fishing day that will never be forgotten.
This past weekend we traveled to the mighty Potomac River for a quick weekend getaway. Due to the cold weather and work schedules, we arrived there Saturday around 3:00PM. Upon launching the boat, we noticed the water was very dirty, and approximately 54 degrees with the wind blowing right into the launch and the tide going out. We immediately ran across to a calm water pocket near some hard cover and began to throw a black and blue Z-Man Chatterbait with a black and blue Reaction Innovation Skinny Dipper swimbait on the back. The reason that I ran over there, was because the wind had not been blowing the cold water from the main river into this area, and the sun had been beating on this water all day. The water temperature was 60 degrees in this area. Within the first 20 minutes we boated our first keeper. The fish had moved up shallow due to the warm water and actually had baitfish trapped in less than one foot of water.
After making two passes down the bank, I decided to go crank baiting some rock banks on the same side of the river where the warmer water was. I went here because historically after a cold front, the hard cover banks hold more fish that are more likely to bite where as often times, grass fishing after a cold front can be very difficult. Within the first 5 casts, I caught a fish on a Jackall Aska in the color Purple Chartreuse. This has always been a tidal water go to for me, because of the wide wobble and its unique ability to catch fish in dirty water. This bait has a circuit board lip which is incredibly durable and does not break. A lot of people throw the Luckycraft 1.5 square bill but I like the Jackall Aska because not as many people throw it. We then pulled out into some deeper water along the rock bank and caught a few on a Norman Deep Little N. I had to go to this crank bait due to the deeper water and the fish being further down in the water column.
Sunday Morning we were all excited to go fishing. We knew this was going to be a great day with the temperature forecasted to get into the 70's and sunny skies. We started off fishing a rock bank in the early morning on the Virginia side of the river. Water Temperatures were around 53 degrees and we caught 4 fish pretty quickly on a Spro Aruku Rattle Trap in Mudbug Red and Red Crawfish. We also caught one on a Jackall Aska. The way that we had to fish the rattle trap was making a long cast, paralleling the bank at a 45 degree angle and slowly retrieving the bait back to the boat. As soon as the sun came up and warmed up we started running around.
As the tides shifted and the water warmed up, a mudline became very clear. What became even clearer was that there was a very lengthy clean water line on the Maryland side of the main river. As we started fishing up the river, we noticed beautiful green grass beds. We caught many fish out of these grass beds. The reason that I went to the grass beds was because the grass had been filtering out the dirty water and the sun was beating on this bank so it was very warm. By the end of the day, we were pulling 62 degree water temperatures in these pockets. I caught several fish on a Mizmo black and blue tube on the transition line at high tide. VERY IMPORTANT- I HAD A RATTLE IN THE TUBE. I also had to let the tube set on the bottom for up to 15 seconds without moving it to get bites. I was using a 1/4 oz Eco Pro Tungsten bullet weight with a 4/0 Trokar Tube Hook on 15 lb fluorocarbon on a 7'1'' G Loomis 854GLX casting rod with a 7:6:1: Shimano Chronarch reel. I also caught some fish sight fishing with a Green Pumpkin NetBait Baby Paca Craw on a 5/16 oz Eco Pro Tungsten bullet weight with a Gamakatsu 4/0 Superline hook. For the Baby Paca Craw, I elected to go with 20 lb Seaguar Invisx fluorocarbon, because we were around some giant largemouth bass. And a 4 inch green pumpkin senko: the senko I fished wacky rigged with 8 lb fluorocarbon. Ironically, these fish were up super shallow, and having a Jetboat was a huge advantage due to them being on the inside edge of the grass.
When the tide came ripping back in, this messed up the sight fishing pattern. By now the wind had picked up to 5-10 mph out of the south, so i went right to the hard cover banks and continued to cover water. We ended up catching 10-15 fish while running hard cover banks by throwing a Z-Man original chatter-bait with a gold blade in chartreuse and white color. The key adjustment that I made was I threw a Zoom Pearl White Superfluke on the back. This was a much more subtle approach on my chatterbait and the fish preferred this over the swimbait. When fishing the original chatterbait, make sure you superglue your trailer to the hook to maximize fishing efficiency. The chatterbait gear I used was the 7'2 Medium Shimano Zodias with a Shimano Citica 6:2:1 reel with 15lb Seguar Invisx. With the sun beating down and it being super warm, I cannot say enough about the Aftco Ninja sun protection, as it was vital to the success of blocking those harmful UV rays. This Easter weekend, I will be back on the Susquehanna River for two days. Stay tuned for more tackle techniques, fishing reports, and updates next week. ALSO FEEL FREE TO REACH OUT TO US IF THERE IS A SPECIFIC TECHNIQUE/QUESTION THAT YOU WANT US TO BLOG ABOUT; WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!
Throwing big swimbaits is taking the world by storm right now. What started out as a sort of quiet movement is gaining more momentum every day. Unlike a crankbait, it’s not as simple as picking up a rod, casting out, and getting a bite. There are many things you need to know about big bait fishing. If you’re not doing it properly, you could miss out on the biggest bass of your life.
Confidence in Your Swimbait
So why is now the best time to learn swimbaits? Simple, the fish are shallow and are aggressive. The biggest hurdle you’re going to overcome with throwing a big bait is gaining confidence in it. You have to understand that it’s no different than hunting a big buck or going after any other trophy for that matter. You need to prepare yourself for long days that often result in no fish at all. You’re going to throw thousands of casts for one, magical fish. If you’re not disciplined, you may very easily give up after just a few hours.
Prespawn fish help make this easier. By being aggressive and shallow, your odds increase dramatically. The more fish you catch by doing something different, the more you learn the subtle nuances that trigger those big fish to bite. Time of day, moon phase, cloud cover, even a train passing by can have an influence on the amount of bites you have. Learning these subtleties and recognizing their importance reveals just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to using swimbaits properly.
Time of Year
The fact is many people haven’t fished much over the winter. That means your mind and your body is fresh. You haven’t gotten into any routines yet and you’re not focused on any particular presentation or bait. The best time to learn swimbaits is while your mind is clear.
You also can’t give yourself an out. When you go to the lake, you take only your big baits. If you bring a backup, you’re already preparing your mind for failure. You go into the day telling yourself that you’re going to make a limited effort to learn swimbaits, then you can switch over to what you know will produce numbers for you. Here’s some advice on that: If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get exactly what you’ve always gotten. Period.
You’re targeting a fish that is easily over 10 years old. They’ve seen every lure, heard boats, and eaten senkos. They didn’t get that big by being dumb and eating every squarebill they saw. You want to trick these fish, you need to commit to doing it. It’s an earned right. If catching 10 pound bass were easy it wouldn’t be such an accomplishment.
Bass Don’t Discriminate
If you learn swimbaits, you’ll quickly find that they’re just as effective with spotted bass and smallmouth bass as they are with largemouth. All four of those giant smallies were swimbait fish. Don’t think that smallmouth won’t attack a big bait. They absolutely will. The Megabass Magslowl is a great example of a large bait that smallmouth will destroy if presented properly.
You’ll still have days, even weeks where you blank. You have to be able to commit and stay the course. There are great bait selections at Susquehanna Fishing Tackle and the guys there can point you to the right fishing tackle and swimbaits to get you started. You will probably start with a smaller swimbait, but look forward to practicing and graduating to the bigger baits shortly. Once you get over the mental block that you have with throwing a big swimbait, you can easily catch multiple fish a day. Starting out with a seven or eight inch bait and moving up after you’ve caught some fish is also a smart move. Jumping in head first with a $400 bait that you lose on the third cast is never a good time. Start small, this is worth the investment of time and money if you do it properly. You won’t be disappointed with the results.
I spent 21 hours on the water this past weekend and the bite was on. The beauty about Spring is that you can never cover enough enough water. Many fish were caught in pockets along the bank on Cabin Creek Salty Critter Tubes (green pumpkin) dyed with a chartreuse spike it tail. The presentation was key because instead of dragging the tube you had to let it sit on the bottom. We caught a crayfish on the tube and matched the hatch accordingly.
One other bite that was phenomenal this past weekend was the Jerkbait bite. Many fish were caught on the Jackall Squad Minnow 95, Lucky Craft Pointer 100, Megabass Vision 110, and Rapala X-Rap 10. As far as colors go, in the clear water we relied on the ghost minnow colors. When we were in the dirty water, we relied on Hot Steel X-RAP, Chartreuse Shad Squad Minnow, and Pearl Ayu Pointer 100.
The other technique that we caught fish on this weekend was the swim bait. The swim bait that we threw was a Keiteich Swing Impact 3.5 in Sungill. While fishing this bait, I was able to debut the new G Loomis GLX 803 spinning rod and I have nothing but great things to say about that rod. Not just sensitivity, but that rod may be the most comfortable fishing rod that I have ever held in my hand. I fished with it all day and have nothing but great things to say.
The final thing that I wanted to touch on in this blog was the ANGLR TRACKER. THIS THING IS AMAZING. Not only did it store my whole trip, but it let me know how many casts I made, waypoint every fish I caught, and logged all of the conditions while I was fishing. I want to do a live video on this in the near future, because I have only began to scratch the surface as to how awesome this tool will be. THIS IS AN ABSOLUTE MUST FOR COANGLERS.
This past weekend in Texas, the fishing world geared up for the Super Bowl of bass fishing at the 2017 Bassmaster Classic at Lake Conroe. Congratulations to Jordan Lee on his phenomenal win! This year, the clarity of water created a big issue for some of the best bass fishermen in the world. With that in mind, here are the top five baits that dominated at this year’s tournament and capitalized on the cloudy waters!
First, we have the Megabass Vision 110. This jerkbait is a fantastic dirty water bait. Especially when tensions are high during the spawn. The Vision 110 has incredible sound and action to trigger bites, as well as a unique color system that will penetrate that murky water better than any other jerkbait. Sometimes that little extra visibility is all you need to get the bass to bite.
Z Man Original Chatterbait Elite was a HUGE player down in Texas. The versatility of this bait is what makes it so deadly. Fish it on top, through grass, hop it, or drag it. The sound is a huge bonus.
Eco Pro Tungsten Heavyweight Flipping Jig is a killer bait to use for targeting bedding bass. Made of tungsten instead of lead allows for a smaller profile, so the jig will move easier through grass and the fall is noticeably better. These fish felt the pressure after a few days and all the anglers knew that. With the right color pattern, this jig brought in some big ones.
The JACKALL Firecracker has two blades that are designed to hit each other during the retrieve. This new bait from JACKALL really cut the tension of all the post-spawn bass at Lake Conroe.
It’s hard to beat finesse in tournaments, especially when you’re fishing in a body of water that’s “fishing small” and the fish are getting a lot of pressure. The Sexy Impact from Keitech is something that you can drop shot, Ned Rig, shaky head, or slow swim. Available in two sizes (3.8” and 4.8”) and designed to mimic the natural swimming action that drives predator fish crazy. Try the 4.8” on a Donkey Rig and hold on!
Below is a fantastic article from Megabass USA that will help you choose the right jerkbait for any condition!
Cold weather jerkbaiting is an effective way to catch lethargic and non-committal bass, but it also sits on a fragile precipice – any failure to dial in the correct size, cadence or suspending attitude of your chosen lure can mean the difference between a full livewell and a goose egg. Color is equally important, and at times even more so, because this technique depends on bass feeding by sight. At a time when extended pauses are frequently critical, bass have extra time to examine their prey and anything that doesn’t attract their attention, keep it, and convince them of its meal value may get turned down.
"They’re eating shad at this time of year," said 2016 Bassmaster Classic winner Edwin Evers. "It’s not like you’re trying to imitate a crawdad. When they’re looking up from below or out from under a dock, it’s more about action and flash. When the shad are dying off, bass have a lot of bait to choose from. I’ve got to make mine sexier than all of the other shad out there."
Chris Zaldain agreed that it’s critical to distinguish his bait from the other food options available without tipping off his quarry that they’re looking at something unnatural. While most anglers start with 3 ½ to 4 ½ inch jerkbaits, his default size is bigger when possible, specifically with the Vision Oneten Magnum, a five-plus inch model. "It’s probably been my favorite jerkbait the last two years," he said. "I don’t care what time of year it is, I have it tied on. What’s amazing about it is that you can maneuver it just like a square bill or spinnerbait."
Both Elite Series winners keep their color choices fairly simple, although they recognize the need for variations on a theme. "For me, the general rule is that the clearer the water, the more transparent the bait should be," Evers explained.
Zaldain characterized himself as a "three color guy," with the categories of colors he utilizes depending primarily on water visibility, with a nod to forage and other considerations as well. He starts at the high end of the visibility scale, in water with 10-plus feet of visibility, with transparent colors like GP Pro Blue or GP Skeleton Tennessee, which evoke forage in many waters. "GP," in this case, stands for "Guanium Phantom," a subtle, softly reflective layer that is transparent when viewed from the side, but gives off a refined flash at angle.
In clearer waters, the GP Pro Blue is a go-to
A great all-around color, Zaldain turns to HT Ito Wakasagi as waters gain a bit more color
In stained water, the M Shad is one of Zaldain's staples
In low-light cloudy conditions a pattern like Kameyama Ghost Pearl practically glows
From there, as the water gets a tinge more stain, he’ll turn to models that are half transparent, half flash finishes. In particular, he relies heavily on the HT ITO Wakasagi. “It’s my best all around color,” he explained. “It has a brown back and just a little bit of purple. It looks just like the threadfin shad in the lakes we fish and you can find those same colors in bluegill. I definitely use that one the most.”
In 2 to 5 feet of visibility, as well as in tannic waters, he likes M Shad and Ozark Shad, which he called an “old school” solution to those circumstances where “you want a lot of flash.” Both patterns feature a dark back and solid flashing sides which provide “a nice contrast.”
While he often prefers a spinnerbait under cloudy skies, Zaldain noted that when the bass ignore his blade bait’s action and the jerkbait is the only thing that’ll get their attention, he wants a bait that “glows.”
“Something full-bodied translucent like Sexy French Pearl or the new Kameyama Ghost Pearl is the best for me under those circumstances,” he explained. “When it seems like there’s no sunlight, it catches whatever little bit of light there is in the water.”
Evers makes his color selections based not only on water color, but on light penetration from the sky. Extremely cloudy or extremely sunny conditions may alter his choices slightly. Nevertheless, he still operates by the same basic rule as Zaldain: “For me, the clearer the water, the more transparent the bait should be,” he said. “If it’s stained and/or cloudy, I want a solid body. One that doesn’t transmit any light will be easier for the fish to see.
When water visibility starts to drop, or cloud cover moves in, Edwin often turns to HT Kossori Shad
On cloudy days, the GG Deadly Black Shad shines
Table Rock SP is another staple for cloudy days and reduced water visibility
On cloudy days, one of the Classic champion’s favorites is GG Deadly Black Shad, which has a heavier guanium finish than the GP lures, giving off bold flash at any angle. He also likes GG Kinkuro, which likewise relies upon a “Guanium Ghost” paint application.
Another great cloudy day color is Table Rock SP, which has chartreuse dashed on the sides and a pearlescent purple back. As the name suggests, it’s deadly on the multi-species lakes of the Ozarks region, as well as anywhere that spots and smallmouths swim, but don’t overlook it for largemouths, either.
Like Zaldain, Evers called the various shades of Pro Blue a “must have staple for day in, day out use.” Like the Californian, he similarly moves from the GP and GG patterns to the HT versions as the water gets more stained, and his particular favorite is the HT Kossori Shad. Evers also stressed the importance of having at least one “shocker” color in each color category that you employ.
When fish have seen dozens of Pro Blue models, something similar with a bit of chartreuse or orange can often eke out a few more bites, but Evers advocates an even starker change. “If I’ve gone through the school with my Megabass Sexy Shad or some natural color and catch a few, after the school is busted up I’ll turn around and go back through with a shocker color to try to catch a few more. One color that’s routinely overlooked is Mat Tiger,” which utilizes bright paint colors and a non-glossy finish.
The Megabass Sexy Shad is a natural, all-around color
When the bite slows down, don't be afraid to throw a shocker color like the Mat Tiger
When the jerkbait bite is strong, Zaldain will typically keep at least two or three colors ready to go on the deck of his boat, or even more when the bass are being finicky about colors. Last year at the St. Johns River he found that the fish wanted a particularly flashy look in a situation that might otherwise have demanded a translucent finish, so he stepped outside of his basics and employed Ozark Shad.
The most important part of your lure’s appearance, he concluded, is that “you want as many teeth marks on it as possible.”