A few years ago I met a guy who had the big bass bug like me. Not just the bass cold, but full blown bass fever. I have only met a few people in my life that I believe understand and see bass fishing the way I do. Those few include Aaron Martens and Rick Clunn; true bass hunters in the game of bass fishing, but a while back, I met a younger guy that reminded me of myself in my early 30’s. More specifically, he was driven and passionate enough to dedicate himself to the pattern, no matter how long it would take. He is very independent on the water, which is a huge key to big bass success.
The very first time I went fishing with this young passionate guy was a very interesting day. I had a decision to make. I had been on a wacky rig Senko bite for some time, netting some monster bass between 5 and 10lbs. I wasn’t sure if I could trust someone with a hard earned bite, mainly because most people will not respect your bite down the road. Well I went with my gut and trusted this young guy with one of my big bass bites. I landed an 8lb. & 11lb. bass on the wacky rig Senko and just blew this young guy’s mind. On the ride back to my house from the lake you could tell he was thinking, trying to understand what the heck just happened. He asked me just a few questions, but they were key questions and I knew right then this guy was a thinker. One of the questions he asked me was about the time of year, and another was about the weather and why and how I thought it correlated with the big bass bite he had witnessed. I answered all his questions honestly, but held back just a bit of what I really wanted to say, I wanted him to earn it and I could feel he wanted it that way too.
I believe in pointing someone in the right direction, but helping them to much takes away any of the experience of catching a big bass, not something I’m willing to do. I want everyone to get the full feeling and not feel I handed it them.
The next day we met up and headed back to the same lake. I was a little curious as to what this young guy would do. Would he fish my pattern? Or would he adjust?
Well, as soon as we got to the lake and he grabbed his fishing gear that question was answered, he went right to the swimbait. I’ve got to admit I was shocked and impressed at the same time. This young guy most likely thought about the bite all night and saw something in the pattern. Almost everyone would have been right next to me dropping a Senko but not this young guy, he had seen something that I did not and two hours later had landed a 5, 10, and 11lber on the swimbait, not the Senko. And as night fell once again we left the lake and two incredible bites…and yes I did catch some more donkeys on the Senko..
This young guy, whose name is Mike Gilbert, impressed my old butt and that does not happen to me very often in the bass fishing world. I was truly impressed that Mike found his own bite and respected mine. Ask yourself what you would have done?
About a year ago Mike was on a new chapter of his big bass fishing journey and had bought a small 16′ aluminum boat so he could get out on some of the bigger waters of San Diego county. I was in my boat one afternoon on Lake Otay in Chula Vista Ca. and approached Mike to see how he was doing and he had no idea he was sitting on one of the key spots of the lake. I noticed he was watching his meter and kept saying “this spot is loaded.” While his intuition had put him in the right spot, it was just a matter of time until he would figure it out.
Over the next few months, Mike would call and tell me about the bite he had found, or the frustration of knowing he was on the bass, but could not get them to bite. About six months into the game, using his new boat and expanding the surface acres of water to fish, I started to see and hear things change. He was figuring out these big bass, recognizing patterns, and understanding the timing of where he should be, along with the correct angle and lure speeds. When Mike finally figured exactly what swimbait size and color, it was Game On!
First he started sticking 8lbers, then I would get a text: a 9lber, then 12lber, then 13lber! Then on February 16th of 2013, I got a call from Mike at around 9:00 a.m. that went to my voice mail. It was my wife’s birthday so I was not able to go fishing, but when I listened to the message Mike had left, I knew I was going to the lake and my wife was coming. His message was “get to the lake, and bring your camera! I just caught a donkey.” I knew from what Mike had been catching lately on the lake that he had landed a really good bass.
It took well over an hour to get to the lake and it gave me lots of time to think, the lake record was a little over 18 lbs. and the last big bass caught at the lake was about six years ago and was 16 lbs. So I was curious how big of a bass Mike had caught. When I arrived, I saw Mike and a friend hanging out in his boat tied up to the courtesy dock. He was jacked and told me he landed a 17 lb-7oz monster that was a little over 27″ long, just a beautiful bass.
I took pictures and I’ve got to say it was a BIG bass! I got some cool belly shots, where you could see her triple roll.
In Mike’s day job he is a professional videographer, and has edited some of the coolest videos in the skateboard world and he had his camera rolling for the 17 lber and all his catches that you will see soon. The swimbait he caught the 17 lber on is a prototype and still being field tested and perfected.
Every now and then, when I witness someone put in so much time and dedication and you see an incredible payoff like this, all I can do is tip my hat and say “congratulations.” I have been very blessed in my life to land a 20 lb. bass and see quite a few bass over 15 lbs. but I will tell you I was very proud when I saw Mike’s 17 lb. bass. I know what it takes to catch such a monster, and in my joking way reminded Mike that he now has to beat a 17lb.-7 oz. bass…lol…
Over the years while fishing I’ve battled one constant enemy, “Confidence.” I can’t count how many times I’ve second guessed an area where I was fishing, a lure, speed of retrieve, whether to use scent or not, color of a bait, size of lure, and if the fish were even in the area I was fishing. I know it is something I will deal with for the rest of my life while fishing, but my goal is to always have enough confidence to get me to those epic fishing days where everything seems to go right and I stick a few giant bass. Those days definitely fill my confidence tank up and help me get through the tougher days.
I have recognized that one of my strengths while fishing also led to one of my weaknesses while on the water: fishing the same area too much. I have over the years picked apart spots and sat and waited for the big bass to come to me, but that takes time and can make for a dull and boring experience. I found that on the days that I had a milk run of spots to run to, it kept my mind fresh and that resulted in keeping my mind in the game and accessing the water and all the elements above it. Double anchored on one spot too long will make you bored and your brain starts to wonder off thinking about other things besides the when, and why the bass are going to be in your area and biting. Covering water or running a milk run of key spots will keep your brain fresh and I believe that is a huge factor besides luck and thus keeps my confidence high by mixing it up once in awhile and not burning out an area, or pattern.
One of the things I’ve taught myself over the years is to have confidence in the tools I use first. If I feel my rod and reel are no good, and I have the wrong pound, and color line, and my lure is plain them my confidence is low and I will second guess these things all day long. So I have learned to get the best rod and reel I can and try to match my line properly and most important upgrade my lure to make sure it as real life as possible so I will feel confident in it and not second guess it. You may ask how do you that? well if I’m swimbait fishing I always try to match the size and color of what I believe the bass are currently feeding on and then it’s adding real glass eyes, gills, maybe even fins. If 20 boats are fishing the same area with the same bait I will have more confidence if I’m using the same bait they are but I changed it to look a little different than what the others guys are tossing. The little things sometimes can really make the differrence in boosting your confidence to stay with a lure till you find that key area and the fish start to bite.
I get asked all the time in seminars and by editors “do you use scent on your lures?” I look at using scent this way that smell and taste are very low on a bass’ sense chart. A bass’ sense of sight is number one closely followed by lateral line, and then hearing, so smell and taste are not that big of a factor to me most of the time. If I’m using a fast moving lure that a bass will see, or feel the vibration first and the bite is slow and I’m second guessing everything, that when it’s time to put some scent on my lure and stop the second guessing if my lure is good enough. By adding a little bit of confidence that your presentation is almost perfect now your mind can focus on the real issues like water temps, time of day, and area of the lake speed of the lure etc…
For the last twenty years I’ve kept good notes on my fishing adventures and this has really helped to boost my confidence before I get on the water. By looking back at my notes and doing my homework about similar bites per time of year, weather, moon phase, time of day, water temps and levels really gives me a big scoop of confidence before I ever get on the water that I should be in productive water using the right bait at the right time and right depth to catch some giant bass and that alone makes a tremendous difference to my confidence level.
By being prepared and thinking ahead and making a punch list to make sure you have all the lures you’ll need, or making sure you’ll have enough food, water, clothing, and sunscreen will give you confidence while on the water that even if the weather changes you’ve thought ahead and can make it through the day and get to that epic bite and catch that trophy bass of a lifetime.
Customizing your gear can result in more and bigger catches. In this video tutorial, Mike Long walks us through how he helps himself by adding gills to a swimbait for a more realistic presentation to a bass.
All you need to add gills to a swimbait are a pair of wire cutters (dykes), some red pipe cleaner, a razor blade (exacto knife), and some Mend It Swimbait Glue.
1. Take your swimbait and cut a slit along the gill plate of your swimbait with your blade or exacto. (depth varies on your swimbait, but deep enough that you can insert something in the pocket you make). Make sure to cut at a slight angle with the tip of the blade towards the head. Your goal is to cut your gill plate as it would look on a live Rainbow Trout.
2. Take a red pipe cleaner and cut it to a length that will fit along the slit you have just created (varies in length, but you want it to reach from the top to the bottom of your cut lengthwise). Pull at the cut ends to make sure they fluff out a bit.
3. In the slit you have created, liberally dab some Mend It Swimbait Glue into the slit (take care to not allow the slit to close after applying the glue as it will glue shut).
4. Quickly take your pipe cleaner you have cut previously and insert it into the cut you have made.
5. Once the pipe cleaner is inserted into the cut and seated firmly into the space, take a little more Mend It Swimbait Glue and dab over the top of the pipe cleaner and the cut. This gives it a wet appearance and seals the pipe cleaner (the gill filaments) into place.
Make sure you visit Mike Long Outdoors regularly for more tips to help increase your chances of catching a big bass!
Finally got to field test one of the Rago Glideator Trout on a clear water reservoir and I’ve got to say this is one of Rago Baits best looking lures to date. I tested a 9″ Rainbow Trout color which looked just incredible in the water.
Company: Rago Baits
Lure: Glideator Trout
Weight: 4.5 Ounces
Color: Rainbow Trout
Hooks: Owner 2/0 Trebles
Composite: Hard Resin
R.O.F.: Slow Sink
Style: Glide Bait
MLO Rating: 4.5 out of 5
I have been fishing Rago Baits for a long time and this is truly one of the cleanest looking well put together baits Rago has built so far. One of the first things you’ll notice is there is no dorsal, anal, or adipose fin and the pelvic, and pectoral fins are built on the bait to help give this lure a smooth glide motion through the water.
You might be asking “what’s a glide bait?” it is a bait built to glide left, or right by just turning the reel handle slightly between glides. So after you cast the bait out and let it sink to your desired depth you simply reel up the slack till you feel some resistance while keeping the rod tip down and pointed towards the bait, while giving the reel handle a 1/2 to 3/4 turn depending on your gear ratio. A pause between each turn of the reel handle allows the bait to glide in the opposite direction.
In the picture above you can see the detail put into the Glideator Trout especially around the head area. The gills are slightly flared along with the mouth partially open really gives this bait a very realistic look of a Rainbow Trout just gliding through the water.
The belly shot above shows how the pectoral, and pelvic fins are in a laid-back position and built into the bait which helps in not being able to break them off, or get in the way of the hooks setting.
The Glideator is a single jointed bait which is key in helping the bait glide left and right. Rago Baits used two heavy duty screw eyes and a steel drop pin to secure the joint which should be strong enough to land any largemouth bass.
Rago Baits used a super strong lexan material to make an indestructible tail which can be easily replaced for a different size, style, or color by just removing one screw.
Below is a video showing the Glideator in action as well as rod position and reel cadience.
Pros: Very clean bait. All baits are factory balanced and tested. Incredible paint job. Tail easy to replace. Fins can’t break.
Cons: As always I’m a fan of the eyes sticking out a little farther.
MLO Rating: 4.5 out of 5
The 3:16 Mission Fish is the KING of all weedless swimbaits. It was designed well over ten years ago, but by far is one of the best kept secrets in the bass fishing world. This is a swimbait that can be fished with a cast and retrieve technique, or flipped in the tules, or sunken trees, or through one of your favorite rock piles where you will very rarely snag up due to its weedless design.
Company: 3:16 Lures Co.
Lure: Mission Fish
Weight: 2 ounces
Style: Weedless Paddle Tail
Hook: Gamakatsu 8/0 G-Mag
Sink Rate: Med.-Fast
MLO Rating: 4.5 out of 5
When I was first introduced to the Mission Fish lure I knew right away this swimbait would fit perfectly in my play book. I am a huge fan of stitching jigs and here was a lure that could be worked on the bottom like a jig through the rocks and sunken trees and with a large profile I knew this bait would work well for lunkers. The Mission Fish comes in five sizes 4″, 5″, 6″, 7″, and 8″. I have had my best success with the 7″ and 8″ Mission Fish in the bass color. 3:16 offers plenty of colors to match the hatch where your fishing.
The Mission Fish comes in two tail styles, boot-tail, and curl-tail. I prefer the boot-tail for its open water swimming action and the way it slows the bait down some when falling to the bottom.
The weight is incorporated into the head which really makes this bait unique by itself. The design of the head weight allows the line to go through the weight and into the center of the Mission Fish.
3:16 Lure Co. uses a very cool Gamakatsu G-Mag hook which works perfectly in the Mission Fish. The 7″ bait comes with a 8/0 G-Mag hook.
In the picture above you can see the slit on the bottom of the Mission Fish where after you run the line through the head weight it will come out into the slit where then you can then tie the hook on. I like using 12lb-15lb Fluorocarbon line with the 7″ and 8″ baits with a med-action rod.
After tying the hook on you’ll need to Texas rig the hook by lining up the G-Mag hook in the bait, then poking the hook point through the top of the bait from the inside of the slit. Now you can pull on the main line while holding the bait in the other hand and you will see the eyelet pop into the bait. Now your ready to fish. A little tip is if you want your bait to be 100% weedless after your hook is in place you’ll need to get the point of the hook to stick back into the Mission Fish.
There are two things about the Mission Fish that really help with your hook-up and catch ratio. One is the Mission Fish is a very collapsable bait which really helps during the hook set, and two the Mission Fish will ride up your line after the hook set which is key if a big fish gets her head out of the water and starts shaking it. I like having just the hook it a large bass’ mouth instead of the entire weight of the bait.
The Mission Fish is a very thin swimbait which I really believe helps this weedless model during the hook-set. There is a very small channel along the back which helps keep the hook in place and weedless.
Pros: The Mission Fish is an incredible bait in the rocks, and when flipping trees, or brush piles. The hook-up ratio is really good for a weedless swimbait, the G-Mag hook is a big reason why. Very durable bait.
Cons: Not many, I would like to see a larger boot-tail to give the lure more kick. After catching a few bass the plastic will tear on the back from the hook ripping out, some swimbait glue will repair this quickly.
MLO Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Over the years I have learned a few secrets for catching giant bass that I just flat out keep under wrap, but while working on Mike Long Outdoors and getting such incredible feedback from people all over the world on what I’ve shared so far, it made it just that much easier to want to share some more fishing lures and techniques that have worked well for me over the years. One of these lures is the Giant Tora Tube.
I’ve gotta say, one thing I’ve noticed about bass over the years is they love baits that have arms, legs, or tassels on them. In the case of the Tora Tube, lots of thin tassels. The Tora Tube, when rigged right, can be fished up under trees and docks, along ledges, through grass and branches, and in open water. I’ve had tons of success when fishing them in open water above trees, and rocks that have some giant bass waiting in ambush.
When it comes to rigging, i’ve found using a 6′-6″, – 7′-0″ medium action rod, and light weight reel spooled with 12-15lb fluorocarbon line works best. I like a light weight reel due to due the rip, and jerk style retrieve while working the bait back in. If your a jerk bait fan then you’ll love using a giant tube. The way I rig the tube it has a super slow fall that makes it deadly. You can slow glide the tube left and right, and while pausing between retrieves, you can see the tassels flare out some and just tease those big bass that are watching.
The Giant Tora Tubes are made by Canyon Plastics and come in three sizes 7″,8″, and 10″. For all those bass fisherman that have used Gitzits over the years and had success with the smaller tubes these Tora Tubes are just Gitzits on steroids.
As for Tora Tube colors I like to use here in California, I prefer the Canyon Plastics Rainbow Trout color, which looks incredible in the water. It has a green top with pink/pearl sides and belly with some black flake added. It is important when rigging this color to make sure you rig the tube with the green side up. You want it to mimic a real trout and look as natural as possible to create a strike.
In the picture above you can see the hollow chamber in the lure that makes this bait a tube and is really helps with the buoyancy of the bait and is perfect for placing a custom rigged harness inside.
One of the best things about using a hollow tube is how collapsable it is which really helps to get a good hook set when a bass bights down on it and compresses it in its mouth. In my many years of using this lure I believe the Tora Tube is by far one of the best lures for setting the hook for its size.
Two of my other favorite colors are the pearl white and melon smoke w/red and black glitter. Canyon Plastics offers well over ten colors, from solid white, to black, to purple. Plenty of colors for any occasion, or lake. I believe when using the pearl-white Tora tube it sort of looks like a small group of shad in the water and I have had bass hit this color at full speed as if they were after a single shad. I also have dead-sticked the melon color tube, with an occasional pop off the bottom, with tons of success when the water gets cold and the bass are deeper and lethargic.
My secret for using the Tora Tube is the hook/rattle rigging. I start by taking a Gamakatsu 5/0 offset shank hook and a rattle chamber box, along with some resin from your local hardware store. Your also going to need a pair of pliers and some source of heat like a cigarette lighter, or your kitchen stove. Once your ready, you want to heat up the first bend, under the hook eyelet, once the bend has heated up enough you’ll need to grab it with a pair of pliers at the eyelet and bend it toward the hook point side of the hook and bend it to a 45 degree angle. Once this is done dip the hook in some water.
Now with your hook bent it’s time to prepare a small amount of resin. For a perfect template, take a Tora Tube and cut it at one inch from the nose end of the tube, it should look like a small bowl. Now set your hook in the template with the eyelet poking out of the template start pouring your resin into the template. Once the resin sets up a bit, its time to add your rattle chamber by placing it about 1/4 of the chamber length into the resin. I make my own rattle chambers from thin 1/4″ tubing from the hobby store and some broken glass and small brass balls. You’ll need some plastic ends and rubber cement to seal the rattle chamber.
When your finished your rigging should look like the hook/rattle rig in the picture above.
Once you have a hook/rattle rig ready it’s time to place the rig into the Tora Tube. Push the rig all the way into the bait untill the hook eyelet pokes outside the plastic and add a small quick clip to the hook eyelet, this will hold the rig in place in the tube like in the picture below.
Now that your hook/rattle rig is inside the tube it’s time to push the hook point outside of the Tora Tube and your ready to fish your Tora Tube Pro-Rigged!!
Keep watching MikeLongOutdoors for a future video of the Giant Tora Tube in action catching monster bass.
Ever wonder what goes on down there with the big ones? How they relate to other fish? What they see? What their food choices are? Big Bass inhabit a world of wonder and intrigue. Get to know the life of the big bass with this fantastic bass-eye view of their world.
Huddleston Deluxe Huddle Bug is by far the most realistic looking artificial crawdad lure ever made. It is absolutely amazing how real the Huddle Bug looks from its black eyes to the custom painted colors to the shape of the bait and best of all it looks even better when it’s the water.
Company: Huddleston Deluxe
Lure: Huddle Bug
Weight: (un-weighted .02 oz)(weighted .03 oz)
Length: 2 3/4″
Colors: 10 colors
Composite: Soft Plastic
MSRP: 5-Pack $10.99
MLO Rating: 5 out of 5
Huddleston Deluxe offers over ten colors from red to white to greens, purples, and browns. I guarantee Huddleston made a color that will match the crawdads where ever you live. The detailed hand paint jobs are just incredible and look even better in the water.
Huddleston Deluxe even paid close attention to the belly of the Huddle Bugs to make sure these little 2 /3/4″ artificial creatures looked as natural as possible from top to bottom.
It is hard to believe the detail on the body of the Huddle Bugs. The claws are flawless along with the antenna and black eyeballs that really stand out when the bait is in the water. Even the eight legs look real when the Huddle Bug is crawling on the bottom.
The Huddle Bug comes in a weighted, and un-weighted version, I strongly recommend the weighted version it comes with a custom made hairpin harness that has cylinder weights added at the ends.
When finding a hook for the weighted Huddle Bug, I prefer going with a Gamakatsu wide gap finesse hook weedless in size 1, or 2. This is a good fine wire weedless hook that really works well with the Huddle Bug and rigging it weedless you can take this bait to the structure where it was built to go.
The weighted Huddle Bug has a small wire loop under the head of the bait where you insert the hook through the wire hoop and then through the nose of the bait and out the top.
Above picture shows a fully rigged weighted Huddle Bug ready to fish. I use 6-8lb fluorocarbon line which works really well with this little bait. The retrieve is simple just toss the Huddle Bug out let it sink to the bottom and slowly work it back in. Since the Huddle Bug is so light it is really tough to feel the bait on the bottom and since it is a small light bait it really goes through the rock and branches well like in the video below.
Pros: The most realistic artificial crawdad ever made, this natural looking bait is made to trick the bass and works on the bottom as natural as a real crawdad. The weighted version is very easy to rig and the Huddle Bug is a very durable lure. I have caught well over 20-30 bass on one bait.
Cons: Still looking.
MLO Rating: 5 out of 5
Recent events have reminded me of how difficult it is to be a kid today. There aren’t any real safe havens for children if what we’re seeing on the news over the last few days is any indication. I have wondered these last few days if the world is that much different today than it was when I was growing up. How modern entertainment in the form of video games and smart phones and other electronic devices have turned us away from exploring the natural wonders all around us. Whether these electronic pursuits desensitize us, making us lose the connection with the things that make us human. I don’t have all the answers, but one thing is obvious to me. We need to get our kids away from their laptops and smartphones and video games more often.
In this day and age of craziness and where we don’t really know what tomorrow will bring, I believe it is more important than ever to take a kid fishing and introduce them to the great outdoors where never ending adventure always produces a smile.
I grew up as an outdoor explorer, mapping out my town from one end to other, always trying to find where every fish lived and every creature called home. In doing this I got to enjoy the great outdoors and appreciate what God gave us all to enjoy, but I was lucky. I consider myself lucky because I had the opportunity to experience a variety of outdoor activities mainly due to where I lived. It allowed me to be an outdoor explorer.
I had friends, when I was young, that I literally had to drag out of their houses to go on an outdoor expeditions with me. Almost every one of those adventures ended up at some pond or creek fishing, which at the end of the day, I could see by the smiles on their faces how happy these trips made them. I was one of the lucky ones for sure.
When my kids were growing up I loved to take them out and explore the lake with me and they always had a good time even if we didn’t catch a fish. When I involved them in the preparation, letting them pack their lunches and get their fishing gear ready, there was always that pure excitement about getting out of the house and going on an outdoor adventure. I believe being outside has a way to keeping your mind fresh and can heal you when you’re feeling down.
I always hated when my kids were stuck in the house playing video games because they became very addicted and obsessed with virtual reality when I knew reality was infinitely more entertaining. I’ll admit that it came out in their the attitudes at times when I’d force them outside, but not one time going on a fishing trip did my kids ever get upset. Mother nature is a powerful force and always has a way of making you enjoy the great outdoors.
For the last 15 years I have donated my time and gathered products for the Lake Poway Youth Derby in the city of Poway along with my partner Captain Ronnie Baker, the true King of youth derbies here in Southern California. We have had tremendous success teaching some of the young kids, from 5 years older to 14 years old, how to catch the outdoor bug. Along with an army of volunteers, we teach and help every kid enjoy the outdoor experience of fishing. It is such a great feeling seeing so many kids enjoy a day fishing, and competing with each other, catching trout or catfish. The smiles on their faces say it all.
If each one of us takes just some of our free time to take a kid fishing and introduce them to nature’s great gift, I truly believe we can heal some of the damage all these virtual entertainments have done to our young people. The violent video games popular today are definitely not the answer, but in my experience, taking a kid fishing will not only make you feel good and young again, but teach a child how to go out and enjoy the true gifts of the great outdoors.
For well over ten years now I have been using the Rago Rat and it is by far one of the easiest swimbaits to use and highly effective. Long over due, here’s my Original Rago Rat Lure Review.
Company: Rago Baits
Lure: Original Rago Rat
Weight: 1.7 Ounces
Length: (Body 4 1/2″)(Tail 4 1/2″)
Lure Speed: Slow-Medium
Composite: Hard Resin
Sink Rate: Floater
MLO Rating: 4.5 out of 5
The body of the Original Rago Rat is 4 1/2″ and the tail is 4 1/2″ with a weight of 1.7 ounces this little bait casts like a dream. It is built from very buoyant hard resin which keeps the Rat on the surface. When Rago Baits made the very first Rago Rats they were made out of wood which and were about 1/4 ounce heavier and sat in the water perfectly to make a beautiful surface V-wake.
The Rago Rat has a small hard plastic lip which helps to pull the Rats first section just under the surface, while the second section of the Rat wakes the surface.
The tail of the Original Rago Rat is made from soft plastic and works in a S-motion behind the Rat to tease any bass watching into biting.
The single joint of the Rago Rat makes a knocking sound in the water from the front, and rear sections hitting together while the Rat is swimming and this is a great noise attractor to the bait in dirty water, or low light conditions.
The Rago Rat only has one treble hook on the first section which works out perfect to help give the second section more freedom.
Below is a small video of the Original Rago Rat in action:
Pros: Very compact durable wake bait, cast good in windy conditions. The joint makes a great knocking sound to attract bass as well a soft plastic tail for a teaser. The lip is built into the bait to survive shore, or rock hits. Hinge is built to handle very large stripers, and the eyelets are heavy duty with a 100lb. split ring to hold the hook on with the big fish.
Cons: Tail does come off and is difficult to reattach in the field, make sure you have a few extra when you go out on the water with a tooth pick to help reattach one.
I get asked all the time what my favorite swimbait color is, and you might think it would be Rainbow Trout because of where I live, but it’s not. It’s a bass color. Since I was a little kid, I have witnessed largemouth bass eating each other. I grew up in an area where there were creeks and small ponds to fish and the majority of what was in these creeks and ponds were bass. I watched numerous times where small bass were being chased and sometimes caught by larger bass.
So it was a no brainer to try to match the hatch, but when I was young we did not have the choices of swimbaits and colors that we do today. It was not until Castaic, and Optimum Lures came along that we had soft plastic realistic imitations in the 4″-6″ length. These days, we have a plethora of choices and it is easy to find a favorite swimbait color that matches the forage in your local waters.
The lure in the picture above is one of the first Optimum swimbaits to be made in the bass color. This is a 5″ bait that opened up a whole new world for me when using swimbaits. The color, along with the body shape and size, were close enough to some of the smaller bass that were getting eaten by some of the larger bass in the waters I fished. When I first used this new color it was unbelievable how aggressive the larger bass were when they chased and bit the swimbait.
I believe that a large bass living in a creek, pond, or lake will try to eat almost anything that moves. So if a smaller bass is in the larger bass’ strike zone, look out! He now is the target meal.
I have always wondered, “If a large bass had a choice of a crawdad, minnow, or a small bass, right in front of him, what would he choose?” Well after years of pondering this, I truly believe if a bass is hungry it will go after whatever is around it. I have also closely watched smaller bass seem to have their guard down around larger bass and especially around structure where they must feel they can escape if needed. I have seen large bass grab another fish and when it does, scales and sometimes small parts of the fish come free around the larger bass and the small bass move in and eat the small scraps. Another thing I have witnessed during spring is small males guarding their nest get eaten by some of the monster females that come up into the shallows from their deep water spots. This could be because a small male may not mature enough to emit any pheromones that drug out the big monster female, so she feeds instead of spawning.
During the colder months of the year when most of the smaller bass have pulled off the bank and have moved to deeper water, I have watched through an Aqua View camera groups of small bass hiding around and under rocks. Meanwhile, large bass are on vigilant patrol waiting for a crawdad, small panfish, or small bass to come out of these rock sanctuaries. Once out in the open, the larger bass can hunt them down and pin them against the bottom, or one of the rocks.
These few examples are a key reason to use a bass-colored swimbait once in awhile to see if that is what’s on the big bass’ menu. In this day and age of incredible paint jobs on soft plastic swimbaits, we now have a huge list of tools to choose from to make sure we always have access to their dinner choices.
Above are a few of the latest swimbaits made over over the last few years, with sizes ranging from the Decoy at 5″, the MattLures at 4 1/2″, and the Huddleston Deluxe at 6″. If you notice one theme besides the color in the pictures, it’s the size. I’m a firm believer that an effective bass-colored swimbait needs to be 6″ or smaller.
MattLures makes one of my favorite small bass-colored swimbaits with his 4 1/2″ version. Matt paid close attention, making the body shape look as natural as possible as well as matching the color almost perfectly.
Jason Scott, former owner of Castaic Lures, a company known for realistic looking swimbaits, now runs Decoy Baits, another company that pays close attention to making realistic looking swimbaits. The 5″ Decoy in a bass color is on the top of my list as one of the best looking soft-plastic paint jobs on a small swimbait.
The Decoy bass, and the MattLures bass have both become my go to lures when I need a small bass-colored swimbait. So next time you’re heading to your favorite pond, or fishing hole, pick up a few small bass-colored swimbaits and start having fun while catching some of the larger bass in your zip code.
For those who love to toss big swimbaits Real Prey Swimbaits has a bait made you in the 10″ Real Prey Trout. It’s like no other big swimbait on the market today, mainly due to what the Real Prey Trout is built from — high modulus silicone, which makes this swimbait very durable and incredibly buoyant while swimming in the water.
Company: Real Prey Swimbaits
Lure: 10″ Real Prey Trout
Composite: High Modulus Silicone
Weight: 7.9 Ounces
Sink Rate: Slow Sink
Color: Natural Trout
MLO Rating: 4.5 out of 5
The Real Prey Trout is definitely a different swimbait, beginning with the material used (a high modulus silicone) which is very durable and hard to tear. The silicone gave the swimbait incredible buoyancy in the water. I found, on my slow sink model, that it had a very slow sink rate for a 10″ swimbait, falling at a rate of around two feet per second, semi-nose down. When I added a 1/4 ounce nail weight to the bottom of the swimbait, just behind the pelvic fins, it balanced the swimbait out perfectly.
The Real Prey Trout will not tear as easy as a swimbait built with soft plastic and the paint is more durable than any other soft plastic swimbait paint job on the market today. The paint will not peal off and, after catching a few good bass on the Real Prey Trout, I could not find a single tooth mark on the bait.
Real Prey Swimbaits paid close attention to matching natural colors in their paint scheme, like with the pearl white belly to the tan colored fins, and the small silver sparkles on the side of the swimbait, to the natural green on the back.
The eyes on the Real Prey Trout are 180 degree hard plastic eyes which you can see from the top and bottom angles of the swimbait which I believe is key in giving a swimbait that natural look to a bass while in the water.
The picture above shows just how buoyant the 10″ Real Prey Trout is. This bait will fall nose down and by adding a little weight near the anal fin you can get the Real Prey Trout to fall horizontally.
The tail of the Real Prey Trout at first glance looked too big compared to what I’m used to seeing in a swimbait tail design, but when I tossed the Real Prey Trout in the water and saw the tail wag and felt the thump of the tail I was very impressed. The swimbait tail swam at very slow speed which surprised me but made sense for how buoyant the silicone is in the water. And when I cranked the swimbait at a fast speed I was very impressed at the balance of the swimbait, it never rolled over on its side and did not fall immediately when I paused it between hard cranks.
Below is a video showing the Real Prey Trout in underwater action.
Pros: The Real Prey Trout is made to last longer than any other swimbait on the market today by being made of high modulus silicone. You can get the tail to swim at very slow speeds and when you burn this swimbait it does not roll over. I was very impressed with buoyancy of the Real Prey Trout especially when bumping it off the bottom.
Cons: If you happen to tear the Real Prey Trout you’ll have to repair it with silicone and I would like to see another eyelet behind the dorsal fin for a stinger hook.
MLO Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Lately I have been slowing it down a bit and going “old school.” What is old school you ask? It is tossing the worm… most likely the first artificial lure to catch a bass and a favorite of most bass fisherman in the world. This time of the year I like to stitch a big worm between 12′ and 16″. Yes, I said 16″! It is a monster of worm, but it catches some big bass.
When getting ready to stitch a big worm, you first need to get your tackle set up correctly. I like a rod between 7′-0″ and 7′-8″ in a medium-heavy action and any reel that will hold plenty of 15-20 pound line. Over the years I have changed over from monofilament to fluorocarbon line because I like the way I can feel the bottom I’m stitching better with the zero stretch line. I prefer a slow ratio reel like 5.1-1 because the ideal is to “slowly” work the worm over the structure back to the boat, or shore.
Once you have your rod, and reel ready it’s time to find some big worms. This can be easier than you think, but I would suggest going to your local bait store and seeing what they have. You might only see smaller worms so ask the someone if they can order larger worms for you. Most people who pour worms have a few big worm molds that they will use for a custom order.
After you find your big worms invest some time in to getting some good worm hooks. I prefer to use Owner oversize worm hook in 7/0, and 11/0 sizes. As you can see in the picture above this hook is built for big worms. It has an extra long shank that gets the point of the hook further down the worm and the “Z” bend was designed to hold the hook in place better in the head of the worm. This “Z” bend is key during casting so that your hook stays in place. What I really like about this big hook is how the point of the hook lines up with start of the hook (as you can see by the picture below, I drew a red line to show how this lines up).
There have been plenty of years I have used pliers to bend the point towards the shank of the hook to keep the point from sticking out of the worm and hanging up on structure. Proper hook placement is key in a big worm your casting a lot of plastic that will stretch during the cast so you will have some movement. The last thing you want is your hook point sticking out and snagging on structure, or dulling the point of the hook, so when you get bit you can’t get a hook set.
I very rarely use a bullet weight with big worms since the hook has enough weight to help keep the worm head on the bottom. Besides, I like to stitch the nastiest structure I can find so rigging the big worm without a weight or fly-lining it is essential to getting all that plastic through the structure.
Once you’ve secured you tackle, it’s time to do some homework and find some good structure to stitch. I like to start with a main point and set up in about ten foot of water and toss out to the deep water. Stitching big worms is a technique where you need lots of patience. The key to success with these giants is to work these big worms as slow as you can, I mean “fall asleep slow.” If you want to catch one of the monster bass in the lake then you need to keep the big worm in the big bass’ house for as long as possible.
Stitching is an old technique where you hold your rod downward towards the water and hold the line between your fingers and slowly pull the line away from the rod. While stitching you want to pull the line and pause, you should always feel tension on the line, if not you need to pull more line out until you feel some light tension. What’s nice about stitching is your going to know when your bit. Big bass thump the big worms hard so hold on. If you have pulled some line out and get bit let the line pull back towards the rod while still holding, once the line is back to the rod, let go and set the hook.
Working big worms on points, humps, and flats with deep water access is how you’ll catch some of the larger bass in the lake. Once you fish these areas for a while, you’re going to find some sweet spots, or key areas on these locations that you will have to make note of mentally so you can visualize in your mind what your big worm is doing. Paying close attention to which direction you’re stitching is also very important. I almost always work the uphill, but there are times during the year when you’ll find the big bass want the worms pulled down hill.
Time of day is another factor you should pay close attention to. I have caught some giant bass early in morning and during the last light of the day while working shallow water key spots with deep water access. I have found that water color and time of the year really dictates if these big bass will be shallow and want to eat a big worm. Once again putting time on the water and taking really detailed notes will help you understand when and where you need to be and how much time to stay and stitch an area.
Moon phase was a trigger to some of my largest catches on big worms. I’ve found that while looking at my fishing logs, kept for over 30 years, that the times you want to be on your key fishing area is 45 minutes before and after a moonrise and moonset. These times of gravitational pull seem to activate the big bass and get them moving and hunting.
Another secret that for me has changed over the year is scent. I am a firm believer in using scent when spot fishing. I call it the “barbecue effect.” If your neighbor three houses down is barbecuing a steak, you can smell it through the air, it will most likely make your appetite increase. This is how I see scent on a key area i’m fishing. If I’m set up on a rock pile and have the wind at my back and there is some water current blowing towards deep water then the “barbecue effect” is working. The only difference between air and water is the density of the molecules. Air molecules move very fast and free if there is a breeze, water on the other hand is much more dense and you need some water current to move your scent in the water. Bottom line is the less current the smaller the area around your scented bait that the bass can pick up the scent. But if you work an area for an extended period of time you can really marinate it and believe this will help spark the bass into biting.
I prefer to use Smelly Jelly in the 3XXX, or Crawdad flavors and after years of getting scent on my hands I finally figured out a better way to apply this sticky smelly scent.
By using a large sandwich bag and placing a small amount of scent inside the bag you can now dip your worm in the bag and squeeze the worm around with your hand on the outside of the bag where no scent can get on your hand. I have found this to make my life much easier while worm fishing and less flavor on my sandwich.
As for big worm colors I always keep it simple brown with a black vein, cinnamon black vein, purple pink vein, and black with a purple vein. These colors for me where I live here in San Diego California work really well, but when I look at my fishing logs I have caught 70% of my largest bass on the brown black vein color. It is a very natural color matching a night crawler. My logs also show that some of the best times for me have also been during storms where there is some runoff going into the lake. If there is a key area next to some stained, or dirty runoff coming in the lake I have had some multiple big bass days. I believe as these bass grow up they recognize that food is coming in the lake during storms that are large enough to create some good runoff where worms and bugs are un-earthed and go down stream into the lake. I have noticed that the first good storm that produces runoff is best and only for a couple of days.
So next time you feel like slowing it down a bit, but still want a chance at a toad bass go buy some big worms and soak them on your best spot I think you’ll be glad you did.
Takeshi Matsumota owner of Fish Arrow and Ken Huddleston owner of Huddleston Deluxe have collaborated to make the Huddle Jack 150 a 6″ hard bait with the Huddleston Deluxe swimbait tail. Fish Arrow the maker of the famous Monster Jack swimbait decided it was time to up their game and make a hard swimbait with a kicking tail instead of the traditional lipped hard bait, or hinged S-motion style swimbait.
Lure: Huddle Jack 150
Weight: 1.6 ounces
Color: Blue Back Pearl
Composite: Hard Plastic
MLO Rating: 5 out of 5
The Huddle Jack 150 is the Sparta of swimbaits, it is a tough little swimmer weighing in at 1.6 ounces for its slim 6 1/4″ body length it is built for speed. Fish Arrow loves to build swimbaits that are durable and will last for years of fishing abuse. I found casting this bait was effortless especially in the wind.
One nice thing about a 6″ swimbait that only weighs 1.6 ounces is you can use lighter gear. I matched the Huddle Jack with a Dobyns DX 744, and a Shimano Calais reel spooled with 15lb. flourocarbon line.
The Huddle Jack 150 is marked on the back for the model and an “S” for sinking. As you can see by the picture above the tail is a Huddleston Deluxe hard wedge tail.
The Huddle Jack 150 is built with a super strong hinge that will handle some monster bass especially if you plan on using a rear hook off the tail.
Fish Arrow research and development people are fishing all the time and know that sometimes you need a rear hook and by removing the two belly hooks and using a rear tail hook it will allow you to fish much more structure instead of hanging up on it, or dulling the point of the hooks.
Fish Arrow always puts good hardware on their baits and with the Huddle Jack 150 Fish Arrow used 60lb. split rings and Owner 1/0 treble hooks. The eyes are high end realistic taxidermy grade and on the eyelet they added a 80lb. split ring.
While I was casting and testing the Huddle Jack 150 a small bass decided to give his review..He was hooked!.. Below is a Huddle Jack 150 demonstration video I made to show just how amazing this little strong bait is.
Pros: The Huddle Jack 150 is an incredible bait for casting all day long, flies straight in the air, and swims just like its soft bait cousin the Huddleston Deluxe swimbait. Having a choice of hook placement is key if you need to adjust your bait for short bites, or trees and rocks.
Cons: I found none
MLO: 5 out of 5
Editors Note: This article was written by Mike Long and not E.A. Castro as previously ascribed. We apologize for the confusion.
Well I finally got some time on the water with MattLures new 13″ dead twitch bait, it is by far the most natural looking soft plastic bait of its size and weighing in at 14.4 ounces your going to need some heavy duty gear if you plan on chucking this big bait all day.
Style: Floater (slow twitch)
Weight: 14.4 ounces
Hooks: Owner 2/0 (2)
Composite: Soft Plastic
Custom Paint: Yes
MLO Rating: 4.5 out of 5
I had to break out the Dobyns 867 swimbait rod and spool up with some 25lb. Maxima monofilament on my Curado 300 reel to handle the new MattLures DeadTwitch bait. The heavy weight of the DeadTwitch bait requires some heavy gear unless you decide to long-line this giant bait.
MattLures company has once again stayed true to their theme of making some of the most natural looking baits on the market today and the DeadTwitch is the result of years of research and development in the evolution of the Mattlures natural trout series.
The MattLures DeadTwitch bait has a single hinge which gives this bait the ability to glide left, or right on a slow twitch.
The picture above shows how much freedom the second section of the bait has with a full 180 degrees of movement. I found when twitching the DeadTwitch bait you needed monofilament line for a little stretch and that when twitching the bait you needed some slack in the line and a very subtle down motion drop of the rod to give the bait a slow tug and allow the bait to switch directions. This bait requires patience, it is a bait that you can leave floating over a lake point for hours teasing the big bass to come up and blast it off the surface, so patience is a key to success with this bait, but if you can keep an eye on this bait and twitch it at slow cadence making the DeadTwitch look slightly injured your gonna have some awesome success. Warning also keep an eye out for Ospreys they love trout on the surface and will take your bait for an unwanted ride.
MattLures placed the eyelet for tying on the DeadTwich inside the mouth. I suggest using a 50lb. quick snap.
MattLures used some heavy duty hardware starting with 100lb. split rings and Owner 2/0 heavy duty treble hooks.
MattLures added an eyelet on top of the DeadTwitch bait where a treble hook can be added. If you decide to take off the two bottom treble hooks to give your bait the most natural look and add the top hook you will need to add some kind of ballast weight where the bottom hooks were. I found some tungsten nail weights placed in the belly worked just fine.
MattLures designed the DeadTwitch bait to just barely sit under the water with the full dorsal fin exposed and part of the tail.
This underwater shot above shows what a proper weighted DeadTwitch bait should look like from an underwater view.
If you decide to dead stick this bait in calm water I would suggest to remove the bottom hooks to allow this bait to look as natural as possible.
Pros: Once again MattLures has created a bait that truly imitates nature and that will help most anglers have a better chance of catching that big bass of a lifetime as long as you can exercise a little patience. And the price is a steal.
Cons: The DeadTwitch paint job looks awesome until you catch a few big toothy bass and it starts to tear some.
MLO Rating: 4.5 out of 5
3:16 Lure company has been around for quite some time now and make some of the most creative swimbaits on the market today. From their first creative design the Mission Fish the first weedless swimbait, to the full line of hard swimbaits. 3:16 lure company is the working mans company and pays close attention to detail.
Company: 3:16 Lures
Composite: Hard Resin
Lure Type: Floater
Weight: 2.3 Ounce
Color: Rainbow Trout
Hooks: Owner 1x
MLO Rating: 5 out of 5
My first experience with 3:16 Lure companies Baby Wake was during a cloudy day with light rain and light chop on the water. I used a Dobyns 784 rod spooled with 18lb. Maxima fluorocarbon line and a Shimano Calais 200 reel. On the first cast I was very impressed with the wake that this little bait made in light wind. The first section of the Baby Wake . just barely went under the surface, while the rear section kicked back and forth at a slow retrieve. I also noticed a knocking sound from the two sections of the bait hitting each other on the retrieve which I am a huge fan of. Something that shocked me is the Baby Wake will walk when you pump the rod downward. It walks and rolls which while I was testing the bait I got slammed by a 5 lb. bass. This added action gives this lure and added dimension which can really help to trigger a bite.
Upon close inspection you’ll notice that these hand made baits are built to be fished hard from the hardware used, to the paint job 3:16 lure company cut no corners.
3:16 Lure co. uses top notch Owner 1x treble hooks that are super sharp and very strong and are attached with heavy duty 100 lb+ split rings. The nose of the bait has a heavy duty eyelet that no fish will ever break.
A front shot of the wake bait shows the 1/8″ clear diving lip which is built into the bait in a way that it will not break off on a shore cast, or hitting rocks. 3:16 pays very close attention to natural detail and the eye sockets popping out of the wake bait and pointing downward really look natural and give this bait life.
The eyes 3:16 Lure co. uses are high grade taxidermy eyes which absolutely give this bait life. I suspect the artist at 3:16 hand paints these eyes to match the species eye color exactly that is how good these eyes look.
The picture above shows the detail on the back of the hand painted Baby Wake. Once again the artist paid close attention to what species that he was replicating in this case Rainbow Trout. These are all hand painted so every bait has its own unique pattern.
What helps give the Baby Wake its wake ability is 3:16’s unique custom hinge system. 3:16 Lure co. was one of the first swimbait companies to incorporate this design into a swimabit. This hinge is built to withstand years of abuse with a custom drop pin to help keep the hinge together this system will hold up against 100lb. ocean fish.
The tail of the Baby Wake is built to withstand numerous shore hits and has a 1/8″ of play which helps give the lure some added motion without adding another hinge, but what I found was this play also made a high pitch slapping sound in the water which is very unique in a surface wake bait.
Pros: The Baby Wake is one of the top wake baits on the market today and by far one of the most natural looking. The Baby Wake is built with heavy duty hardware, no short cuts in this bait.
Cons: Was hard to find any since so much thought was put into this design, I am a fan of such detail and that is why I call this the working mans swimbait!
MLO Rating: 5 out of 5
I’m only 47 and have worked in construction since I was 16 and being a highly active person mountain biking, fishing, and hiking every chance I get, I live in a world of chronic pain –shoulder, neck and back pain — almost everyday. I have had days where standing at the front of the boat was such a challenge, I could barely fish.
I was fishing this past Summer with a friend who plays professional baseball and he witnessed how much pain I was in while fishing. He walked up to me and handed me a necklace and said to put it on it should help to relieve some of the pain in a few days. Well, I was real skeptical, but figured suffering from years of chronic back pain, I had nothing to lose, so… what the heck, I’ll give it a try.
The core of Phiten technology is in their Aqua Metals – metals that are broken down into microscopic particles dispersed in water. Every product features Phiten technology: from their signature necklaces, to their performance apparel, and to their sports care items like body supports, tape, and lotion. They tailor their products for everyone, from hardcore athletes to weekend warriors, to get them through the daily grind and to support a healthy and active lifestyle.
So after about a week of wearing my Phiten necklace, I was pain free and after over four months of wearing my Phiten necklace at least three days a week, I am still pain free. First time I can say that in well over ten years.
The Phiten necklace that my friend gave me is a camo color which blends right in with any of my fishing apparel. It has an easy to use latch and the necklace is easy to clean with soap and water.
After talking with some other baseball players about the Phiten necklace they suggested I use some of Phitens’ other products like the Phiten bracelet, tape, and lotion. They told me while rehabbing from sports injuries and using the Phiten products like the Phiten tape, and lotion on the areas of the body where their injuries had occurred seemed help to speed the healing process of their injuries.
So from my personal experience, if you suffer from any kind of chronic pain give Phiten products a chance, I think you’ll be glad you did.
For years I’ve tried my hardest to get my hard lures to look as natural as possible and to have a durable finish that will last for at least one season and withstand the toothy bass that will be attacking them. I have also searched for a lure painter that did a good job for a reasonable price and had a quick turnaround. Yes there are some lure makers that put a top notch paint job on their lures, but they also charge a lot of money and it may not be the right swimming-style bait I want.
I got lucky one day and received a custom painted BullShad Swimbait from owner Mike Bucca in the mail. It was a threadfin shad paint job and it looked incredible. It was by far one of the best paint jobs I had ever seen at the time in a shad pattern.
I later found out that Mike had BaitWerks do some custom paint jobs on his BullShads and that the shad was just one of the custom colors he offered.
Dwain Batey, the artist and owner of BaitWerks, has custom painted quite a few swimbaits for me over the years and they all just flat out look incredible. So realistic that my large bass catch percentage increased when using the custom painted baits.
I truly believe, from my many years of chasing the little green bass, that the lures having that real-life custom paint job make a huge difference. First off, I have more confidence with a custom-painted lure than I do without a custom paint job. I can’t tell you how many times I have second guessed a lure and was using thinking it did not look natural enough to get the job done and switched it out for another lure. This was down time that my lure was not in the water, when the game plan is to have confidence in a lure and keep it in the water.
Above are a few samples of what BaitWerks has custom painted for me in the BullShad swimbaits. Baitwerks can paint anything you can send a picture of.
When I sent a picture of a California Golden Shiner to Mike Bucca and asked him to have Dwain at BaitWerks paint a BullShad close to the picture, I was very skeptical that he could match the picture. A Golden Shiner can be a tough fish to copy, but when I got my custom painted BullShad back I was shocked at how good it looked and as soon and as put it in the water I was very impressed at how realistic the lure looked. Bottom line it made me a better bass fisherman.
BaitWerks does a great job doing custom paint jobs on almost any lure for a fair price and in a timely manner depending on their workflow. Take a look at BaitWerks.com and see if BaitWerks has a color you like, or send them a picture of what you would like to copy. I believe you will be happy if you do.
Every now and then I get to do a review on a bait I am very familiar with and the MS Slammer is one of those baits. It is the working mans swimbait, each swimbait is handmade with high quality cedar and some of the largest screw eyes put in a swimbait. The MS Slammer is simply a workhorse swimbait.
Company: M.S. Slammer Hand Crafted Lures
Bait: MS Slammer
Weight: 2.9 ounce
Color: Rainbow Trout
MLO Rating: 4.5 out of 5
The MS Slammer is no longer a secret West coast swimbait, it has become well known throughout the swimbait world. Being handmade out of high quality cedar you get a very durable swimbait that was made to go out and fish hard without the worry of breaking the swimbait if it hits a rock, or the bank on a cast.
The 9″ MS Slammer has a top notch durable paint job that will stand up to hundreds of hours of fishing and the tail of the Slammer is soft plastic and very easy to replace if needed. As for hooks they are size 2/0 VMC that will get the job done. Every bait comes with a large quick release snap that helps give the Slammer more freedom while swimming and easy to change out baits to different colors, or sizes when needed.
Every Slammer is initialed and dated what month and year it was made at the rear of the first section. All MS Slammers are put together with the largest and strongest screw eyes of any bait made of its size and you will never have to worry about a fish twisting these bad boys free. The mid section o the Slammer is the motor of the bait and puts out a thumping sound of wood hitting wood as well as the squeaking sound of the screw eyes a true fish calling swimbait.
The Slammer is built to be a floating swimbait that has an incredible V-wake swimming action especially on calm water, but this lure can be twitched as well as burned at a faster speed to get it down to 4′-0″ I have found times where ripping and pausing the bait to be an incredible way to get a bass to bite. Bottom line the Slammer seems like a topwater only bait, but you can test its limits.
The picture above shows how buoyant the front section of the bait is. Once you start reeling the Slammer the diving bill of the bait pulls the front section just under the surface of the water while the rear section kicks and rolls side to side.
As you can see by the picture above the MS Slammer reeled at a slow-medium retrieve wakes the surface nicely and is an incredible bait up in shallow water around sticks and grass where some wake and noise is what you need to call the big bass out.
Pros: Very durable bait, very buoyant and comes handbuilt with some of the strongest screws in a bait its size.
Cons: Would like to see the eyes come out farther.
MLO Rating: 4.5 out of 5
It’s that time of the year for cranking the rock piles and I have been waiting quite some time to field test the Damiki crank baits. Where I live here in San Diego Califonia the lakes are deep and the bass suspend offshore in 20′-40′ of open water during the Fall and Winter months. And when the bass move from open water to the rock piles to feed on crawdads you need a crank bait that will get down at least 15′ to have a chance at getting a bite.
Lures: DC300 / DC400
Depths: DC300 12′-15′ / DC400 16′-18′
Color: Real Shad
Style: Deep Diving Slow Floater
Casting Weights: Yes
Weight: DC300 .55 oz /DC400 1 oz
Length: DC300 2.13″ / DC400 2.76″
MLO Rating: 4.5 out of 5
When I first got my crank baits from Damiki I was not sure what to expect. It was first experience with Damiki lures.
One of the first things I liked about the Damiki lures was the packaging. My lures were very easy to get out of the package and just as easy to get back in their packaging after use and I can’t tell you how nice that is, especially if I plan on just taking a few lures on a trip. The sturdy packaging will keep my lures from getting stuck in my travel gear.
The two Damiki crank baits I field tested were the DC300, and the DC 400. The DC300 dives 12′-15′, while the DC400 dives 16′-18′. Both crank baits tested were in the real shad color.
In the picture above of the side by side comparison you can start to see huge size difference in these deep diving crank baits. The DC400 on the left has a much longer body and larger diving bill, while the DC300 has a much smaller compact body size and a very large diving bill for it’s body size.
The DC300 has a diving bill and body shape very similar to some of my favorite crank baits growing up like the Fat Free Shad, and the Fat Rap. This little crank bait has an incredible wobble action in the water and I had no trouble at all casting this small crank in the wind due to the four bearings that all move to the rear of the bait during casting.
Under close inspection I was very impressed with look of the crank bait. The black eyes really look good on the lighter colored baits as well as the detailed groves that help give these little baits life. Damiki put small fine wire hooks on the DC series which I’m a huge fan of.
The DC series has a weighted balance plate in the belly of the bait which will help keep your bait balanced during pauses, also there is a separate chamber in the DC300 that has small glass beads that produce a high pitch noise sound which is a great lure attractor in dark deep waters. The DC400 has three ball bearings that all move to the rear of the bait while casting and also give the lure a low noise sound.
The DC400 has a very large strong diving bill which I put to the test bouncing off rocks for the better part of a day and I found it to be just fine. The 400’s body shape was little longer and has less wobble than the 300, but I found the 400 to dive quickly and wobble just enough that I could feel it through my rod tip.
Pros: I found the lure balance in the water to be real good. As for casting in windy conditions the DC300, and DC400 were some of the best cranks I’ve casted in years, the ball bearings in the baits moved to rear at the right time to help the lures fly straight on each cast.
Cons: I was not a fan of the small split rings on the DC series.
MLO Rating: 4.5 out of 5
In the last year I have fished with quite a few people who were complaining about how their reels just didn’t seem to cast as well as they use to. The first thing I ask is, “Do you ever oil your reel?” Everytime the answer is, “No, how do you do that?” Well, here’s how you do it.
These fishing reel casting and maintenance tips begin with lubricant. Almost every reel I have ever bought has come with a small bottle of oil. If yours didn’t most sporting good stores carry reel oil.
Accessing the spool is a little bit different with every reel. I try to always use reels where it is easy to field access the spool.
The reel I have pictured above is a Shimano Scorpian and the side plate can be completely removed. On some reels the side plate pops-out and moves up or down. The goal is to get to the spool bearings for oiling. Once you’re able to unlock the side plate, the first thing you want to do is visually inspect it for any foreign debris and run your finger around the outside of the spool and spool guide making sure it is smooth and free of debris.
Now that you have unlocked the side plate and inspected the spool and bearing it’s time to hold the bearing level and add few drops of oil.
Next step is to very carefully move the spool away from the reel handle plate and add a few drops of oil to the spool shaft. After adding oil, you will need to tilt the reel so the oil can run down the spool shaft to the inner bearing.
With reels that have a VBS (variable braking system) you want to inspect the break weights to make sure some of them turned on and some are turned off. The way this is done by pressing the break weight closer to center is off and pushing the break weight towards the outer end of the post is on. I like to have my break weights set at 50%, or every other one on. If all break weights are off the spool is 100% free
Another great thing about reels that have a centrifugal braking system using break weights is you can remove them and add lighter or heavier brake weights that can help when conditions require some centrifugal weight adjustments.
When using any reel with a centrifugal force braking system there is a right way and a wrong way to cast. The picture above shows the wrong way to hold and cast the reel if any brake weights are on.
The picture above shows a proper hold when using a VBS system with any brake weights on. You need to turn the reel on its side so gravity will not be pulling at your brake weights that are turned on. Holding the reel sideways the centrifugal force has a chance to work evenly and casting will be smooth.
I sure hope these small tips help you to get some better and further casts and will let you have a more productive day catching fish instead of pulling backlashes out.
One of my all time favorite swimbaits is a Huddleston Deluxe 6″ weedless swimbait. It is a great little swimbait for working through rock piles and submerged brush. So when I heard Huddleston Deluxe was coming out with an 8″ weedless swimbait, I was very excited to get my hands on some and try them out.
Bait: 8″ Weedless
Color: Holdover Trout
Weight: 4.7 Ounces
Hook: 8/0 Black Nickel
MLO Rating: 4 out of 5
Ken Huddleston the mind behind Huddleston Deluxe is master craftsman who always pays close attention to nature when designing lures. I have been fishing Ken’s lures from the beginning and have always been amazed of what he has been able to design with soft plastics, so when I heard the 8″ weedless was available I knew it was time to get my hands on a few and go to work.
The color I used for this review was holdover trout, it is a color I really like for dingy off colored water and when fishing deeper waters during the middle of the day. Once again the Huddleston paint job was top notch one of the best soft plastic swimbait paint jobs available on the market today.
Huddleston uses a monster 8/0 black nickel hook that is super strong and sits in custom weedless slot that is a 1 1/2″ long, a 1/4″ deep and 1/8″ wide. I found with the four baits I tested that it was very important to inspect the area around the hook to make sure it is clean, and clear so the hook will sit in it properly. Also inspect the hole around the hook, when pushing down on the plastic in front of the hook where the hollow air cavity is it should move up and down freely. With the custom hollow air cavity I found my swimbaits swam better when this cavity did not fill with any water. I recommend adding a little vaseline, or Smelly Jelly around the hook hole at the bottom of the weedless slot and also on the slot edge, this will help some with the hook barb catching on top of the swimbait and plug up the hole around the hook helping to keep the hollow cavity full of air during the swimbait retrieve.
In the picture above you can you can see how the hook pops out when the hollow air cavity is pressed down.
This hole between the pelvic fins is connected to the hollow cavity in front of the hook and is the air release port for the hollow cavity when the swimbait gets bit. This was a very well thought out design, but always check to make sure this hole is clear of any debris.
One big change in the weedless version from the original is where the eyelet is on the weedless 8″ Huddleston. The eyelet is in front of the swimbait near the nose and is turned horizontally. In order to have the air cavity built into the swimbait the hook had to be lower in the harness thus coming out in front of the swimbait. I am a huge fan of a weedless swimbait having the eyelet directly in front of the bait, it helps to get better leverage on the swimbait when it gets stuck on the bottom and that is exactly what I found with the weedless 8″ Huddleston it was very easy to get out of trouble when crawling it slowly on the bottom through the rocks.
I am a bottom crawling swimbait lover so I always look for a swimbait that will sit naturally on the bottom and not fall over and The Huddleston 8″ swimbait does everything I like in a bottom crawling swimbait and I especially like how the tail will slightly rise when the swimbait is paused. And when the swimbait is slow crawling along the bottom the tail will be allowed to kick unobstructed.
I found that the Huddleston Weedless 8″ Swimbait swam a little different from the original 8″ Huddleston. Out of four baits I tested I found the tail of the swimbait did not kick the same as the original 8″ swimbait.
Side by side comparison of the new 8″ weedless with the original 8″ swimbait you can see a few subtle changes like in the girth of the swimbaits and the length.
Holding the new Huddleston weedless swimbait up against the original you can clearly see the girth differences as well as the added 1/4″ length in the new weedless swimbait.
Pros: I was very impressed with the weedless system there was alot of thought put into this design and the air cavity for the the weedless system was a highly effective bladder that really helps this design swim naturally. The paint job is still one the best of any soft swimbait available on the market today. The swimbait is by far more flexible than the original 8″ Huddleston.
Cons: I wish the bait had a larger tail, I felt the the bait lost some tail kick from the original and a larger tail would help. You will need to clean the paint off the hook and after a few catches the barb ocassionally got stuck on top of the bait tearing the paint, I found a little vaseline, or smelly jelly helped this some.
MLO Rating: 4 out of 5
When I hear the name Skinny Bear in the fishing world I think of some of the best jigs ever made, but when I got a package in the mail recently from Skinny Bear it turned out to be some the best looking swimbaits I have ever seen.
Company: Skinny Bear
Sizes Tested: 3.5″ / 5″
Colors Tested: Ghost Minnow, Ayu Shad, Smoke Ayu, Shad
Lure Type: Soft Plastic
Lure Style: Boot Tail
MLO Rating: 4.5 out of 5
With a fishing market flooded with swimbaits it always impresses me when I get a chance to see and fish something just a bit better than the rest. The baits I tested from Skinny Bear were the Swimming Shad Eye Swimbaits in the 3 1/2″, and 5″ the colors were Ghost Minnow, Ayu Shad, Smoke Ayu. Skinny Bear has over 19 colors to choose from in their Swimming Shad Eye arsenal, but my favorites were the Smoke Minnow, and Bluegill.
The Ayu Shad color pictured above was another color I was impressed with, it looked good out of the package and even better in the water. The package that the Swimming Shad Eyes come in are awesome and keep your baits straight, but when you try to put the baits back in the package after a trip it can be a challenge due to how tight the package is, but once you get them aligned and all the way in the package they will be good until your next trip.
Colors pictured above are from top to bottom; Ghost Minnow, Shad Smoke, and Bluegill.
The Swimming Shad Eye Swimbaits come with silver eyes on them and after several weeks of using the baits I did not have one eye peel off. I really think having good eyes on a swimbait are key to getting bass to want to bite it, and the Swimming Shad Eye Swimbait has some good reflective eyes.
I was very impressed with the scale pattern on the Swimming Shad Eye, it looked even better in the water. Skinny Bear payed very close attention to detail with scale imprint, it is very clean and stops around the head and the tail sections which really helps give these small swimbaits life.
The tail of the baits was another area Skinny Bear payed close attention too with adding imprinted tail rays to give the bait a very realistic look.
When I was ready to go fish it was time to choose a hook and I went with the Owner 6/0 Twist Lock that has the spring that you screw into the nose of the bait.
When using a the Twist Lock style hook make sure you insert the spring into the nose all the way to the hook eyelet and then lay the hook on outside the swimbait so you will have an idea of where you need to run the hook through the swimbait.
The Swimming Shad Eye has a slit on the belly of the swimbait which allows the hook to easily pass through to the top of the bait.
With the 6/0 hook rigging on the 5″ swimbait you have a perfect weedless match-up for the Swimming Shad Eye.
Once your done rigging your Swimming Shad Eye Swimbait it should look like the picture above, a weedless set up, or an A-Rig ready to fish swimbait.
Pros: I found the colors to be some of the best I’ve seen in a small plastic injected swimbait, the detail of the bait is top notch from the scales to the eyes this is a very well thought out swimbait.
Cons: I was not a huge fan of the packaging, once you got the swimbaits back in the bag it worked fine, but it took some time.
MLO Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Chasing largemouth bass for well over 37 years you definitely learn a thing a two. One thing you learn quickly is that if you can catch big bass consistently, you become somewhat of a fishing icon. In my world this has happened to me multiple times, but what is the truth behind people who catch big bass consistently? Well it’s time to spill the beans and spell it out.When it come to bass fishing, I have become so obsessed at times that it seems like almost nothing else in the world matters but fishing. I was just telling a friend the other day that looking back on my days of hunting for big bass, I was definitely obsessed, almost as if I was under a spell. But this focus isn’t why I really catch big bass consistently.
I believe the true reason why any person can be a consistent big bass catching machine is due to the amount of time they are willing to spend on the water. This is by far the truth of why I have been able to catch so many large bass in my “career.”
When I would catch a large bass in the past, and it got in the newspaper, I would often tell people that it should have read, “Mike Long, 12 lb bass, 42 hours.” Unfortunately, the news reports would only state your name and weight of the bass. Play this idea out and you start to arrive at a better understanding: If you fished fifty hours over a week and caught one bass over ten pounds, and then you did this each week for a month, and caught a total of four bass over ten pounds, and no one realized how much time you had invested overall, you start to look like the king of big bass fishing. All they see is that you caught four fish over ten pounds in a month and think you’re on to some secret technique that yields big fish all the time.
“Time on the water” is a phrase you will here at almost any bass seminar, or in any article you read about catching big bass. There is a reason for this: it is the truth! When I look back on my life and what I have experienced in bass fishing, it all has to do with how much time I was willing to invest and spend on the water hunting giants. If I really look back at the time I spent though, it did not always pay off.
I have caught hundreds of bass over ten pounds, but if you do the math for 37 years and how many hours invested in each fish, I have not done that well.
There are lots of “Big Bass Hunters” here in California. The main reason for that is all the lakes have potentially world class Florida strain largemouth bass in them that are fed almost pure protein Rainbow Trout that are easy to catch and easy to digest. We call these trout “candy bars” because they just melt in a bass’ mouth. The difference is in perspective. Big bass hunters that spend more hours on the lake understand that chucking a trout imitation swimbait for ten hours a day, five days a week, will put them in a high percentage bracket to catch a bass over ten pounds. So if a weekend big bass hunter comes in and spends two weekends chucking a swimbait and finally gets a big bass over ten, who was better? the guy who spent 50 hours for one ten pounder, or the guy who spent 40 hours for one. I think you get the point.
If you spend lots of time doing something in life, you also figure out some short cuts, and in the world of big bass fishing we all want that short cut. Basically the longer you spend sitting on a rock pile you start to recognize patterns that will help you on the next trip and so on…
This is what makes me who I am. I spend lots of time on the water, take good notes and pay close attention to the factors that truly drive the big bass to move around and feed. The weather, moon, and sun are the primary factors that make big bass migrate in a lake to feed and the more time you spend on the water, the more you will recognize the patterns.
Now after years of taking notes, and building basically a big bass map, with a schedule of when some of those big bass should be stopping in an area to feed, you’re in a better position to catch big bass. Simply put, all that the time you spent hunting these big bass will put you in a higher percentage bracket for catching them. You might catch two, or three over ten pounds in a 50 hour week, or even two over ten in a 20 hour weekend. You have now evolved to the next level of big bass fishing. And even though you have done some homework from years of hunting, the one primary factor still is time on the water.
Here in San Diego, California, we had a big bass fishing legend named Lunker Bill Murphy. This guy fished every chance he got. He was a structure fisherman who loved to sit on two or three rocks piles during a day, while stitching crawdads, worms, or jigs and this man did some serious damage on the big bass. Growing up watching this man, I recognized one thing right away though. He spent more time on the water than any other fisherman by far, no one came even close. Yes, you could say he was obsessed.
So at an early age I understood that to catch big bass consistently you have to spend lots of time on the water. The question though, is does this truly say you are the best? I guess that’s all dependent on how you want to look at it.
I’ve got to go now and get some lures ready for tomorrow, I smell rain in the air.
Now that the days are getting shorter, and the waters are cooling down, the bass are starting to move into areas of the lake that are very rocky. This is a great time of the season to toss a jig and catch some of the larger bass in the lake. Growing up in San Diego California where the reservoirs are deep and clear most of the year, and the fishing pressure can be overwhelming on these smaller bodies of water, fishing a jig in deep water is a must at times.
Colors matter with jigs and I always try to keep it simple; clear water I use brown and greens, dirty water black and purple. You’ll find with the brown jigs, sometimes due to water clarity, the bass might want a little color with brown skirts. When I get jigs made for a trip, I always get straight brown, and at least 1/4 made with brown and green, and another 1/4 brown and purple.
Having some purple, and green mixed in your jig skirts is good if the bass slow down on hitting straight brown. I have had many days where the brown/purple jigs have out fished all other colors. In my experience it seems during the brighter part of the day the mixed color brown jigs work better and the solid brown jigs get bit better during lowlight. When the rains come and turn the water a dirty, or muddy color, I go to a black jig. I also prefer a black jig skirt with a little red flash added and the same with the jig trailer.
Now that I have some jigs made with the colors I want it’s time to get some rattle accessories and some trailers. Adding a rattle was an experiment for many years and I’ve found that I have had much greater success while using rattles on my jigs than without.
The rattle arms are normally sold seperate from the rattle chambers, so it’s up to you to pick the color for the rattle chambers (black, or clear). Even the size matters; some rattle chambers come with two ball bearings, or three. It’s all up to what you want to use, since I believe they work the same.
The body rattle chambers are another item that will be sold as a harness and rattle set that you will have to put together.
Now it’s time to start adding your rattles to your jig. Make sure if you add the arm rattles and the body rattles your going to have to make sure the body of your jig you are using will have enough room to allow both. If not, some trimming with a pair of scissors, or exacto knife, may be required. Once you have completed the rattles, it’s time for a jig trailer. I always try to match natural colors, starting with green, when choosing a jig trailer. If I plan on stitching my jig at a moderate search speed, I will use a twin tail trailer. If I plan on stitching my jig at a slow speed, or deadstick a ledge or rock, I’ll use a natural crawdad looking trailer.
Where I live, the water never gets cold for very long and is usually clear, so I always have used soft plastic trailers instead of pork trailers. The times I have used pork, it was very dirty water where I felt I needed a little extra scent to attract a bass to my jig.
The placement of the plastic jig trailer works best when you place it at a slight upward angle. This will let promote the claws to float upward and look very natural when the jig is in the water. Using a trailer with salt in it will help the trailer claws float a little bit better too.
Above picture is a shot of a jig in the water with a natural crawdad trailer. I have always felt that a jig should rise off the bottom as much as possible, I believe it helps it to get bit easier and look much more natural than a jig and trailer that just lays on the bottom.
When choosing a Fall and Winter jig, I prefer a football head, I like the way it moves through smaller rocks and pea gravel bottoms. It is this wider head that will work like a small bulldozer pushing rocks and sand making some disturbance on the bottom to help attract bass.With the wider head it keeps my hook straight up not rolling over catching rocks and snagging up like a round, or swimming head jig will. I also look for a jig head that has a bevel where the eyelet is. The lower the eyelet, the less likely it is to get stuck in the rocks. I have had much more success clearing rocks with the lower seated eyelet, that when using the eyelets the stick way above the lead head.
As for weight size, I almost always use a 3/8 ounce jig in depths of 1′-25′ and when fishing deeper waters 25′-40′ I’ll use a 1/2 ounce jig.
Above is my go-to lure during late Fall and Winter months. It is a 3/4 ounce football head in a bass candy color, a green skirt, and a flash of metallic green and orange. This is my deep water wrecking machine. As for the trailer, I always use the Castaic Craw trailers in the same colors. I have fished this big jig as deep as 100′ and can feel the structure on the bottom, but this lure is highly effective for those big bass hiding in that 30′-60′ zone as well. This jig keeps great contact with the bottom, as well as scratching rocks and making a lot of noise to call the big bass over. A few words of warning when using a heavier jig: if a bass charges to the surface and tries to shake her head above the water, you better bury the rod in the water, and reel like a mad man to keep the heavy jig set in the bass’ mouth. I recommend a high speed reel when using 3/4 -1 ounce jigs or heavier. Jig bass can bite violently and also make some crazy runs and charging the surface. A high speed reel will help you gain ground quickly and keep the situation in control.
As for a rod I am a huge fan of the Dobyns DX 744 for jigs up to 1/2 ounce. It is a 7′-4″ medium-action, four power rod that is the work horse rod of the Dobyns family. For the heavier jigs (3/4-1 1/2 ounce) I recommend a Dobyns DX 784. You get four more inches of rod over the DX 744, with the same power, but with a better hook setting ability in deep water. As for line I mainly go with Maxima 15lb. fluorocarbon line.
One last thing… if you’re fishing a spot and losing a lot of jigs, you’re probably in the right area. Buy as many jigs as you can and bring some extra line and have some fun! (Jigs used in this article were Skinny Bear Jigs and a few hand made heavy jigs)
Everyone who fishes for bass has a “go to” lure, or a special technique, a secret lure, or special color, or size bait that when fishing gets tough you need a secret weapon to tie on. And the longer you fish, the bigger the bag of these tricks. Sometimes you can barely remember what is in your bag of tricks and at times your lure, or technique works so well you don’t ever want to talk about it, not even with your best fishing buddy. All kidding aside, when it comes to swimbait fishing I have a few secret swimbait techniques that will, by far, help you catch more and larger bass when times get tough and the bass go deep.
Here in California in the deep water reservoirs we fish during the Winter months, and parts of the Summer months, we chase suspended fish as deep as 80 feet and some even deeper in the case of the bottom fish. Basically we hunt for bait and fish with our fish finders, and once we find some bait and fish that look good on the graph, we attack them vertically with 1/2 ounce spoons and ice jigs. Its just like a video game with the goal to drop your lure vertically in the water in front of the boat and graph while watching it fall on the graph and once you see it in the target area you begin to pop the lure upward. This looks like zig zag line with another line running through it and if things work out correctly you hook up quickly. But over many years of practicing this technique, I never hooked a bass over 5 pounds and I knew there had to be some big fish down deep around the smaller bass. I could see the big fish marks on the meter and at times while dropping an underwater camera down deep I could see the big bass, so I knew I had to think outside the box if wanted to catch these deep water giant bass.
Back in the late 90’s I use to have Jason Scott, one of the former owners of Castaic Baits, send me four, six, and eight inch trout swimbaits without any internal rigging systems in the baits at all. I just wanted a plastic swimbait painted with no hook and no weight. My goal was to get these baits down to where the big bass were hiding during the winter months. My idea was to nose hook these lightened swimbaits and to vertically drop shot them with a 3/4 ounce, or 1 ounce weight.
It took a few trips to really dial in this heavy drop shot rig and to figure out what pound fishing line to use. 15 pound fluorocarbon is what I found to work best for me.
Now it was finding a big mark on the fish finder and testing it out. The first thing I found was when using the larger baits (6″ and 8″) I would get lots of tail bites and very few hook-ups. I could see teeth marks on the tails and I knew once I found the bigger bass that they could inhale the entire swimbait, so I had to rethink what I was doing and this took some time. Quite some time, actually. Well over two years of trial and error to dial this new deep water technique in and increase my big bass hook-up percentages. The number one thing I learned is to be patient. I tried not to use tail stingers because when I did I hooked lots of good bass in the gills and killed them, so the goal was to nose hook my baits and find the right hook.
I have always felt, throughout the years, that the deeper the bass, the easier they are to catch, as long as you can get the right bait in front of their face. This is an area where I worked hard to make the bait look as life-like as possible. I paid close attention to the gills, eyes, fins, and tails.
I have found, through trial and error over the years, that a swimbait with a natural straight tail, or a slim boot tail works best when drop shotting in deep water, I can’t really say why… I just go with what the bass want in my world. When I first used the Castaic swimbait, I would fold the tail backward and glue it together to give it a natural look, it seemed to help and I got more hook-ups on the folded tail vs. not folded.
This drop shotting a swimbait should be called “drop shotting a still bait” because the bait just needs to get in the deep water area where the bass are holding and sit still and look lifelike and balanced. I truly believe in the years of doing this that you really need to pay attention and make sure your bait is balanced correctly and sits horizontally in the water. This is why I always start with a plastic bait that has no internal rigging — or weight in it at all — first. And when I rig this plastic only bait, check to see if it floats horizontally in the water. If it doesn’t, I will add nail weights as ballast till the bait sits flat in the water and looks as natural as possible.
There are quite a few companies such as MattLures, Rago Baits, and Jackall, that make some great swimbaits for drop shotting. The picture to the right shows two of the most productive lures I’ve ever drop shot in deep water with. The Jackall Clone Gill which is a 2 1/2″ bait that flat out gets bit at all depths due to it’s small size and lifelike colors and the MattLures Gill which is a 4 1/4″ bait that has an incredible lifelike appearance and has been, for me, one of the best big bass secret weapons I’ve ever drop shotted in deep water. In fact in the last four years I’ve caught more big bass drop shotting the MattLures gill in waters as deep as 80 feet than any other swimbait.
As for the hook I like to use, I almost always use the same size and style when heavy drop shotting in deep water. I prefer the Owner Weedless Wacky Hook size 1. I have tried lots of hooks and had the best success with the Owner Weedless Wacky. It has a weed guard on it which does help keep the bait on the hook and out of trouble when drop shotting in structure.
There have been times on the larger swimbaits when you will feel a fish grab the lure in deep water and you go to set the hook and miss him, but in most of these cases I’ve found if I just let my bait fall back in the same zone I got bit in, that the bass will come back and bite it again. At times I believe if your patient you can almost create a feeding frenzy with these deep water bass, which when you find them seemed to be schooled up in large groups.
So exercising some patience and keeping your bait in the correct zone is one of the keys to successfully catching some of these big deep water bass while deep water drop shotting.
When it comes to swimbait fishing there is one question I hear all the time… “Is there a swimbait for every occasion?” As a student in the game of swimbait fishing, I believe the answer is yes. There have been many fishing trips I’ve taken in my life where all I could bring was a backpack. This limited what I could take and no matter what season of the year, I always pack at least one swimbait for the trip. So having a swimbait for every trip is something I have been practicing for years and I have learned that the question is not, “is there a swimbait for every occasion,” but instead what style of swimbait will work for every occasion.
Over the years, I have used many different brands of swimbaits and I always preferred a swimbait that had a slow rate of fall, that was around 6″-8″ in length, had an internal rigging system, and most of the time a hook coming out of the back. The hook out of the back is always a preference for me because of slow-rolling on the bottom. I love to cast a swimbait out in deep water ,let it sink to the bottom and slow-roll it back uphill hitting as much structure as possible along the way. But I have learned from trial and error, over the years, that not all swimbait shapes, with a hook on top, are good for slow-rolling over rocks and branches.
I look for swimbaits that have broad, round heads. Most swimbaits have a very narrow, oval shape and these shapes will hit structure and turn on their side easier letting the hook grab structure. This will either compromise your hook point or snag stucture and you lose your bait.
Most swimbaits have a distinct profile and shape, so finding a swimbait with a wide, round head can be tough. Some of the broad head baits I’ve found are built to have a hook come out the bottom, but over the years i’ve learned how to modify these swimbaits to get the hooks where we want them. So with the bottom hook design if you run a small piece of a coffee straw vertically through the middle of your swimbait, you can now run your line from the bottom, through the middle of the bait, to the top, and then tie your hook. Now you have a broad head top-hook bottom bumper.
Another thing I’ve learned over the years is the difference between boot-tail style swimbaits. We often forget how important the tail of a swim bait is; it is the engine of the bait and dictates how much vibration the bait will put out. The larger the tail, the more kick and vibration it will put out and also how much drag the bait will have; which is important in how slow or fast you can retrieve a swimbait. And in my years of swimbait fishing and talking with others, I would say it’s safe to say that the boot-tail is the most popular tail of any swimbait ever made. What’s nice about a boot-tail is that it lifts the bait as it swims. The larger the boot tail, the more lift you will get from the rear of the bait. This is great if you’re bumping the bottom where you don’t want the swimmer to bury into the bottom structure, but rather ricochet off with just the lower jaw of the swimbait hitting the bottom structure.
The boot-tail style of swimbait is also great for burning it just under the surface where the tail will lift and V-wake the surface, while the head and mid section run just under the surface of the water. This presentation is deadly if the bait is built and balanced correctly. The boot tails can be designed in many different shapes like the few shown above. Others feature teardrop, oval, round, triangular, or figure- eight shapes, and some are even square and every style swims just a bit different, so it is very important to pay attention to what your using.
In the picture to the right, you can see grooving on the tail. It does two things: first it gives the tail a life-like appearance in the water by simulating the rays on the trout tail and second, as the tail moves in the water, the grooves give the tail a slightly different movement action and vibration.
Over the years, I’ve really had the best success in boot-tails with an oval grooved shape tail about the size of a quarter in the a 6″-7″ baits, and the size of a half dollar in a 8″-10″ swimbaits.
In order to have a swimbait for every occasion you might need to field modify it a bit. If I have a 6″ broad head or wide-head swimmer with a hook coming out the back and it has a hook and a 1/4 ounce of weight added, this swimmer should work great for surface burning and slow rolling down to 5′ of water. But if I need to get deeper, lets say 20’plus, I need some more ballast and that’s why I always have some tungsten nail weights of 1/4 oz and 1/2 oz. in my travel bag and in the boat. This will allow me to add weight to get my swimbait deeper and also adjust the ballast to be able to get the nose of the swimmer down, which I believe is a huge key to my success while slow rolling on the bottom of the lake and bumping structure.
As you can see in the picture to the right this is what I like in a perfectly balanced swimbait for bottom bumping. You want to add just enough weight to get your swimmer to the bottom and be able to slow retrieve it while just barely scratching and bumping, but not dredging, the bottom. Almost like the low gravity of when the man was on the moon running and jumping, this is what you’re looking for while adjusting your swimbait with tungsten nail weights. The ideal is to swim through the zone touching once in awhile, but not snagging on the structure and compromising or losing the swimbait.
When I decide I want a swimbait that I might slow roll off the bottom occasionally, I look for a bait that has very thick pectoral fins that are pointed downward. These fins help balance the bait when you let it rest on the bottom and slowly retrieve it back in. You know the fins are correct when you set the swimbait on a flat surface and sits perfectly without falling on its side.
So I believe it’s safe to say there really is no single swimbait for every occasion, but more of a style that will work for most occasions. Sometimes I clean my boat up and I’m amazed at all the different baits that accumulate over a season, but one thing I always recognize is it’s normally one style that did the best out of all the others swimbaits all year long.
Crawdads or rainbow trout? This is a question I ask myself every year around this time when the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting colder. I always wonder what the bigger bass are doing and what they really want to feed on during these colder days. Where I live here in San Diego, California our Fall and Winter months can be one of the best times of the year to to catch a few really fat healthy bass, maybe even that one trophy you have been chasing all year. I myself have caught a 17-2 out of Lake Jennings Ca. in November on a jig as well as an 18-1 out of Lake Poway Ca., also on a jig. Both bass were very deep; the Jennings bass was in well over 50′ of water while the Poway bass was caught at around 40′ of water. I find that during the colder shorter Fall/Winter days the bigger bass seem to be deeper, gorging on crawdads every chance they get. But once in awhile, I hook a good bass well over ten pounds on a swimbait during these same periods.
Every year is just a bit different and this year has been one of the hottest on record. It is almost Halloween and the air temps are in the 90’s while the water temps are still around the mid 70’s and a bit higher at some lower elevation lakes, so even though the days are getting shorter there is still some unusually warm water to be found and even some top water action still going on during the day. Typically this time of the year the water temps are in the low 70’s and the nights are really cold and clear so the bass are typically deeper where the water temperatures are a bit more consistent.
These deeper bass seem to be mainly feeding on crawdads and even with trout stocks starting they still remain very focused on slowing down and feeding downward on crawdads. I believe the cooler water decreases the bass’ metabolism and encourages the large female bass to slow down and start loading up on calcium-rich crawdads. I have seen this scenario play out year after year and that is why I prefer to use a jig with a crawdad trailer from October through March. Historically for me throughout this these months the jig has always been a high percentage go-to lure in the colder water. But every now and then, after a few trout plants have been put into the lakes, I’ve noticed some short windows of oppurtunity where some of the bigger bass seem to want to chase some trout over feeding on crawdads.
This is where I scratch my head trying to understand why these big bass have a slight change in their diet during the cooler months. I want to understand what triggers these bass to change their feeding pattern, if I can understand some of what influences this change then I might have a chance of being at the right place with the right lure and hooking a good bass.
One thing that I’ve noticed over the years during the Fall and Winter months is on clear, sunny, warm days with little to no wind that around 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. I have witnessed some monster bass up shallow in 2′- 10′ of water just sitting on some shallow warm rock piles as still as possible as if they were sleeping. I believe that after eating crawdads for several days that these hard shell crawdads are very hard to digest and load up in the bass’ stomach and intestines, thus pushing these huge bass up shallow where the warm sun can help to warm up these bass and help to increase their metabolism which will help to push these crawdad shells through the bass’ digestive system just a bit faster.
And if the weather stays warm during the Fall and Winter months for more than a week, I have seen some huge female bass start to set up on shallow structure and ambush anything that will swim by and this typically is one of the freshly planted rainbow trout that are such an easy target for these frisky bass. But I’ve also noticed they don’t seem to want to expend too much energy or travel too far to catch one of these trout. This is where the game gets interesting. Now where some of these bass are set up on shallow ambush structure you now have a strike zone and it is up to you to discover what the range of that zone is.
As I have written about on MikeLongOutdoors, when a cold storm approaches where I live, it will push some monster bass out of their deep hiding areas of the lake and put them almost on the bank for a brief period before the cold storm arrives. This is when these bass seem to be very frustrated and highly aggressive. These short windows of opportunity before the storm arrives, with falling barometer readings, have historically been great times for me to be tossing a swimbait over a jig and the results, at times, have been very good for a large bass on a swimbait. But these monster storms don’t come in every week and the bass always seem to move back to their deeper winter crawdad areas and now it’s back to scratching my head trying to figure out why, and where these big bass are again. But truthfully I love this part of the game almost as much as the payoff!
When looking at my notes and talking with other swimbait and jig fisherman, I have noticed that these big bass will definitely at times come out of the deeper winter waters and chase and eat the swimbaits. Too many people have shared their stories that say the same.
One of the greatest things to happen in my world of learning and sharing info has been FaceBook. I have met thousands of people from all over the world who share the same passion as me in pursuing these monster bass. I have gotten well over a thousand emails and private messages from people wanting to pick my brain and for me I have picked their brains too. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I have learned about bass characteristics around the globe. Now I’m asking you for your brief stories on this topic of crawdads or rainbow trout. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.
I would like to say I’m always on the latest train when it comes to swimbaits, but when it comes to the glide-bait style swimbaits, which have been around awhile, I have missed this train quite a few times and even when I get on it I’m a little lost. I’m just an old school guy who loves to bump a swimbait off the bottom, or structure targets and the glide style swimbait is just a totally different style. Jerry Rago made me a few glide baits well over ten years ago and I fished them hard, but always fell back on my strength bottom bumping a swimmer. But bites change and you have to change with them or you will be left behind and the glide style swimbait is getting real hot again. So this time I hope I got on the train at the right time to get to lunkerville.
Company: Rago Baits
Weight: 4 oz.
Length: 7 1/2″
Lure Type: S-motion
Hinge Style: Single Joint, Drop Pin
MSRP: About $75.00
MLO Rating: 4.5 out of 5
I’ve got to say Rago Baits is once again setting the bar with the new handcrafted Rago GlideGill lure. It is a very durable bait made out of resin and weighted perfectly for the glide motion style of fishing. I found that if you retrieved the Rago GlideGill at a slow to medium retrieve that the Gill would do a slow steady 1′ wide S-motion and when you pumped the reel handle at different intervals you could make the Rago GlideGill glide left an right as far as 3′ and sometimes even farther.
At a length of 71/2″ and a weight of 4 ounces this is a medium-size bait that you’re gonna need a light swimbait rod or a medium-heavy 7′-6″ rod and at least 15 pound line. You’ll want to spool up with fluorocarbon line when working the GlideGill back in. The glide motion is best worked from the reel handle, not so much in the rod so you want zero line stretch. You’ll find when using this reel handle technique that the length of the glide will depend on when you turn the reel handle to stop it and turn the bait to its next glide direction. It glides while your not turning the handle.
The top of the Rago GlideGill has the Rago scale pattern painted on the bait which gave the bait a very realistic look in the water.
The bottom of the Rago GlideGill has an orange breast paint job, while the belly has a pearl-white skin. On the front view of the Rago GlideGill you can see the pectoral fins as well as the grooved gill plate which really gives this Gill some definition and life.
Most glide baits are single jointed baits and the GlideGill has a new patented V-joint hinge system that works really well and is extremely strong. I have quite a few glide-baits that I have been field testing and this new V-hinge style glides just a bit better than them all.
Rago Baits made it very easy to replace the tail with the removal of one screw. This is very convenient if you break a tail, want to try another color or different tail size.
The following link is a cool video of the Rago GlideGill in action with Oliver Ngy and Ryan Crandall:
Pros: It’s very durable, casts great, and has the Rago Baits new hinge which gives this bait incredible glide action. It’s a very stable glide bait.
Cons: I would like to see the eyes placed farther off the bait and I want to see some more colors.
MLO Rating: 4.5 out of 5
When I was a young kid many years ago Mepps Lures Company each year would put about six of their best spinners in a cool little box with lots of pictures of giant trout and pike caught on their spinners with those pictures plastered all around the box. I gotta say it would get me all excited and pumped up looking at all the pictures on the box. Then, looking at the spinners inside, I couldn’t wait to get to the lake and fish the spinners. There was a feeling of excitement that was hard to describe.
That’s the exact feeling I got when I received my Mystery Tackle Box in the mail. I was very excited to open the box and see what baits were inside and look at the lures and could not wait to try them out.
Company: Mystery Tackle Box
Founder: Jeremy Gwen
Price: $15.00 per month subscription
Lures: Multiple new lures each month
MLO Rating: 5 out of 5
Mystery Tackle Box is a monthly subscription service that introduces anglers to quality new lures and techniques for just $15 a month. Not only do customers receive cutting edge tackle at an incredible value, but you also experience the excitement of receiving a package every month.
The Mystery Tackle I received had five awesome lures and baits inside starting with a WackOJig which is a revolutionary jig head that will change the way you fish a “wacky” rig. Along with the WackOjig were some 5″ Sick Stick wacky worms, that were perfect for the jig head. I also received a cool Strike King football head jig for going after the big girls, along with a Raptor Tail Chunk to put on my jig as a trailer. Last but not least was a Chatter Frog Micro which I was very impressed with.
The best part of the Mystery Tackle Box is the cool cards that come inside the box that briefly describe the lure, or bait, and have a link to a webpage where you can learn more about the bait along with a video review and demonstration.
If your new to the sport of bass fishing, or have been in the sport for years, I really think you’ll enjoy the Mystery Tackle Box. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said “I should have bought that lure,” and didn’t. Now, I have a chance to get one each month as well as some great how-to use information on techniques and a full lure description.
Pros: How can you go wrong getting well over $20 of lures for $15 and how-to info that will help your fishing game immensely.
Cons: Found none, great idea!
MLO Rating: 5 out of 5