At the St. Johns Elite, gitcha caught up next week, so in the meantime here’s you a Late Winter/Early Pre-Spawn Baits n Stuff Special BassBlaster! Rundown of some great late winter/early pre-spawn stuff — not everything you could use, just some.
Yep, it features (but not only) BassBlaster sponsors cuz I only take on companies whose stuff #rawks! Get ready to bass-feesh peeps!
Smashin’ ’em power style!
Power techniques when the water’s cold? Well…sorta. You’ll see what I mean, but these techniques definitely ain’t finesse!
1. YUMbrella Flash Mob Jr!!
The YUMbrella Flash Mob Jr a “!!” cuz it’s THE castable ‘brella rig, which are on “far” pre-spawn. Why are they fire-hot? 2 reasons:
1. Bass are trying to get fat after winter and before spawnin’.
2. A “rig” looks like a school of small shad, which are a big part of the winter buffet.
Also the FMJ — rigged with yer fave swimbaits, like the 3.5″ YUM Pulse (colors: sinful shad, pearl, blue pearl) — is WAY lighter than most rigs, so you can toss it on a variety of sticks without getting carpal tunnel. What you need:
> Rod/Reel — 7′ 3″ – 7′ 10″ MH fast action rod with a 5:1 or 6:1 ratio reel. A longer rod for casting far, and a slower reel for fishing it slooooow and for a little extra reel torque.
> Line — 20- to 30-lb fluorocarbon, heavier line because you COULD get smashed by the bigs and WILL get hung at some point.
> 1/4 – 1/2 oz. jig head with short hook. The YUM YUMbrella Money Head was designed for this rig.
This one gets a “!!” cuz bet you weren’t expecting to see 1-oz or the Tokyo Rig called out for cold-water bassin’! But the folks at VMC assure me that, yep, this-here works so here you go:
> The versatility of this rig is unlimited, but a technique for the winter/prespawn bite is to use it with a heavier tungsten weight and a swimbait to easily cover a ton of water.
> When fish are scattered and deep, fish [this rig] just like you would a Swinging Rugby Jig. What you’ll find with the Tokyo Rig is it maintains better bottom contact in deep water.
> Reel it through riprap, deep rock, grass, wood, sand or anything. The weight anchors the bait to bottom with the swimbait just off the bottom and it gets bit.
Here’s Mike, Ike and Elly with a real good rundown on the Tokyo Rig:
If it helps, I think of the Tokyo Rig like a much shorter, much more heavy duty dropshot rig.
3. DUEL Hardcore Minnow Flat SP 110
BPTer Luke Clausen talkin’ at ya:
> “The Hardcore Flat Side 110 [“shad” color pictured] I generally like to throw in clear-water lakes in the late winter and early spring when shad are slow and sluggish. Water temps are in the 40s and 50s, and bass usually prefer an easier meal — and the Hardcore Flat Side really resembles dying baitfish.
4. 1/2-oz BOOYAH One Knocker
Here’s what happens when cats hear knocking:
Hahaha! When bass hear knocking it’s a different story — they chomp! Tie you on yer fave lipless and have at it. Not sure if the One Knocker’s the original (believe it is?) but either way that more-subtle single knock (vs multiple rattles) can be the deal when bass aren’t as aggressive.
Check the 1/2-oz BOOYAH One Knocker in ghost red craw:
> Rod/Reel — 7′ 6″ MH Fast rod with a slower-ratio reel (6.0 to 6.6). You need that longer rod to make long casts and cover water, and you want that slower retrieve because you don’t want to burn the bait too fast and run it by some fish.
> Line — 12-lb fluoro should give you the strength to rip the bait off the bottom and the invisibility. You’ll be able to rip that bait with power on the bottom while also having virtually invisible line.
Other good rattlebait choices: Rat-L-Trap (duh! talk about ’em below), BOOYAH Hard Knocker, DUEL Hardcore Vibe, Rapala Rippin Rap (big-time bait in the north, not used much in the south…yet), Strike King Red Eye Shad, Yo-Zuri 3DB Vibe (sick finishes, different action), Yo-Zuri Rattl’n Vibe (same!), SPRO Aruku Shad and Aruku Jr (3/8-oz), Jackall TN.
Of course Rat-L-Traps when the water’s cold! By ANY, I mean any color as long as it’s red…hahaha not really! If you’ve got confidence in a color — and yer bud’s not ketchin’ 5 to your 1 throwin’ a different color — throw it, but in this regional guide of late-winter ‘Trap colors from the folks at Bill Lewis Lures, you’ll see that red’s the deal:
Mid-Atlantic (Carolinas/VA) — 1/2- and 3/4-oz in red patterns mostly for big bites
FL — 1/2-oz in sexy west or, if it’s real sunny, sexy chrome
Southeast states — BPTer Boyd Duckett says “red crawfish” in 1/2- and 3/4-oz, says big females respond better to reds than shads.
East TX/LA — FLWer Andrew Upshaw says gold (shiny gold) and reds.
West Coast — BPTer Mark Daniels Jr likes mostly 1/2-oz in red craw colors.
Rat-L-Traps are made in more colors than Crayons, and will have 22 more this year:
> …rolling out 3 new color series for 2019: Matte Finish Series, Big Bones Series [pictured above], and Clear Trap Series.
> Big Bones Series comes from a trend that developed on Rayburn and Toledo Bend. Major team tournaments were won for years by guys using paint pens to mark bone-like patterns on their ‘Traps. The Bill Lewis Zombie Series has bone-like markings, but they’re narrow bone patterns. All the anglers really tuned in on this deal told [Bill Lewis] that it makes a huge difference on bites when the markings are bolder and thicker…some of them are mad at us for making this series.
> Clear Trap Series is made in clear ABS plastic bodies to allow UV rays to enter the lure body and bounce off reflective material within the Rat-L-Trap. This series is excellent for pressured fisheries where having a natural color pattern is key.
> Matte Finish Series features rich colors that really stand out in low-light conditions.
If you can’t find the colors you want on TackleWarehouse, they’re on Rat-L-Trap.com.
BPTer Mike McClelland is a clear and cold water highland reservoir hammer. So he of course fished the Storm Wiggle Wart a bunch, but bein’ an expert wanted to tweak it — which is what the SPRO RkCrawler 55 is. (“Rock crawler” is what Mike and everyone else calls it.)
If the 55 size is too big for you, SPRO has the new 50 size which is 2″ and 5/16-oz. If you want the regular size but just don’t want it to run as deep, tie on the RkCrawler MD 55 (“phantom brown” pictured), which dives to squarebill-type territory.
If you’re curious, here’s a vid of Mike talkin’ ’bout the RkCrawler vs the Wiggle Wart.
Would you pass up a steak on a cold day? Haaaaaaaaaaail no you wouldn’t! A bass feesh wouldn’t neither, and that’s why a jig works all…year…long. Probly could jig up a bass ice-fishing if you were nuts enough to try it. Anyhow, here’s a quick tip from the king of jiggin’, Denny Brauer, about doin’ zackly that in cold water:
Got that? More-vertical structure and 15-lb Seaguar Tatsu, a line so good it’ll make you change your fishin’ style, your hair style and maybe even your LIFE style mang!
Anyhow, soooooo many jigs n trailers to make you up a serious recipe, just bear in mind that slooooower is almost always betterrrrrr this time of year. So on the back of your jig you want a chunk-style bait like a 3.25″ YUM Chunk and what’s the main one…starts with a Z…lol. (Check this Slimers Chunk — never heard of it, sounds different fo sho.)
Jigs talked about below, but here’s a visual for ya — YUM Chunk on the back of a BOOYAH Boo Jig:
Setup-wise, like anything it’s personal preference but here’s some guidelines:
> Rod/Reel — 7′ 3″ – 7′ 6″ MH Fast rod with a 7.1 ratio reel. A long-ish rod for leverage and a sensitive tip because you want to feel every single tick with that lighter jig and not super-aggressive fish. You want a faster reel for flipping any time of the year.
> Line — 10- to 15-lb fluoro. The lighter the line you can get away with, the better, but it depends on the size of fish you’re dealing with or how heavy of cover you have. If you’re fishing around heavy cover, you’ll want to upscale your line to avoid abrasions.
Some jig options — like there aren’t like 1,000 of ’em but here’s a few finesse and football jigs for ya:
BOOYAH Baby Boo Jig
Terminator Finesse Jig
War Eagle Andy Morgan Finesse Jig
Dirty Jigs Luke Clausen Finesse Jig
Strike King Denny Brauer Baby Structure Jig
Fish Head ProSeries M1 Custom Casting Jig
Jewel Baits Tactical Finesse HD Jig
Beast Coast Tungsten Finesse Dragging Jig
This Brian Schmidt Baits Finesse Jig looks pretty cool.
Picasso Aaron Martens Tungsten Football Jig
River2Sea John Murray Papa Mur Jig
Strike King Finesse Football Jig
Pepper Living Rubber Football Jig
Fish Head E Series Hammer Spin Jig Head
Only messin’ with finessin’!
Definin’ “finesse” here as anything that you pull out the ol’ swizzle stick / eggbeater / wimp noodle for (heehee!)….
Do you finesse swimbait? Cuz you should when the water’s cold. The smaller size Pulse (pearl, houdini or pictured in gray flake shad) is a good choice — rig it on a a heavier head for getting it down deep to possibly-suspended bass.
> Rod/Reel — Your fave spin-rod should be good, but as a general guideline use a 7′ M fast-action spinning rod with a 6:1 ratio spinning reel. A wimp-stick is a must-have so you can wing a small bait way out there and fish it finessein’ly (not really a word but…).
> Line — 6- to 8-lb fluorocarbon. When the bite’s tough and the water’s clear, light line gets more bites. Period. PLUS: The lighter the line, the more action your swimbait’s likely to have.
Jighead options for finesse swimbaits: VMC Neon Moon Eye Jighead, VMC Flat Shad Jighead, VMC Boxer Jighead, Fish Head Greg Vinson V-Lock Swimbait Jighead, Fish Head V3 Balance Force Jig Head (particularly for vertical jigging), Keitech Super Round Jighead.
Rod options: Kistler Magnesium 2, Alpha Angler Wrench.
Line options: Seaguar Finesse Fluoro, Seaguar InvizX Fluoro.
Other good swimmer-bait options: Keitech Fat, BioSpawn ExoSwim, Lunkerhunt Descend Minnow (very salty = cool), Scottsboro Tackle Sniper Shad (never tried it but looks cool).
Swimbait options for dropshottin’: Lunkerhunt Bento Minnow, YUM Breaking Shad, Zoom Fluke, Berkley Gulp Alive Jerk Shad, Optimum Victory Tail Soft.
The Rapala Shad Rap (pictured in “live river shad”) may be the best cold-water bass crankbait ever made (gonna get hoarse tellin’ you about the Luhr Jensen Speed Trap too). Weighs a little more than yer average cheese-dipped Dorito — depending on what size you choose — so many bass-heads fish ’em on spinning gear.
In this vid, BPTer Gerald Swindle says he likes fishin ’em on 10-lb mono because it’s better than mono in cold water and — innerestin’ly — doesn’t get hung as much. He likes Sunline Super Natural. Gotta also mention the new Sufix Advance Mono — has some sort of braid molecule in it, making it sort of a new line that several of the guys love big-time.
Guick word: Be careful what bait you’re buyin’. Lots of Rapala baits have variations of “shad” and “rap” in their names, and there’s a couple different versions of the Shad Rap. Here’s the link to the right one on Tackle Warehouse.
Here’s another really good spin-stick-sized crankbait, the Yo-Zuri 3DB Shad. Luke Clausen again:
> “If I’m on a lake where there’s a little stain to the water and there’s a good amount of rocky banks, I’ve had some of my best days throwing a Yo-Zuri 3DB Shad in crawfish.
> “This is just a standard cast and slow retrieve bait…. It’s a great bait to throw on spinning tackle and really have a lot of fun.
> “Fish the 3DB Shad down riprap banks, rocky areas leading to a main-lake point or bluff wall areas.”
4. Lunkerhunt Impact Flat Sided Squarebill
The key to the Lunkerhunt Impact Flat Sided Squarebill (“knight rider” color pictured) is the flat sides — gives it a tighter wobble, which you want in cold water. Plus this bait is a little smaller length-wise (2.25″) for a higher hookup percentage.
At 1/4-oz you could maybe try throwing it on light casting gear, but spinning gear is probably the deal. Pretty much the same as the above baits: M-action rod, spinning reel with a big spool and the smallest-sized fluorocarbon you’re comfortable with given the fish size and type of cover in your lake.
Long casts and see what kind of retrieve the fish want.
1. 3/8-oz Cotton Cordell Gay Blade
Sure you can use a Gay Blade. I mean, you know, to catch bass. You just can’t say it too loud in the tackle store/coffee shop…HAHAHA! Obviously that bait was named a long time ago, but who cares what it’s called — still works.
Like all blade baits, it mimics a dying shad, and all blades do that a little different. Some can really only be jigged, but the Gay Blade (man I hope that word doesn’t trigger your spam filter!) can be standard retrieved too. Try it in chrome black (pictured) or smokey Joe.
Pick whatever one you dig, here’s you some gear recommendations:
> Rod/Reel — 7′ M spinning rod, to cast farther and control a light bait. Reel is decently fast for a spinning reel (6:1) in case you need it coming through or out of deep water.
> Line — 8- to 10-lb fluorocarbon.
Other good blade baits — tho I honestly don’t fish ’em hardly at all: Silver Buddy, Binsky Blade (buddy of mine swears this rawks), Damiki Vortex, Khanbaits Vibrato Sonic.
Weirdly, some “ice jigs” — in quotes because this bait type was originally developed in Europe for OPEN water — also work great in cold water…notably the Rapala Jigging Rap. Now there’s several different versions of this bait — like the Lunkerhunt Straight Up Ice Jig — and all apparently have different actions. Believe the deal with open water is snap-jigging ’em.
Fish head, horse head, iguana head, whatever you wanna call ’em, these things ROCK in cold weather. For a great example, recollect Casey Ashley’s Classic win.
Gonna say the king of underspins is Fish Head Spin, and they’ve got several options for ya that are all different. Check it:
Fish Head Spin Underspin (top L in the pic) — Here you go, the standard deal. Has accounted for some high finishes in big and not-so-big derbies. Also comes in a weedless version.
Fish Head Stand Up Underspin (top R) — “…design that is perfect for crawling across the lake floor. Molded with forward weighting and a flat bottom…maintains a nose-down posture with a steady retrieve and stands-up when at rest, just like a feeding baitfish.”
Fish Head Bucktail Spin (bottom in pic) — Self-explanatory.
Word on hair jigs — Even tho hair jigs have gotten the most publicity the last few years in the summer on ledge lakes like Kentucky Lake, they’re fo sho a colder-water deal too. Couple good straight-up cold-water hair jigs are the VMC Bucktail Jig, the SPRO Phat Fly and the Outkast Tackle Feider Fly (maybe nickname it the “Fly-der”).
If you’re gonna get on the water when it’s cold, think about uppin’ your safety factor with these T-H Marine products:
Twist Step Emergency Jack Plate Ladder — If you don’t have a ladder on your boat, get one. Super important no matter how in shape you think you are (cold water don’t care).
LED Light Kits — Yep lights help you be safer…and look even cooler than your bad bassin’ self.
YOLOTek Power Light — Powered outta your light port. Safer launch and return, especially in lower-light conditions.
1. Is it about to be EPIC??
Gotta say that’s the thing I love the most about the BassForecast app — checking the forecast! If it says “Epic” (or decent) I’m stoked. I’m trying to figure out how to get out there…even if I know I can’t…which is most times. Fun app, practical app, check it out here — like Alton Jr did:
Do you like to be cold? Heck no. No one likes to be cold, except for in the summer…but that’s another story. How ’bout cold AND wet?? No way. So here you go.
2. BUFF Mossy Oak Elements
Keep yourself warm, wind-protected, sun-protected AND looking cool with this Mossy Oak Elements stuff from BUFF:
Okay maybe not THAT cool but you know what I mean. Listen, you don’t have to use the BUFF stuff. But if you DO wear it ,you won’t get chafed or shortchanged some other way — only the best stuff made the right way, which is why you’re seein’ it here.
Btw, Ott told me once he thinks that when he looks like water, the fish relax because they think he’s underwater too. Kept looking at him, waiting for him to smile or laugh, but he never did….
3. AFTCO Reaper Fleece and Hydronaut rainsuit.
I don’t have either one of these, but got a tour of the Hydronaut jacket and bibs, and have heard that the Reaper Fleece is ridiculously warm so…WANT! Couple things:
> The Hydronaut stuff won a 2018 ICAST award, I’m thinkin’ partly because it was sort of co-designed by their bass pro staff like this dude:
> The Reaper fleece is soft. Yep, tough bass-heads don’t like to talk about it, but it’s soft on the inside and they love that!
4. Simms Challenger rainsuits.
Can speak from experience that the Simms stuff is all that, and was designed with all kinds of bass-head feedback:
> Challenger rainsuit — jacket and bibs. They work great.
> Insulated Challenger rainsuit — jacket and bibs. Imagine rain gear lined with a sleeping bag full of ultra-lightweight advanced insulation and you’re getting the picture. Built for fishing in it.
> ProDry rainsuit — jacket and bibs. The pros wear this stuff, swear by it. Spendy tho….
Will also shout-out the manly, warm and drizzle-sheddin’ Katafront Hoody in “hex camo carbon.” Rock it all the time….
You wanna get warm? Have you some BBQd meats, of the James Overstreet variety (his shot below), with some of the best sauce you’ve ever had: Redneck Lipstick!
Who’s hungry all of a sudden!
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’!
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