Fishing for bass can be very simple, yet many anglers take this simplicity a step too far. Only a few lures, rigs and tactics are used for most fishing, and if these don’t produce, the angler writes it off as just another bad day.
The most productive bass anglers, on the other hand, are flexible and innovative—always ready to try something new or different when “regular” fishing tactics don’t produce. These fishing folks tend to be experimenters by nature, adapting their fishing methods as necessary in the face of changing or unfamiliar conditions. If the fishing is really tough, they may develop an entirely new technique for catching their favorite sportfish. They also rely heavily on tried-and-true ways that have their roots deep in bassing tradition. New or old, it doesn’t really matter, so long as the tactic catches fish.
If you’re in the latter group of anglers, and willing to think “outside the box,” consider some of the following out-of-the-ordinary tactics that seldom are used these days despite the fact that all provide great means for enticing largemouths, smallmouths and spotted bass. Some of these “tricks” are as old as the hills but have fallen out of favor with modern anglers. Others are recent innovations that still aren’t widely known outside small circles of local fishermen. All are sure to increase your bassing success rate wherever you wet a line.
A ruse that’s so old it’s new to many bass anglers is two-timing, or using a pair of tandem-rigged lures. For example, one of my favorite double-lure rigs for surface-schooling bass is a 1/4-ounce white or silver jig tied to the rear hook of a chugger plug such as a Rebel Pop-R. The topwater chugger provides casting weight and creates a tantalizing surface disturbance, increasing the effectiveness of the subsurface jig.
A big crankbait can be worked in combination with almost any smaller lure to create an irresistible two-timer enticement. First tie a barrel swivel to your main line. To this, tie a 24-inch leader and a 12-inch leader. On the end of the 24-inch leader, tie the big crankbait of your choice. On the end of the 12-inch leader, tie a snap that will allow you to easily change the smaller lures. These smaller lures can be anything from little spoons or curly-tail jigs to in-line spinners or tiny crankbaits. Big bass go for this rig because it looks like a predator (the large crankbait) stalking a smaller forage animal (the smaller lure). Thus the crankbait becomes an ideal target for the predacious bass.
Experiment with various combinations. You’ll probably be surprised how effective two-timing can be.
Popping Cork Rigs
A popping cork is a very specialized type of float. Unlike other corks, it is concave at the top. When given a sharp jerk, this cupped face is forced against the water, creating a popping noise that imitates the sound of a fish attacking bait. Popping cork rigs work on the principle that one feeding fish usually will attract others.
Popping corks typically are used by saltwater anglers fishing for speckled trout, redfish and other inshore species. But they also have utility for freshwater bass anglers, particularly when bass are surface feeding on schools of shad or other baitfish. Simply place a grub, jigging spoon or other lure beneath the cork and work the lure at the proper depth and speed to elicit strikes.
Among the best popping corks for this technique are Plastilite Corporation’s Poppin-Bob Floats, which are slotted, weighted and come in 2-, 3-, 4- and 5-inch sizes. They can be rigged like any slip float, with a bobber stop on the line above the float to control depth. When casting to surface-feeding largemouths, I typically rig this way: 1) bobber stop on the main line first, followed by 2) a plastic bead and 3) a Poppin-Bob Float, with 4) a 2-1/2- to 4-inch shad-imitation soft plastic lure or grub on a 1/2-ounce jig head tied to the line’s end. The bobber stop should be placed so the float is positioned 8 to 24 inches above the lure when resting on the water. Small jigging spoons such as Cordell’s C.C. Spoon also work well.
Cast the rig, let the lure sink, then, holding your line off the water, use a snap of the wrist to pop the cork. When popped properly, the cork should create a chugging sound and a splash of water 6 to 8 inches high. The principle here is to use the pop to attract bass, and then let the lure fall back down to be eaten. Pop at regular intervals but not too often. If you are popping constantly, it is possible to spook away the very fish you are trying to catch.
If you’re hoping to catch a trophy bass (and who isn’t?), try fishing with significantly larger lures than you normally use. For example, instead of those little 2- or 3 popping plugs, try a gigantic chugger such as the 7-inch Creek Chub Super Knuckle-Head or the 7-inch Cordell Pencil Popper. Do away with those 4- or 6-inch plastic worms and upsize to something larger, such as YUM’s 10-inch Ribbontail.
Shallow-diving plugs work well in spring, and there are many oversized versions to try, including Bomber’s 7-inch Magnum Long “A” and Cordell’s 7-inch Red Fin. Forget those one-blade, 1/8- to 1/2-oz. spinnerbaits. Try something huge like Terminator’s twin-blade, 1-1/2-oz. Toothy Critter. Bigger lures may not produce as many bass, but the bass you catch will be much larger on average.
Next time the bass aren’t biting, give these tactics a try. They can be every bit as effective as your old reliables.