Want to catch a few largemouths this month? Then you better have these baits in your tackle box.
Pictured: Reaction Strike Rattlin' Revolution Shad
Whether it’s the ubiquitous Rat-L-Trap, or similar models like the Sugar Shad, Sebile Flat Shad, and others, these are about as universal a lure as one can find. Not only can they operate at virtually any depth and speed, but when properly used they are one of the best baits to trigger a reaction strike from non-feeding or sluggish post spawn bass.
Rip one quickly by a bass, and even the most disinterested fish is likely to take a swipe at it. Lure speed is a key, and the quicker the retrieve the more likely the bass is to react.
If that lure zips in from behind and above the bass, and then moves quickly away from the fish, a strike is almost guaranteed. It’s like dangling a ball of string in front of a cat! I’ve watched bass rocket up from the bottom in clear, 10-foot-plus water to nail a Trap presented in that manner.
One way anglers can capitalize on that strike trigger is to use the wind or current to their advantage.
A non-active bass normally faces into the current. In the absence of current they normally face into the wind. Regardless of the depth or cover, if an angler puts the wind or current to his back and retrieves the bait quickly against it, he has an excellent chance of making that strike-triggering presentation. And, there are a number of situations that savvy anglers look for to apply this tactic.
In lakes where bass have finished their spawn and are moving out from the shallow spawning sites, outer weed lines are a key habitat this month. A breeze blowing parallel along a weed line creates a perfect situation. Experienced anglers move their boat tight to the weed line with the wind at their back and burn a Trap tight to the weeds, and just a couple of feet below the surface.
In some shallow lakes, offshore hydrilla beds become the summer home of the bass and many fish are moving to them this month. That hydrilla hasn’t grown to the point where it tops out into surface mats. Often, it still is 3 to 5 feet below the surface. But, bass are holding on top of it. Burning a Trap over the top of it can be deadly, especially if there is a breeze the angler can put at his back. The lure may catch an occasional strand of hydrilla, and savvy anglers consider that a bonus — ripping the lure free from the hydrilla often results in a strike.
The same wind-at-the-back tactic also can apply in reservoirs along rock banks, standing brush lines, or any other cover edge bass may be holding on.
The speed of the retrieve is a strike trigger and a high speed, casting reel is an asset. So too, is monofilament line and a rod with a soft tip. A bass exploding on a fast-moving treble-hooked lure creates a violent collision that can rip those smaller hooks free. The stretch in mono line, combined with a soft tip and a lightly set drag, act as a shock absorber and turns many of those strikes into boated fish.
Speed isn’t the only way to score with these baits. On many deeper reservoirs bass are in the later stages of the spawn, and those that have finished their spawn are migrating back to main-lake waters from the coves and creek arms they spawned in. That migration occurs on the same main-lake points they used to reach the spawning areas and they stage there for a while. Many anglers have found that putting the boat on the shallow end of the point, casting a countdown vibrating crankbait towards the deeper end, letting it sink to the bottom, and then working it up the structure in short hops i0s very effective. Another option is to crawl it up the slope with periodic sharp jerks of the rod to make it leap off the bottom and then flutter back down.