Slow-roll a spinnerbait. Twitch a topwater. Burn a crankbait. Hop a worm.
These are standard techniques that most bass fishermen use. They are fundamentals of this sport, like blocking and tackling in football. They are presentations which must be mastered before consistent success can be achieved.
But sometimes football games are won on razzle dazzle, an end around, a tailback pass, a faked kick. These plays catch the defense by surprise. They work because they're unusual and unexpected.
This parallel extends into bass fishing. When bass are tough to catch, when their defense is too good, sometimes you have to trick them into hitting. When standard presentations aren't working, offer the fish a new look, something sexy or vulnerable or exciting, and this may trigger strikes that the mundane won't.
Following are six methods that are little known among bass fishermen but which are productive for those few who use them. All are specialty techniques which apply to specific fishing conditions. Anglers should file them in memory, then retrieve and use them when the situation so dictates.
1. Dan Morehead: Slack-Lining a Jig
Dan Morehead of Paducah, Kentucky frequently fishes nearby Kentucky Lake, which is a classic structure lake with an abundance of stump-studded bars and dropoffs. Most anglers work these spots with deep crankbaits and Carolina-rigged lizards and worms. However, Morehead and other insiders do much better with a technique he calls "slack-lining a jig."
He explains, "This is a method of popping a fishing jig off bottom and having it drop back down just a few inches from where it started. By doing this repeatedly, you cover the structure more thoroughly than you do when you move the jig several feet between hops. A lot of times a dormant bass will still suck that jig in when it almost hits him on the nose."
Morehead uses a standard 1/2 or 3/4 ounce casting jig-and-pig, depending on water depth. He rigs with relatively light line (10- or 12-pound test), and he fishes with a long medium-action casting rod.
"I'll cast past my target area and let the jig sink to the bottom," Morehead continues. "Now this is the key. I leave a lot of slack in my line. I don't reel it up tight. Then I'll snap the rod up quickly with my wrists, ripping the bait off bottom. But because of the slack in the line, it doesn't travel very far. Instead, it falls back down just a few inches past where it was.
"I'll pop the jig an average of 15 to 20 times per cast. This is like pitching it to the same spot 20 times," he said. "If there's a bass there, chances are good that the jig will land somewhere close to him. This gives the fish a lot better chance of striking it than if the bait sails over his head and lands several feet past his position."
2. Troy Folkestad: Dragging a Jig
Troy Folkestad uses another little known jigfishing technique that is surprisingly effective when bites are hard to come by. Folkestad lives in southern California, and he fishes on Castaic Lake, which is one of the best big bass lakes in the country. Folkestad catches many of his big fish on a jig-and-pig, and he uses a technique that's out-of-the-ordinary, to say the least. He's sure it will work anywhere the bass swim.
"I drag the jig," he explains. "I mean, I literally skid it across bottom — no hops or skips or anything. The bait never loses contact with the structure. I hold my rodtip low, and I move the bait with the reel, not with the rodtip. This way, I keep all the slack out of my line, which helps detect pickups.
"As the jig drags along, it kicks up mud and bumps into rocks and other objects. I'm sure the bass think it's a crawfish. Whatever, they take it with no hesitation, and again, it's easier to tell when you're getting a bite. I'd recommend that other fishermen try this when bass are inactive and not responding to faster presentations."
3. Chip Woodard: Deep-Reeling an In-Line Spinner
|Slack-lining a jig is an excellent way to catch big bass when they are holding on deep structure.
Chip Woodard is a retired veterinarian from Clarksville, Tennessee, and he fishes for bass on nearby Kentucky and Barkley Lakes. For years, Woodard partnered with the late William Thweatt, who was a legend on these lakes. One trick he picked up from Thweatt was how to catch bass by deep-reeling an inline spinner. "This was one of William's best secrets for catching smallmouth and spotted bass," Woodard relates. "I never told anybody about it while he was alive."
He says this method is easy to copy. "First, run a 1/8-ounce bullet sinker up the line for extra weight when casting. Next, tie a small ball bearing swivel on the end of the line, then attach a medium-sized Mepps spinner on a split ring to the other end of the swivel. I prefer a black bucktail spinner with a treble hook. The swivel keeps the line from twisting."
Woodard casts this lure along bluffs, rockpiles, gravel bars, deep points and other similar spots. "I fish it on baitcasting tackle. It'll cast a mile," he says.
"After casting, let the spinner sink to the bottom, then reel it in just over the rocks, similar to slow-rolling a spinnerbait. Every now and then I let the bait tick the bottom to know I'm still close to it."
If he doesn't catch bass near bottom, Woodard reels his spinner faster to try intermediate depths, especially while fishing along bluffs. He concludes, "Inline spinners are fish catching lures, but not many lake fishermen use them anymore. This may be the secret to this presentation: few bass have seen it. Whatever, it really works. I've caught many good smallmouths on it."
4. Larry Jones: Jigging a One-Ounce Lipless Crankbait
Larry Jones of Cary, North Carolina is into big bass, and he takes them with a unique jigging technique utilizing a palm-sized Cordell Super Spot.
Jones reports, "In a tournament several years ago on Sharron Harris Lake, my partner and I checked in 10 bass that weighed 80 pounds. In another tournament, I had two bass that weighed 11 pounds, 12 ounces and 9-12 respectively. The method we use is great for catching numbers of big females in the pre-spawn when they make their first move toward shallow water. It'll also work after the spawn when the bass head back to deep summertime feeding areas."
A 1-ounce Super Spot is the centerpiece of Jones' presentation. He fishes this lure with a 7-foot flipping rod and 40-pound test monofilament line. "You need the heavy line to pull the bait free when it snags on bottom," he explains. Jones also removes the factory hooks and replaces them with wire hooks that are easier to bend. "These big Spots are expensive, so you don't want to plant 'em all over the lake bottom."
He continues, "I use this technique on structure in the 9- to 15-foot zone, places like points, bars and ledges where the fish first move up from deep water in the pre-spawn. I'll make a long cast down the structure, allow the bait to sink to bottom, take up slack line, and lift the bait with a long sweep of my rodtip. Then I'll wait for it to sink, reel up slack and repeat this process until the bait's back to the boat."
Jones says 95 percent of the strikes come while the Super Spot is fluttering back to bottom. "You'll feel the hit," he says. "Usually the fish are big, and they'll really crash it. When I feel a hit, I set the hook hard, hold on and reel when I can!"
5. Danny Joe Humphrey: Twitching a Floating Worm
The floating worm is an offering for those times when bass are hanging in shallow cover, and they're ignoring spinnerbaits, crankbaits, buzz baits, etc. Danny Joe Humphrey says these fish can be goaded into biting by dropping a weightless worm over their heads, then twitching it as it sinks ever so slowly. "The fish lay down there in the cover watching this thing until they can't stand it, then they explode on it."
Humphrey lives in Kinston, North Carolina, and he makes and markets "Danny Joe's Original Floating Worm." He has an amazing record of victories in local tournaments, most of which have come on his no-weight worm. He says this bait and subtle method for presenting it are deadly whenever the water temperature is above 55 degrees, bass are holding in shallow cover, and water visibility is clear to slightly dingy.
"You have to fish a floating worm with spinning tackle," Humphrey instructs. "I use a 6-foot medium-heavy rod and 10- or 12-pound test line. I rig with no weight whatsoever, only a 3/0 or 4/0 worm hook. I thread a floating worm on the hook Texas-style with the point buried in the belly so it's weedless. I can throw this rig in a rose bush without hanging up."
Humphrey also targets submerged treetops, brushpiles, willow trees, stumps, grass, etc. "I'll cast right into the heart of the cover, and I'll wait while the worm starts sinking slowly toward bottom. Then I'll twitch it slightly with my rodtip. I'll let it sink and twitch it several times before it leaves the cover."
Humphrey detects bites by watching his worm or the line. "I like bright colors for better visibility: pink, yellow, pearl, sherbert. Also, I always wear polarized sunglasses for better visibility underwater."
Humphrey usually sees the flash of a bass taking the worm, or he notices a twitch in his line. "When I get a bite, I'll wait 3 to 4 seconds before setting the hook to see which way the fish is moving, and then I'll set the hook hard in the opposite direction. This way I get a high percentage of good hooksets. Then I have to figure out how to play what many times is a big fish out of the heart of the cover."
6. Ricky Green: Jumping a Topwater Walker
Bass pro Ricky Green of Arkadelphia, Arkansas, has a reputation for catching big fish on the national tournament circuit. Green says over the years, many of his lunkers have come on surface lures, specifically walk-the-dog baits such as the Zara Spook.
"I do something with these lures I've never seen anybody else do," Green said. "I'll make a long cast, then when the lure hits the water, I'll start it jumping and skipping, like a shad trying to get away from a pursuing bass. I'll do this for 6 to 8 feet, fast and erratic, then I'll just stop the bait totally for 3 to 4 seconds. Most strikes come with the bait at rest. However, if a fish doesn't hit it, then I'll pick the retrieve back up with a normal walk-the-dog action."
Green says the initial skipping motion excites bass and makes them think another fish is trying to catch the "shad." "If a bass thinks a competitor is feeding, it gets excited. Then suddenly here's this easy target floating right overhead, and wham!"
This presentation is best in warmer months when some surface feeding is evident. In deep, clear lakes, Green uses it to work around points where shad are evident. In flatter mainstream reservoirs, he uses this method around logs, stumps, bushes and other isolated cover objects. He coaches, "I'll cast past an object, jump and skip the bait up to it, then 'kill' it right by the cover."
One place where this technique has proven super effective is on Lake Guerrero in northeastern Mexico. "I don't know how many 8-pounders I've caught there doing this," Green muses. "Those Mexican largemouths just have to have it!"