Special BB Issues

Special pre-spawn baits guide with full rod, reel, line info!

What up, what up, what up!!! Pre-spawn’s the best time of the year for fatty melons, so here’s what you need to know to get you some.

This pre-spawn special issue is different — running down the baits AND the best gear to fish ’em with…as recommended by the folks who developed the baits or pro anglers. SUPER IMPORTANT because:

  • Baits are designed to work a certain or best way with certain gear. Doesn’t mean you can’t use other gear, but wouldn’t you want to know exactly what that bait was designed to be fished with?
  • You need to get the hook into the fish to land it. Duh, but what I mean is: That hook-line-rod connection (plus the hookset) is everything. You can’t separate ’em.

Big thanks to Chris Zaldain for the shot for the special-issue header…so I guess we’ll kick it off with him. Saddle up, bass-heads!

(If you’re getting the BassBlaster for the first time it’s cuz a bud signed you up!)

Gitcha some jerk seasonin’s!

Elitist Hank Cherry thinks it’s jerkbait time all year, but really pre-spawn’s the deal. Lots of folks make jerkbaits, they are all different…which, just like with any bait, you can’t just have one.

1. Megabass Vision 110

The Megabass Vision 110 will cost you some jack (Jack!) and may not be THE best jerkbait for every condition, but it’s no secret it’s a “need to have a few in your boat” bait. Here’s what Elitist Chris Zaldain says about it.

Colors: GP sexy shad, HT-Ito Tennessee shad (pictured), mat shad (when cloudy).

Situations: Concentrate on the mid to lower areas of a lake, the clearer water the better. The #1 pre-spawn spot is going to be the last stretch in the back of a creek that has tight contour lines (deepest water close to shallow spawning flats). Often it will be the last channel swing before you start churning mud and sand. If you throw a 110 on a spot like this with a ripple of wind, that’s when you could win by a lot!

> “If you’re ever in a pre-spawn tournament and your plan A, B and C aren’t working, pick up a 110 and throw it on any main or secondary point that has wind blowing on it. You will catch bass.

> “I like a steady 1-2-1 jerk retrieve: 1 jerk, pause, 2 jerks, pause, 1 jerk, long pause…repeat.

Notes: Hooks are important too. I use #5 Trokar TK300 trebles because when spawning is on their mind, fish will slap at the bait, almost like they’re shooing it out of their bedding areas. These hooks catch those bites.

Best rod: 6′ 11″ Megabass USA Destroyer Oneten Special because it “resets” quickly between jerks. With a short butt section and that length, I can efficiently chop that 110 back to the boat all day.

Best reel and line: Shimano Curado K in 6.2:1 — the perfect ratio between too fast and too slow. 12-lb Seaguar InvizX fluoro because it’s super-strong, invisible, limp and as thin as most 10-lb lines.

2. Rapala Shadow Rap and RipStop

On the pause, the Shadow Rap shimmies then slowly starts to sink. Elitist Randall Tharp calls it the “death quiver” — but that’s cuz here’s what he does on non-Elite weekends:

He’s all into that “quiver” talk… Anyhow:

Colors: Elite Blue (pictured) is a go-to, Haymaker is good for stained water.

Situations: Anytime. Srsly. Standard Shadow Rap for shallower presentations, Deep version for 6-12′.

Rod, Line: 7′ M jerkbait-type rod, 10-lb Sufix Castable Fluoro.

This is a really good vid — shows what a dying baitfish looks like, how the Shadow Rap falls like that:

Colors: For smallmouths and dirtier water largemouths use bright colors (Marilyn, albino shiner). For clearer water largies, use natural colors to match native forage (mossback shiner, silver — pictured).

Situations: Use when baitfish are smaller or around shallow flats where fish are staging to spawn soon.

Rod, Line: 7′ M spinning rod, 10-lb Sufix 832 braid, 8-lb Sufix Fluoro leader.

3. Strike King KVD Jerkbaits

Three reasons you should own these baits: K-V-D. Here’s his recommendations:

Sizes: 200 (smaller) higher-action bait, 300 (“regular” size) good slash bait that runs a little deeper than most similar-size baits, Deep (just deeper, to 11′) runs more nose-down.

Colors: Clear water and bright skies — ayu or other translucent colors, also flashy colors like chrome or gold. Stained water and clouds: brighter colors like sexy shad (pictured), crystal shad, pearl white.

Situations: Shallower flats around scattered cover, and edges of cover areas and to be able to cover lots of bass spawning flats. Cast parallel to edges.

Rod, Reel, Line: 6′ 10″ MH Quantum Tour KVD Rod, Quantum Smoke HD 200 Reel (6.6), line depends on depth desired and cover but generally 12-lb BPS XPS fluoro — maybe 14-lb if working the bait harder.

4. DUEL Hardcore Minnow Flat 110SP

Info from FLWer Brandon Cobb:

Colors: Ghost pro blue for clear water.

Situations: Fish it around docks and staging points. Best when water temp is 50-58.

Notes: I use a relatively quick retrieve with quick jerks when targeting spotted bass, and a slower retrieve with more pauses in colder water or when targeting largemouths.

Rod, Line: I throw it on an 6′ 10″ M Ark Invoker Rod (IVK610MRC) with 10-lb Yo-Zuri Top Knot fluoro.

More: Magnetic weight transfer system, triple mirror body, proprietary polycarbonate material.

5. Smithwick Super Rogue

Colors: Clown (pictured), lazer craw, chrome black back/orange belly.

Situations: Grasslines, ripping near standing timber or brushpiles, and transition banks with slow repeated twitches to mimic a dying shad.

Notes: Good for early spring windy conditions because it has a weight-transfer system where you can zing it out there farther.

Best rod: 6′ 6″ to 7′ M casting rod, moderate-fast or fast action. Needs to have a soft tip to allow trebles to stay seated during the fight, but have a good backbone to fight the bigs.

Best reel and line: 6:1 lets you to fish the bait slow and not take up too much line between rips. Use 10-12 lb fluoro.

6. More jerkin’ stuff

6′ 6″ M Favorite Rush Rod

The Favorite Rush series of rods is light and tight — this one is a good alternative for slingin’ and jerkin’ jerkbaits where too stiff ain’t no good:

Lunkerhunt Sushi 110

Tips from Sushi user FLWer Matt Arey:

> Always let the fish dictate your cadence. Never assume the fish want it slow just because the water is cold. Although sometimes true, I have seen instances where you have to speed up your cadence to trigger a reaction bite.

> Locations can vary from channel swings to bluff ends with the common factor always closeness to deep water.

> I like the Sushi because it suspends and is capable of producing wide swings and erratic action. This allows me to work it super-slow with minimal action to super-fast and erratic for reaction strikes.

SPRO Mike McClelland McStick 110

Elitist Mike McClelland is a cold-water hammer, and has designed hard-baits for SPRO using that expertise — including the McStick 110. Good finishes (ghost Table Rock shad pictured), three #5 Gamakatsu trebles, suspends nose-down, tight shad-like wiggle.

Kistler KLX Feel n Reel 6′ 10″ M Rod

Trey Kistler says for jerkbaitin’ use the 6′ 10″ M modified-action KLX Feel n Reel Rod (KLXFNR610M) with 10-lb fluoro.

Reminder that the Feel n Reels are kinda a graphite/glass hybrid: “…maintain the light weight of graphite, while providing the softer power of fiberglass…resulting in less pulled hooks and less heartbreak.”

When it comes to lost basses:

Alpha Angler Slasher Rod

Jake Boomer of Alpha Angler says the 6′ 10″ MF Alpha Angler Slasher (8-12 lb fluoro) is all that for jerkbaits:

> The Slasher was developed to ride the line between casting excellence and precise bait manipulation. Complicating the matter, cold-water fish tend to slap at stickbaits with their cold, hard mouths. So it’s important to have a perfect parabolic and forgiving bend to drive home the hook, but also prevent a hard-pulling fish from an early release.”

Give the bass some lip…less….

Like all kinds o’ bass baits, includin’ jerkbaits, lipless cranks can catch ’em year-round, but in spring (and fall) they’re musts. Almost no wrong way to fish ’em — crank, burn, rip, drop — and they can be used to find fish and trigger fish. Great baits.

1. Rat-L-Traps (1/4-, 1/2- and 3/4-oz)

Blastin’ off this section with the classic must-have-’em ‘Traps in 3 sizes. Here’s a good color-c-lection to get you started this time of year:

3/4-oz Mag Knock-N-Trap

Colors: Hard to go wrong with reds, golds and shads.

Notes: The Knock-N-Trap has a low-pitch, single-knocker sound. Sinks fast, ideal for searching in 4-10′ to quickly locate feeding bass.

Situations: Fishing over grass flats, nose-grinding rocky points, reeling fast and stopping it to fall on schooling fish, yo-yoing drains or ditches near spawning flats.

Best rod and line: 7′ MH to H and 12-20 lb fluoro for ripping grass, 7′ M and 8-12 lb fluoro for open water and chunk rock.

1/2-oz Rat-L-Trap

Colors: 150+ colors (!!) — new ones are 296 warmouth, 290 American shad, 295 pumpkin perch, 292 purple shad, 294 olive shad, 293 silver shad, 291 chartreuse silver shad.

Situations: Over grass flats in 3-10′, nose-grinding rocky points in 2-10′, yo-yoing drains/ditches near spawning flats.

Best rod and line: Same as for the 3/4-oz above.

1/4-oz Mini-Trap

Colors: 52 colors, back by popular demand is #52 chartreuse shiner, good for murky spring waters.

Situations: Work it through shallow grass in 1-4′, and fan-cast it on spawning flats when the water is too stained to see bedding fish.

Best rod and line: 6-7′ M, 12-16 lb fluoro for ripping grass, 8-12 lb mono or fluoro for open water or nose-grinding rocks.

2. BOOYAH One Knocker and Hard Knocker

If you don’t Knock, the fishes won’t answer…but seriously: The One Knocker is well-known by that name for its deeper knocking sound (like a bigfoot hitting a tree?) and the Hard Knocker is more of a rattler.

Colors: Toledo gold, Rayburn red, sunset craw (pictured). Sizes: 1/4- and 1/2-oz.

Situations: Rip it outta grass, bang it off of timber around spawning flats, burn it down rocky banks. The One Knocker is a more-subtle sound if the fish tell you you need that.

Best rod: 7′ to 7′ 6″ M or MH with a mod-fast or fast action and a soft tip. Action needs to strong enough to rip the bait out of grass, soft tip so trebles not ripped outta bass’ mouths.

Best reel and line: 7:1 or 8:1 reel for fast retrieves, 12-20 lb fluoro depending on type of cover and size Knocker. The 1/4-oz casts better with lighter line.

3. Strike King Red Eye Shad

This bait took about 30 months to develop, and the taskmaster was the one and only Kevin VanDam — who wanted a lipless bait that would do a couple different things, including shimmy as it dropped. Won’t say that’s the main deal with this bait, but it’s one of ’em.

Best colors: The cooler is it, the more craw colors into play: delta red, green tomato, orange belly craw, chili craw, blue craw (pictured). In warmer water move to baitfish colors: chrome blue, chrome black, gold black back, sexy shad, gold sexy, chrome sexy, chartreuse perch.

Situations: Good in shallower, flatter areas, but also excels in deeper water. The internal ballast weight system makes it always fall vertically which makes it deadly when snatching it out of deep grass, and “yo-yoing” it down steep pre-spawn banks and creek drops.

Best rod: Option 1 is a shorter MH moderate-action rod for fishing around the bank and targets — basically a squarebill rod like the Lew’s Custom Speed Stick Squarebill Crankbait Rod. Option 2 is a 7′ 6″ MH mod-action rod for making long casts on flats and in the backs of bays/spawning areas — like the Lew’s David Fritts Perfect Crankbait Speed Stick.

Best reel and line: With a fast reel you can always reel slower, but you can only reel so fast with a lower gear-ratio reel, so use a Team Lew’s Custom SLP Series Reel (8.3:1). Line is 15-20 lb fluoro, 17-lb being a good all-around size.

4. Yo-Zuri 3DR Series Vibe

A little different size, a little different sound, way different paint and flash. Might be what the fishes need, maybe they haven’t seen it before, all good reasons to tie one on. Info from Elitist Brandon Card:

Best colors: real brown crawfish.

Situations: “North-facing grass flats adjacent to creek channels and spawning areas. In the pre-spawn, I’ll be looking for submerged grass growing maybe 2′ off the bottom in 5′ of water — hydrilla or milfoil and the clumpier the better! Sunny, windy days are the best for all 3DR baits because the sun reflecting off the internal prism draws fish from far away.”

Best rod, reel, line: 7′ 3″ MH F Abu Garcia Villain Rod, Abu Revo STX (7.3:1), 16- or 20-lb Yo-Zuri Top Knot fluoro depending on how thick the grass is.

5. Mo’ lipless stuff

Seaguar InvizX Fluorocarbon

Here’s Elitist Stetson Blaylock talkin’ in a good tip about using lighter Seaguar InvizX fluoro (a popular choice at the recent Bassin’masters Classic btw) for more bites with lipless cranks, and how he fishes ’em pre-spawn:

7′ 3″ MH Favorite Emperor Rod

Rated for 3/8- to 3/4-oz baits so the Emperor‘s in the sweet spot for lipless cranks. It’s s’posed to good to be the king, so guess it #rawks when you’re the emperor — how is it Palpatine?

SPRO Aruku Shad

The Aruku Shad is “specifically designed for fishing thru aquatic vegetation. Its nose-down action makes it one of the most weedless lipless crankbaits on the market.” Sweet finishes (red crawfish pictured) and a couple different sizes available too (5/8- and even 3/8-oz).

Kistler KLX Feel n Reel 7′ 2″ MH Rod

More treble hooks means more Feel n Reel rods, in this case the 7′ 2″ MH Kistler KLX Feel n Reel mod-action rod (KLXFNR72MH). Trey says 15-lb fluoro is good, or 20-lb braid for grass-rippin’.

Here’s Trey learnin’ ya about the Feel n Reels:

Alpha Angler Rebound Rod

Alpha’s Jake Boomer insists the Rebound rod is NOT named after former NBAer Charles Barkley, aka the Round Mound of Rebound even tho he’s a fisherman:

Callin’ Jake out on that, but anyhow Boomer says it’s called the Rebound cuz of “its ability to recover slowly from surges of barely-hooked derby-winning fish.” That MIGHT make sense. More:

> “Based on the rare S2-Glass fishing rod blank technology, this stick has all the fish-landing characteristics of fiberglass, with the added benefit of sensitivity not found in other versions of glass.”

He likes a slow- or medium-retrieve reel and 15-lb fluoro. Here’s a vid on the rod with some dude named Brandon:

Swimbait yo’self a bass in the boat!

If the Keitech Fat didn’t cause this pre-spawn coldwater swimbait thang, it sure kicked it into high gear. That’s fo sho a great bait to use this time of year, single or on an A-rig. Here’s some more.

1. 4.5″ YUM Pulse on 1/2-oz War Eagle Grubber Head

Colors: Blue pearl, houdini (pictured), sinful shad, watermelon red.

Situations: Slow-rolling around bluff walls or rocky banks leading into spawning pockets, fishing through grass, or fishing brushpiles 10-25′ deep near spawning pockets. Smaller 3.5″ Pulse — for when bass aren’t feeding or are being more finicky — coming later this year.

Best rod, reel, line: 7′ 3″ to 7′ 6″ MH rod, mod-fast or fast. 6:1 gear ratio reel for a slow-roll down deep but also a quick pickup of line when needed. 8-20 lb fluoro, depends on depth fished and cover.

2. 4.5″ 1/4-oz Storm 360GT Searchbait

Colors: If shad are the main forage, use pearl ice or gaga. Best all-around color is herring (pictured).

Situations: Shallow cover, staging flats, almost anywhere and any depth.

Notes: This bait has the required swimbait body roll and tail kick of good swimbaits, and the molded head has a subtle rattle in it.

Best rod, line: 7′ 2″ MH rod, 12-lb Sufix Castable Fluoro.

3. Strike King Rage Swimmer

Colors: Match local forage but: KVD magic (pictured), pro blue red pearl, ayu, green gizzard.

Situations: In the South, rig it on a Squadron swimbait head (3/8- to 3/4-oz) and slow-reel it over and around grass. In spot lakes, rig it on a Tour Grade Spin Head. In smallmouth waters, drag it on the bottom on a jighead to mimic a goby. For A-rigs use a 1/8-oz Squadron.

Best rod: 7′ 6″ Lew’s Mark Rose Ledge Series Swimbait Rod. A-rig: 7′ 11″ H Team Lew’s Pro Speed Stick Mag Rod.

Best reel and line: Use a slower reel because most people fish a swimbait (and A-rig) too fast. Lew’s BB1 Pro Series Reel (6.4:1 or 7.1:1) with 20-lb fluoro. A-rig: Lew’s Super Duty Wide Speed Spool (same ratios) with 80-lb braid. The braid will hold up to muleiple fish and allows you straighten a hook when hung in deep water.

4. 4.5″ 1/2-oz Lunkerhunt Fetch

Colors: Common shiner, gizzard (pictured).

Situations: Skip it under floating docks and target shade lines. Matt Arey (pictured), who helped design the Fetch: “I like to look for docks in 1-4′ that are leading into spawning pockets on secondary points and transition banks.”

Best rod, reel, line: 7′ 6″ H Okuma TCS Rod, Okuma Helios Reel, 17-20 lb P-Line Tactical fluoro.

5. Swimbaitin’ stuff

6′ 6″ MH Favorite Big Sexy Rod

Good for 1/4- to 5/8-oz baits and 12- to 17-lb line, and with its Kevlar wrap can the Big Sexy put the wood to a fish if you need to. Here’s the Lake Fork Guy with the rundown on it:

Kistler KLX Feel n Reel 7′ 3″ H Rod

If you go heavy and deep on your soft swimbaits, try the 7′ 3″ H Kistler KLX Feel n Reel modified-action rod (KLXFNR73H) on 20-lb fluoro.

Alpha Angler Clutch Rod

The 7′ 5″ Clutch is a new feehsn pole for Alpha, and is called a “power finesse” casting rod. So leave that eggbeater in the box and yank this out! Can handle line weights down to 8-lb. Check the vid here.

Other stuff for the pre-spawn!

1. New BUFF stuff

‘Merica! Check one o’ the new BUFF Arm Sleeves patterns:

Suhweet…. Also check the new matchin’ neck/head BUFF:

Just need a shield and then you’ll be all like this in the boat:

Cap’n ‘Merica hahaha! BUFF’s got new gloves too….

2. T-H Marine HydroWave

I’ve said this a bunch and will say it again: Elite fishermen don’t put things on their boats they don’t absolutely need and that don’t help them catch fish. They don’t do this for fun. So when a majority of ’em have a HydroWave on their boats, what does that tell you? And what about the top 2 finishers in this year’s Classic using it? So….

One thing: You have to invest time to learn how to use it best. It’s not magic…I don’t think….

3. YOLOtek POWERStick

Two words: Vid/pics or it didn’t happen. Okay that’s more like 5 or 6 words, but you get it. The YOLOtek POWERStick is a “set it and forget it” deal. Turn it on, get power from your nav light port, and your whole day of missing fish and landing 2-lbers (lol) is captured for all time!

Made from anodized aircraft-grade aluminum, has a locking collar that holds your camera firmly even at speeds of up to 70mph.

YOLOtek posted this shot of Brent Ehrler rockin’ one at the Classic:

4. Yo-Zuri Super Braid

Sometimes it’s cool to be blue…I’m big fan of brighter-color braid:

Ya got me

Jay Kumar’s BassBlaster is a daily-ish roundup

of the best, worst and funniest in bassin’, as curated by me — Jay Kumar. I started BassFan.com, co-hosted Loudmouth Bass with Zona, was a B.A.S.S. senior writer and a bunch more in bassin’. The Blaster is the #2 daily read on any given day in the wide world o’ bass so thanks for readin’!

Gitcha BassBlaster apparel right here!

Git on these yo!

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