As big bass vacate their offshore haunts and begin flooding the shallows in preparation for their annual spawn, anglers are afforded a special opportunity. These fish are hungry and territorial which means lots of bites and lots of size. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to spend a pile of money to catch these fish. These fishing lures will catch plenty of bass without emptying your bank account.
(1 of 5) YUM DINGER
Whether you fish it on a traditional Texas rig, a weightless Texas rig or a wacky rig, this stick worm will flat-out catch bass. Although it works throughout much of the year, the Dinger shines brightest in the spring months.
This is an excellent option for targeting bass in all stages of the spawn. It has an enticing flutter as it falls to the bottom on slack line and it has also proven to be quite durable, providing a great value to the angler. You can actually buy them in bulk, which I take advantage of quite often. For just $9.99 you can buy a 30-pack, which equates to a lot of fish catches. I catch roughly two bass on each worm, so you’re potentially looking at 60 fish catches per pack.
Where to fish it: Casting a Texas-rigged YUM Dinger around vegetation irregularities (small points, pockets or edges) will do some major damage throughout the spring. When the water temperature is above 65 degrees, a wacky-rigged Dinger skipped underneath boat docks can yield outstanding results. If you see bass fry just underneath the surface, you’ll want a YUM Dinger rigged and ready. It’s one of the best baits for fry guarders that I’ve ever found.
Suggested colors: Watermelon red (clear water) and junebug (dirty water) are just about the only colors you’ll need. Simplicity is a beautiful thing.
(2 of 5) STRIKE KING LIL MR. MONEY SPINNERBAIT
I’ve found this to be a darn good spinnerbait that won’t break the bank. Coming in at only $5.59 on Tackle Warehouse, the value is tough to beat. I’ve fished this particular spinnerbait in both large reservoirs and small ponds with consistent success. The wire is tough, the blades are coated in either 24k gold or nickel-plated finish, it doesn’t roll throughout the retrieve and most importantly, the bass will bite the paint off of it.
You can fully expect to catch fish on this spinnerbait whenever the water temperatures are in the 55 to 70-degree range. This has been a legitimate limit-getter for me and has bailed me out of some really tough days on the water.
Where to fish it: Slow-roll this spinnerbait just beneath the surface for optimum results. I like to target flooded brush and isolated cover near the mouths of short pockets in the early spring. As the bass start moving towards their spawning grounds, this spinnerbait works quite well on grassy flats. As the male bass guard the newly hatched fry, you can fish this lure around the front posts of boat docks and get a bunch of vicious reaction strikes.
Suggested colors: Limetreuse (dirty water) and blue shad (clear water) will cover your bases without a doubt.
(3 of 5) BOOYAH PAD CRASHER
I just reviewed this frog a week ago, but there’s no way I could have left it off of this list. It’s too good and it catches too many fish; I just had to include it. You can learn about every little detail of this frog in my full review, but I’ll quickly go over the most noteworthy characteristics here.
The Pad Crasher only costs $6.69 on Tackle Warehouse and I have several of them I have been using for years without any leaking or tearing. The body is very collapsible which is a tremendous help for solid hooksets, the hooks are razor sharp and do not roll or bend, it walks like a dream and the colors look great. I don’t know what else you can really ask for in a topwater frog. It will catch some giant bass whenever the water temperature is over 55 degrees.
Where to fish it: Any shallow cover should be a target with the Pad Crasher. You won’t get a bunch of bites on it in the prespawn, but they’ll likely be big females. As the water nears the 60-degree mark, you can expect to catch both quality and quantity on it. Target grass, laydowns, stumps and the walkways of boat docks with this frog. Make sure you use 65-pound braided line because you’ll have a great shot of catching a giant.
Suggested colors: Cricket, Night Train and Sunburn are the colors you’ll want to start with. To be honest, I don’t know if I even own any other Pad Crasher colors.
(4 of 5) ZOOM TRICK WORM
I don’t know if there’s a more popular bass fishing bait in the world. Priced at $4.69 per 20-pack on Tackle Warehouse, the Zoom Trick Worm has an unbelievable action when twitched slowly on a weightless Texas rig. It’s widely regarded as one of the best shallow-water bass fishing soft plastics ever made.
I like to target shallow cover and slowly twitch a weightless Trick Worm right underneath the surface. I tend to use bright, obnoxious colors for two reasons: Spring bass have a really tough time ignoring ’em and it lets me see the bait throughout my entire retrieve. When the bait disappears, it’s time to set the hook.
When you’re fishing with this bait, it’s important to not get in a feeling contest with the bass when you suspect a bite. You won’t always feel the bite-it will often be a boil on the surface or you’ll see a flash of color as the bass comes up to attack it. If anything feels “mushy” or different, set the hook immediately.
Where to fish it: If it’s less than 6 feet deep, throw a Trick Worm at it. I wish I had a more technical, smart-sounding piece of advice here, but the darn thing just catches fish. Whether you’re in a pond or a big lake, it will produce results.
Suggested colors: There are 63 available colors on Tackle Warehouse, but please don’t let that mess with your head. It can be overwhelming because all of the colors look pretty cool. But for starters this spring, grab a few packs of White, Bubble Gum and Merthiolate. You won’t regret it.
(5 of 5) Z-MAN PALMETTO BUG
It’s difficult to overstate the value with this selection. If you’re looking for a bait that will catch a bunch of bass without a crazy price tag, the Palmetto Bug is your answer. Priced at only $3.99 per pack, you might have to buy 2 bags to last you all spring. This bait is made from a very unique ElaZtech material that will not rip. It’s hard to explain it until you hold it in your hands, but I can stretch a 4-inch Palmetto Bug the length of my forearm without it ripping or tearing. This, of course, translates to incredible value-and efficiency-on the water. Don’t be surprised it you catch 20, 30 or even more fish on a single bait. I’m not exaggerating.
Where to fish it: The streamlined body of the Palmetto Bug makes it a great choice for skipping underneath hanging cover and punching through thick vegetation. I also like to pitch it in the middle of thick laydowns.
Suggested colors: Watermelon Red (clear water), Junebug (dirty water) and Bama Bug (when I can’t decide between the other two) are my favorite colors.
Many, if not most, black bass anglers value bigger and heavier fish, over the more numerous juvenile bass, but it’s important to the quality of bass caught, and even how size relates to fishery management.
Natural mortality is key. While large old bass may have a slightly greater natural mortality rate than younger adult bass, overall mortality rate of juvenile fish is greater. Most bass spawn between 5,000 and 12,000 eggs per nest. Of these, only two would need to survive to adult size to maintain the size of the adult population if each pair of bass spawned only once. Only one must survive per nest if adults spawn twice, and adult bass frequently spawn three or more times. Typically, egg, fry, and juvenile mortality is high, more than 99.98 percent. The size of the spawn is seldom the main factor determining the size of adult bass populations. Almost always the number of bass in the adult population is determined by suitable habitat, ample nutrients, availability of prey of suitable sizes, favorable water temperatures, and seasonal length and stability.
FRY TO FINGERLING
The size of bass determines how they feed and how vulnerable they are to predators. Born with an instinct to eat anything moving small enough to fit inside their mouths, tiny fry are relatively immobile, are easily caught and eaten by predators, feed only on food immediately in front of them, and are basically limited to small plankton. Feeding success depends largely on the density of planktonic food in the nesting area.
As they grow to fingerling size, mobility and mouth size increase. Diet expands to include larger plankton, like Daphnia, small insect larvae, and even smaller bass and other fish. Food density in the spawning area becomes less critical to continued survival. Fingerlings move to find more food. This behavior spreads the future adult bass population away from spawning areas to find other suitable habitats. Gradually, fingerlings move to occupy main-lake points, creekbeds, and deep-water structures that offer sufficient food.
As fingerlings grow they remain highly vulnerable to predators, but the type of predation tends to change. Larva, fry, and small fingerlings are heavily predated on by insect predators, sunfishes, and slightly-larger juvenile bass. By the time they reach 2 to 3 inches, predation by birds like herons and larger bass increases.
As fry, schooling behavior is critical, primarily as a defensive technique because individual fish are easier targets for most predators. The downside of this tactic is that there is often less food per individual in schools. In tight schools, only the leading edge of the school tends to get much food. As small fish spread out, they individually tend to get more plankton. While schooling as fry, tiny bass often first experience open-water feeding as they follow plankton concentrations into open water.
An open-water feeding experience by fry can lead them as fingerlings to suspend and feed on smaller fish in open water. If there is no significant predatory threat in the pelagic zone, juvenile bass quickly learn to move offshore to feed on juvenile shad or herring. But, abundant larger, open-water predators like hybrid striped bass and striped bass often make this experience too hazardous, limiting suitable habitat to shoreline cover, coves, or cover on structures near shallow water.
Fingerling mortality rate is usually high—50 per- cent or more a month—but less than that of fry. Juvenile bass become more adept at escaping predators. Most of an original school of 500 to 1,000 fry has been reduced to an aggregation of 50 to 100 fingerlings. Still, there are a lot more small bass than the required average of one or two per nest.
As fingerlings, bass continue to get defensive benefit from schooling, but feeding in smaller groups or aggregations offers more food to individuals. Fingerlings learn to feed aggressively, to chase down fleeing targets, and to “cooperate and graduate.” Flushing becomes their primary hunting tactic. As numbers are reduced, larger fingerlings continue to move as a group, but not in coordination like a true school. The prey one bass startles are more easily caught when they flee into the strike zones of nearby bass.
Teenage bass, 6 to 11 inches, continue to feed using the flushing technique. They maintain the juvenile tendency to feed constantly and are active and catchable by anglers throughout daylight hours. They have not yet learned to conserve energy for times when feeding is optimal, although learning this need may already be underway. Teenagers continue to eat smaller fish, crayfish, aquatic and terrestrial insects, frogs, and other items, but the primary foods of juvenile and adult bass are smaller fish. Even smallmouth bass adults feed primarily on fish if smaller and catchable fish are abundant.
Hungry and actively feeding teenage bass are best targeted with small fish-like and insect-like baits, perhaps even those with small dots of colors that simulate plankton. As most prey are small and relatively immobile, effective presentations likely feature shallow glides and tiny shivers rather than more aggressive and speedy retrieves.
Fingerling and teenage bass are in a period of intense feeding. All food intake is devoted to immediate life support and growth. In dense food environments, bass may grow to 12-inch adult length in one year. The fastest-growing juveniles can reach 12 inches in only five months. In more typical feeding environments, it may take another year to reach adult size. In most waters, bass become adults the year after they were spawned. Infertile environments may force bass to reach maturity in 8,192 three or more years or to spawn when only 10 inches or so long.
The most harvestable bass are 12to 14-inch adults. They provide fillets of decent size, are the most abundant size in many bass fisheries, and also are the most easily caught adults. If management desires harvest, these are the bass most likely to be in oversupply. Removal of some small adults often has little effect on the total adult population. Removal of a few bass of this size allows other small adults to survive, and the total mortality rate is not substantially changed by harvest.
There is often an excess number of bass in this size range, particularly in fisheries where past harvest rates or mismanagement has created imbalance, stunted juvenile bass, or there is insufficient food for larger bass.
When a fishery fails to produce an appropriate number of larger adult bass, release of small adult fish can be harmful and maintain stunting. Effective fishery management should insist excess small adults be harvested rather than encourage catch and release of small fish. This situation is often the reason managers opt to use slot limits. Stunting can be a common situation in ponds and small impoundments with excessive bass recruitment.
Adult bass have a new set of problems and requirements. From maturity on, much of the total food intake is devoted to sperm and egg production, and spawning consumes more of the yearly energy intake. Growth in weight and length slows. While juveniles grow 4 to 12 inches a year, even well-fed adult bass typically grow less than 3 inches a year. Low food supplies result in slower growth.
It is in the adult phase of life that bass must learn to conserve energy. Fat reserves are critical to egg and sperm production in fall. There is seldom energy to waste. Adult bass either learn to wait for optimal feeding conditions or perish. Fishing for adult bass requires greater knowledge of times and places where bass congregate to feed. Adult bass are more likely to be inactive, forcing less knowledgeable anglers to either catch juvenile fish or go fish-less. How much of this behavioral change is instinctive is undetermined.
Adulthood is also the time when bass learn about anglers. They learn to avoid noises, waves, and vibrations created by fishing boats, trolling motors, electronics, water-pumps, lure splashes, and even the sights and sounds associated with frequently used lures and lines. Experienced bass become harder to catch, and the widespread practice of catch-and-release provides a lot of learning experiences.
The natural mortality of adults due to predation by larger fishes is reduced to a minimum, from an optimum of about 15 percent per year in ideal environments to as much as 60 percent a year in unhealthy, unfavorable environments. Thirty percent per year is a typical natural mortality rate for adults. If there is additional harvest or catch-and-release mortality, it increases mortality rates. The existing population of adult bass is as large as it is going to get. A year-class can never increase.
LUNKERS AND LONERS
Many predator fish species hold basic body shape as they mature and age, and more muscle means more speed, more stamina, and more power. But adult largemouths, particularly females, tend to grow disproportionately fatter and less streamlined, particularly as females gain weight above about 5 pounds. While lunker bass may have more muscle and be theoretically stronger than smaller adults, they have little more stamina than 5-pound bass. They accelerate slightly more slowly, tend to cruise more slowly, and use more energy due to bulk and greater inertia. Old and large bass are almost forced to change lifestyles.
The harassment of spawned-out females by eager yet-to-spawn males forces females away from spawning areas. Some females may suspend offshore, while others may move to or return to home ranges in deeper water. This may help explain why larger bass are often found deeper and away from shallow cover.
Most of the contemporaries of lunker bass (bass in the 24-inch-and-larger category) are dead due to accumulated mortality. They have become rare. Lunkers find fewer and fewer bass of similar size with which to aggregate and feed. The flushing and offshore feeding tactics that were their predominate feeding methods as young adults become difficult, if not impossible, now. Little adults are unlikely to try to feed with any fish big enough to eat them. Lunkers become loners, mainly for lack of partners. As loners, it is more important for these special bass to find optimal habitats where prey are abundant enough to be caught by a lone bass by using short-strike, semi-ambush tactics and low-light or nighttime feeding.
Lunkers are more likely to be lurking under cover or in shade than younger more agile bass. Trophy guides concentrate on key, optimal habitats with ample cover and prey, or focus on key feeding areas unique to each habitat. Super-lunkers may be concentrated near places trout are stocked or be found suspended and cruising open-water where smaller predators are attacking schooling prey. Others may be found in key areas where current concentrates vulnerable prey, or feeding in funnel shorelines at twilight or after dark.
Although lunker mortality rate is not as great as that of fry and juvenile fish, mortality does eventually reach 100 percent due to old age, disease, and parasitism. Big fish are rare and the most valuable fish, particularly if having trophy bass as anglers’ targets is a management consideration. Even with a high rate of catch-andrelease, harvest of even a few big lunkers can change a fishery’s potential. Good management requires nearly total conservation of the largest fish.
WHAT IS IT?
VMC Tokyo Rig
WHAT SETS IT APART?
Combine the brute force technique of punching with the precision of dropshotting and you have the Tokyo Rig’s inspiration — punch-shotting. Think of it as heavy-duty drop-shotting through thick vegetation, and unlike the heavy Texas rig used for punching, the Tokyo rig keeps the bait and weight separated. This offers a couple of distinct advantages: 1) your bait holds horizontally, rather than nose-down on the bottom; 2) the weight won’t pop the fish’s mouth open on the hook set — a common bite-wasting issue with heavy punch rigs.
HOW DO I USE IT?
The Tokyo Rig features a VMC Heavy Duty Wide Gap Hook fitted with welded O-ring, which holds a barrel-swivel and a rigid 2 1/2-inch wire dropper arm to which anglers can attach one or more weights. A single bullet weight sized according to depth or vegetation thickness is standard, but some may chose a football head for dragging presentations or two back-to-back bullet weights, which slip in and out of cover easily and create fish-tempting clicking sounds. With any weight choice, you simply bend a crook in the end of the wire dropper arm.
The Tokyo rig opens up a diversity of presentation opportunities. One of the most obvious techniques is fishing this rig like a short leader dropshot, however, the wire stem holding your weight(s) eliminates the common vexation of line-damaging zebra mussels or other harsh habitat features. Similarly, you can drag the Tokyo rig like a football head jig, but with the line tie riding higher, you won’t risk knot or line damage.
What if I told you that, for $34.95, you could have a top of the line piece of fly fishing gear?
It isn’t a fly box. It isn’t a small tool. It certainly isn’t a rod or reel. It is something that is significantly less prestigious, but absolutely necessary. It is a good pair of good socks.
(And, to be clear, you don’t need to spend $34.95 on a pair to get socks that will literally change the way you fish. That was just the most expensive pair of wading socks I could find from major retailers.)
Why should you care about socks? How can the punchline of gift giving be worth serious consideration? With all of the engineering that goes into fly rods and the sheer volume of entomological knowledge necessary to match the hatch, why should the lowly sock demand any of your busy brain’s energy?
Comfort transcends “it feels good on my feet.” Comfort entails cushion over a long day on your feet, proper circulation, moisture management, and warmth. It doesn’t make much sense to spend hundreds of dollars on waders with ergonomic booties and nearly as much money on wading boots if you’re wearing just any socks.
Moreover, comfort means you can spend longer periods of time on your feet on the water with greater focus. Good socks, or any other piece of gear, aren’t going to keep you fishing into your later years. The cumulative effect of lots of wise choices, however, can.
Here are four things to consider when it comes to socks for under your waders:
Jackall Lures announces two new lures and a color expansion in an existing lure. Lures from ICAST 2018 have also begun arriving in stores and ordering sites. The Chubble Crankbait from Jackall is accompanied by the Deracoup Spintail Jig as the two newest lures in the Jackall lineup. The color expansion is happening in the Rhythm Wave soft plastic swimbaits.
CHUBBLE Crankbait – With its magnetic weight transfer system for ‘cover more water’ long casts, along with providing the balance to keep it running true even when cranking fast, Jackall Lures offers the new Chubble 80SR, a minnow-shaped, square-lipped crankbait.
Whether your bass fishing is all about weekly jackpot tournaments or relishing those days when you can get out on the water, the Chubble 80SR is the ideal size for use in bass waters nationwide. Its 3.1-inch length helps with buoyancy, while the square bill bounces off rocky areas and timber to minimizes snags. Jackall uses a Nano-coated hook to create zero friction for ‘set-the-hook’ penetration, and a hook bumper to keep the hook true by preventing interference with the magnet in the lure’s body.
Available in eight colors – RT Holo Bluegill, RT Scale Minnow, SG Threadfin Shad, Ghost Wakasagi, Super Shad, Blueback Gold Chartreuse, RT Escape Craw, Black Back Craw, the Chubble 80SR weighs in at a ½-ounce, and retails for $14.99 (USD).
DERACOUP Spintail Jig – From a boat, from a pier and also productive from shore, Jackall’s new Deracoup spintail jig offers a slew of design features to entice fish to eat. Offered in three sizes – ½-, ¾- and 1-ounce, the long-casting Deracoup has a low-profile compact metal body to mimic the shape of baitfish.
While being retrieved, the Deracoup’s rear blade both flashes and vibrates to catch the attention of nearby fish. The bearing swivel that attaches the blade to the lure body lets the blade move fluidly while using a lift and fall technique. A special tube in the rear reduces line tangles, a common problem with other spintail jigs.
Each Deracoup spintail jig size is offered in eight colors – Blueback Chartreuse, Clear Shad, Dera Shad, HL Bluegill, HL Gold Black, HL Lime Gold, HL Red Tiger and Silver. They retail for $9.99 (USD).
RHYTHM WAVE Soft Swimbaits — All four sizes – 2.8-, 3.8-, 4.8- and 5.8-inches – are now offered in 10 different colors with the addition of two new colors – Green Pumpkin Watermelon and Goby. They retail for $4.99 per package (USD).
ICAST 2018 Introductions – now available
CHOPCUT Topwater Lure — With an asymmetrical prop design to ensure proper rotation and creating different sounds depending on retrieve speed, Jackall’s new ChopCut topwater lure features a front wire with attached swivel. Anglers can cast freely without their line tangling with the prop, plus a swiveling feathered front hook helps prevent bass from spitting the lure. Jackall puts a special coating on both the front and rear treble hooks for easier penetration.
The 3.25-inch ChopCut topwaters weigh in at 0.8-ounces and are offered in six colors – Green Frog, Black White Bone, RT Chartreuse Gill, Bone White, Skeleton Bone and HL Bluegill. They retail for $22.99.
RISER BAIT 009PS Surface — With the same unique upward angled lip as the Riser 007R, the new Riser 009PS offers a cupped lip and bigger body to create an even more fish-attracting disturbance. With gill slits to generate bubbles as it comes through the water, the 3.3-inch, .75-ounce Riser 009PS can easily be cast with baitcasting gear.