Berkley's additions to Havoc and PowerBait families excel at cracking conditioned bass!
The bait designers at Berkley Fishing are a busy lot. They're constantly picking the brains of the sport's top pros, emerging months later with unique baits that help anglers catch more fish. Some bait designs are very application-specific, while others seem to work no matter where, when or how they're fishe
Berkley unveiled several new additions to their PowerBait and Havoc lines at the recent 2014 Bassmaster Classic in Birmingham, Alabama. I recently had a chance to fish four of the new baits during a swing through southern waters. Here's what I found.
Although the new PowerBait Fight'n Bug is only 3.5 inches long, it's huge on action thanks to thick, heavy claws attached to soft, supple arms. When you drop one on a jig or a Carolina rig, the claws move unlike any craw bait I've fished. They rear up in a natural defensive posture that's incredibly lifelike. The smaller footprint and unique action also make the bait a serious finesse fishing contender.
Rigged Texas style, but with a small, thin-wire EWG hook, 1/16- to 1/4-ounce weight and light line, it's deadly for finicky largemouths, especially in clear or highly-pressured waters. And I have no doubts smallies are going to love it as well.
The Fight'n Bug comes loaded with PowerBait's famous scent and flavor, the result of 25 years of research on the water and in the lab. Berkley data suggests that bass hold onto PowerBait soft plastics an average of 18 times longer than non-scent and flavor impregnated baits. Guess that's why, especially with walleyes, redfish, trout and panfish, I rarely fish live bait anymore.
The Fight'n Bug is a natural fit for sight fishing bass, too. While it depends on water clarity, my color choice is one that offers both visibility and natural forage-matching characteristics like Berkley's Alabama Craw. However, on many clear waters you can get by with natural colors like variations of green pumpkin. Even if the water's slightly stained, if I'm getting more bites on a natural color, I will give up visibility for bites.
I hate to admit it, but I haven't fished lizard-style soft plastics in a number of years, even though my personal best largemouth was caught Carolina rigging one. You don't hear much about lizards in the angling press lately either, likely due to the focus on trends like the Alabama rig and the widening availability of so many new, deadly creature baits. But this particular lizard profile bait definitely has me rethinking the forgotten champ.
Designed by bass legend Gary Klein, the Boss Dog has a fairly traditional-looking slithering tail, but larger leg and arm appendages than those found on a typical lizard bait. At six inches long, it's relatively beefy through the body, which means those appendages really get kicking when the bait is moved.
Because the lizard is so rarely fished or talked about these days, it's one of my 2014 picks for best new bass baits to crack pressured fish. You can bet bass are still hammering living salamanders and other amphibians when they get the chance, so I'm putting the lizard back into rotation this year.
I should add that the Boss Dog takes the beating of multiple fish catches, much like the Havoc Pit Boss, on which I've caught as many as nine bass on a single bait before it crashes and burns
Havoc Pit Boss Jr.
Speaking of the Pit Boss, a smaller version is now available, good news for largemouth and smallmouth heads.
Here's the deal: when you see a specific bait family expand, it typically means sales are good because the bait catches fish. Such is the story of the Skeet Reese-designed Pit Boss, now available in a 3-inch "Jr.", an inch shorter than the original Pit Boss, and two inches shorter than the Papa Pit Boss.
I didn't fully understand why the Pit Boss produced so well until recording underwater footage with an Aqua-Vu Micro Plus with DVR. Whether you're dragging, swimming or hopping it - rigged Texas style, as a jig trailer, or on a Carolina rig - its four appendages flap wildly, moving a ton of water. I've fished the snot out of the Pit Boss and it produces fish day after day no matter where I'm fishing bass in the country. It's probably my "desert island" bass bait pick.
My prediction is the Pit Boss Jr. is going to prove a champion for pressured largemouths that are reluctant to eat a standard-size creature bait. I also think it'll become a new smallmouth go-to, especially when fished on a light Carolina rig over hard bottoom.
Although the tackle market is overflowing with swimbait options, the new 4.5-inch PowerBait Rib Shad brings a unique design to the table, offering anglers a bait that effectively fishes both power and finesse.
As anglers, we tend to think about how "true" hardbaits track in the water but dismiss the criteria when it comes to soft plastics. Here's a test: next time you're on the water, examine your soft-plastic swimbaits to see how true they run.
The results may surprise you.
With the Rib Shad, it's not just the tail that wags. The whole bait swims-and in a straight line right-out-of-the-box. In addition to loads of tail vibration, it also has some unique side-to-side roll. You'll notice the same thing-the bait looks and behaves like real forage. In my experience, the fish agree.
Quick story: I was fishing the Rib Shad over shallow grass in Texas recently when it was crushed! A couple cranks into the battle and it was clear the fish wasn't a bass, but a giant crappie. When I swung it in the boat I was shocked to see the Rib Shad was barely visible in the fish's mouth. The hubcap-sized crappie had eaten the entire thing!
I rig the Rib Shad on a keel-weighted EWG for slithering it over and through emerging weeds. In open water areas I like to rig it on a jig head, the weight of which is dependent on depth of water fished. The Rib Shad comes in a dozen colors to match the prevalent forage in the waters you fish.
There you have it. As waters are fished more heavily than ever, new bait offerings fish have never seen can give anglers a distinct advantage over the same old, same old. Fished finesse, power, or somewhere between - give these new baits a shot. I think you'll be glad you did.
Contributed by Outdoor Writer Steve Pennaz