February 06, 2017
When an angler discovers a great new bass-fishing tactic—onethose big bucketmouths just can’t resist—he or she often keeps it confidential.It might be useful for winning a tournament. Or it may be so good, the bassfishing enthusiast who figured it out may worry it will put too much pressureon favored fisheries.
There are some folks, however, who readily share thediscovery of dynamite bass fishing techniques so others might better enjoytheir time of the water. Tennessee smallmouth guru Stephen Headrick andArkansas bass pro Mitch Looper are two such people. These master anglerseagerly shared the following little-known fishing tips you can use to put more bigbass on the dry side of a boat.
Smallmouth Tactic:Dancing Lizards
On Tennessee’s Dale Hollow Lake, Headrick uses an unorthodoxmethod to entice big bronzebacks.
“In clear waters like Dale Hollow that get heavy fishingpressure, smallmouth bass may avoid lures they’ve seen repeatedly,” says theCelina native, president of Punisher Lures. “Big smallmouths—those 5 pounds andup—are especially wary.”
To coax strikes from these fussy fish, Headrick uses 6- to7-inch soft-plastic lizards or salamanders he rigs using a “secret” stylefavored by local anglers.
“First, I push an empty .22 bullet cartridge into the noseof the lizard to remove a plug of the plastic,” he says. “In the hole I’vecreated, I insert a 1/16-ounce bullet weight. Then I seal the hole by meltingthe plastic with a lighter or match.”
A shallow, lengthwise incision is then cut in the belly ofthe lure. After tying a No. 6 panfish hook to the main line, the hook is runthrough the lizard’s tail, leaving the barb exposed, then the line is insertedinto the incision.
“Cast the lure and let it sink to the bottom,” saysHeadrick. “The weighted nose stays down and the tail with the hook in it standsstraight up. Now, if you shake your line a little, the tail dances, attractingthe attention of any smallmouth nearby. The lure looks more natural because theweight is hidden in the nose and the hook is small. So wary smallmouths aremore likely to strike. Nine times out of ten, the bass will grab the tail ofthe lure first. With conventionally rigged lizards, you’ll miss these shortstrikers. But with the hook in the tail, you’ll connect more times than not.”
Largemouth Tactic:Fast Cranking Jigs
Catching trophy largemouths is the specialty of bass proMitch Looper of Dayton, Arkansas. He has caught scores of bass from 9 to morethan 14 pounds, but he rarely catches them using conventional tactics.
“I typically retrieve my lures a lot slower or a lot fasterthan other anglers,” Looper says. “This helps me catch more and bigger bassbecause the fish aren’t conditioned to avoid lures that are fished the way Ifish them.”
Case in point: Looper’s style of fishing jigs.
“When targeting largemouths, I cast a jig into thickemergent vegetation and reel it back as fast as I can,” he says. “As basscruise the weeds, they scare bluegills and other bait animals, which swimquickly to escape. The fast-moving jig mimics one of these frightened forageanimals. Strikes are explosive, and bass rarely avoid the jig like they willother lures. Many times I’ve fished behind anglers who were flipping,spinnerbaiting or buzzbaiting and caught big bass just minutes after the otheranglers moved on.”
Almost any bass jig can be used for this technique, butBooyah’s Swim’n Jig, specially designed for this tactic, may be the best. Ithas an arrowhead shape, a flattened bottom and an in-line line tie, which keepsthe jig from gathering loose weeds. The lure weighs 1/2 ounce, so it staysunder the surface and pushes through thick weeds.
Looper prefers a baitcasting reel with a 6.3:1 retrieveratio for this tactic “because this type of reel has a big spool thatbrings in more line per crank.” He suggests using line that is at least25-pound-test.
“Crank fast and keep the jig swimming about aninch under the surface,” he advises. “And hold your rod tight. If you’re notprepared for the smashing strikes of big bass that dart out to grab the jig asit zooms by, your tackle could get snatched from your hands.”