4 Bait Hacks that Catch More Fish

4 Bait Hacks that Catch More Fish

Try these bait hacks the MLF pros use to put more bass in the live well.

Retail-ready baits are great. However, to catch more bass, try these simple tweaks.

Pliers, scissors and files: implements of primitive dental care, or essential tools used by savvy anglers in search of a competitive edge? I would argue in favor of the latter, as an increasing number of anglers explore bait hacks: home-brewed customizations of standard commercial lures to differentiate them from the pack, alterations that trigger strikes from more fish – especially when the bite turns tough.

If you’re a frequent reader of post-tournament press releases, then you’ve encountered plenty of instances when the victorious angler professes to using a pre-production, homemade or custom lure of their own design in order to secure the championship. These top-level bait hacks are some of the most closely guarded secrets in the world of professional fishing, developed over years of methodical experimentation, and rarely discussed within range of microphones or inquisitive eyes. For these tweaks, additions to and deletions from standard, off-the-shelf commercial lures, success is measured not by the number of smiles and happy memories created, but rather by a precise accounting of paychecks cashed and titles won.

If you’re wondering what professional bass anglers do when they modify their baits, and why they dig through their compartments in search of pliers, scissors and files in the first place – then you’re in luck. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most potent bait hacks used by competition anglers. These modifications span nearly the entire range of presentations that any angler might use to tempt and trigger bass and include proven ways to customize jigs, soft baits, hard baits and topwater lures. So, grab your tackle boxes and gather your tools; it’s time to hack with the pros.

“Bait
Major League Fishing pros (clockwise from top left): Greg Hackney, Cody Meyer, Tommy Biffle, Bobby Lane

Shape that jig

“I will trim the skirt so that the longest strands don’t go beyond the bend of the hook.”


Greg Hackney


Bait Hacks

Jigs are among the most versatile tools in the modern bass angler’s arsenal. A deceptively simple synthesis of lead, steel and rubber, jigs are effective in the shallows and out deep, in heavy cover and open water, triggering bites from bass that swim anywhere on the globe. You can hop ’em, drag ’em, swim ’em or just let them sit while their undulating skirts do the work. Professional anglers all agree: one of the rods on your front deck needs to have a jig tied on, all the time.


Greg Hackney knows a thing or two about jigs. A prolific flipper and jig pitcher, the 2014 Bassmaster Angler of the Year has finished in the money nearly 150 times during his professional career, and recently expanded his trophy collection by capturing the 2018 Major League Fishing World Championship. As much as he loves to fish the jig, Hackney notes that, “there’s not a single jig made that I use as packaged. Each one gets trimmed, modified or customized – every time.” Hackney sets his sights on two different jig components when it’s time to start hacking: the skirt and the weedguard.

“I want the skirt to be full, but not long. Typically, I will trim the skirt so that the longest strands don’t go beyond the bend of the hook,” asserts Hackney.

“That compact skirt focuses the fish’s attack on the hook, rather than letting fish nip at long strands, helping me convert more strikes into positive hooksets.”


Hackney continues, “I also like to collar my skirts and shape them, so they have shorter strands close to the head and longer strands that trail toward the hook. That shaping is all about profile, giving the jig a very bluegill-like appearance. Another benefit is that when the strands aren’t all the same length, they don’t stick together in the water, giving the jig a lot more action when it’s at rest – which really triggers lethargic fish.”

File that bill

“I take a cheap wood or metal file, like you’d find at any hardware store, and file down the bill”

Cody Meyer


Bait Hacks

During the heat of summer and into the fall, one of the best ways to target bass on offshore humps is with a deep-diving crankbait. In recent years, the popularity and productivity of this presentation has spawned a unique, purpose-driven collection of tools and tackle, with each piece dedicated to getting baits to dive deeper.

“Gosh, I sure love to crank,” states Cody Meyer, a veteran of the FLW Tour who, like 79 other pros, has joined the Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour for its inaugural season. While his west coast roots and extensive experience on super-clear, highly pressured fisheries have made him a finesse fishing aficionado, Meyer has a soft spot in his heart for hard baits with big bills.

“One of the tricks I’ve perfected, one that will make a crankbait dive even deeper than normal, is to shave off some of the bill – to sharpen it – by filing off some of the plastic from the bottom side of the bill,” whispers Meyer. “I take a cheap wood or metal file, like you’d find at any hardware store, and file down the bill on a Strike King Extra Deep Diver, like the 5XD, 6XD, 8XD or 10XD. You have to be careful, removing material evenly and in small portions – but when you do it right, you get those baits to dive deeper without affecting their action.”

Why would an angler want even more depth from baits that already dive into the 15-25 foot range? Meyer explains, “with this trick, I can make a smaller-profile bait, like the 4.5-inch-long 6XD, dive into the range that is normally reached by only the 5.5-inch-long 8XD. When the bite is tough, that smaller-profile bait can trigger bites when larger cranks get ignored – it’s a common finesse fishing approach that is applied here to cranks.”

Chop that prop

“Remove that front prop, the one up by the nose of the bait.”

Bobby Lane

Bait Hacks

Whether it’s a popper, a hollow body frog or a walking bait, topwaters are proven producers in shallow water and can also call fish from the depths to engage in a surface attack.

“As a Florida guy, you know I love catching ’em on top,” quips Bobby Lane. A past champion on both the FLW Tour and the Bassmaster Elite Series, Lane also captured the big trophy at the 2017 Major League Fishing World Championship. Fishing this year on the MLF Bass Pro Tour, Lane understands the nuances of provoking strikes on the water’s surface.

“Prop baits are one of the classes of topwater lures that often requires some attention,” states Lane. “What I will frequently do with a prop bait, which typically has two props and three sets of treble hooks, is remove that front prop, the one up by the nose of the bait. The rear prop still provides plenty of commotion and creates a nice bubble trail, and having the front end of the lure clean provides me with several distinct advantages.

“First, removing the front prop creates a more streamlined bait with less wind resistance. I like to use 30-pound-test Spiderwire Ultracast when I’m fishing prop baits, which I can throw a country mile when the front prop is off. With clear water or pressured fish, more distance on the cast means more fish in the tank.

“Once that lure is in the water,” continues Lane, “having the front prop removed means that it catches less grass and vegetation, particularly as the day continues and other anglers or pleasure boaters have torn up the grass beds.”

Lose those legs

“Remove the front legs. This gives the bait a slender profile”

Tommy Biffle

Bait Hacks

Soft-plastic baits represent the ultimate playground for bait hackers. Trim a little here, add a piece there, then a splash of contrasting color – it’s all possible with today’s extensive library of plastisol creations.

“Flippin’ and pitchin’ soft baits – that’s definitely a strong suit of mine,” notes Tommy Biffle, a seasoned veteran and past champion in every major bass tournament circuit, who has transitioned from the Elites to the Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour. “I love fishing plastics so much that many years ago, I partnered with Gene Larew to develop a line of signature soft baits. But even those baits, which work great right out of the package, can be modified for tough conditions to make them work better.

“Take the Biffle Bug, which helped carry me to victory on the Elite Series – it’s an awesome pitching bait and is great on a HardHead jig when worked along the bottom. But when the bite gets really tough – like post-frontal conditions, clear water or heavily pressured fish, it’s easy to customize the Biffle Bug to increase its appeal. I designed the bait so that it’s easy to use scissors, or even just your fingers, to remove the front legs. This gives the bait a slender profile, which appeals to fish looking for a compact presentation.”

Biffle continues, “the body of the Biffle Bug is unique in that it’s solid up near the jighead, which helps the hook stay in the bait better, but hollow on the other end, like a tube. That slot makes it easy to load up the bait with scent, or to add a rattle, which helps fish locate the bait in dirty water. By using their imagination, an angler can tweak the Biffle Bug to fit a wide variety of conditions.”

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You

Other Hunting

New Gear: MidwayUSA Competition Range Bag

G&F Staff

Perfect for competition or a day at the range.

Trout & Salmon

How to Catch the Biggest Trout in the Stream

David Paul Williams

Several factors need to be evaluated before reaching a conclusion about what fly, lure or...

Fishing How-To

Your Guide for the Best Catfish Baits

G&F Staff

If you've been catching catfish with the same method for years, it's time to change it up and...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Berkley's Frittside Crankbaits

World Fishing Network show host Chad LaChance had a chance to visit with legendary crankbait master David Fritts about his new Frittside crankbaits from Berkley. LaChance, host of the Fishful Thinker on WFN, also got a few cranking tips from Fritts, the former Classic and Forrest Wood Cup champion.

BPT Points Champ Edwin Evers Talks New Berkley Baits

After making the switch to Berkley products heading into the inaugural BPT season, Edwin Evers tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead why Berkley baits played such a key role in his recent angling success.

Simms' Solarflex Ultra Cool Armor Hoody

John Frazier of Simms Fishing Products helps OSG's Lynn Burkhead understand the new features of the new Simms' Solarflex Ultra Cool Armor sun protection hoody.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Other Freshwater

3 Deadly Bait Rigs For Stripers

J.B. Kasper - April 21, 2005

The colder waters of early spring are prime times to use bait rigs for stripers.

Catfish

Understanding Catfish Spawning

Keith Sutton - June 06, 2006

Unlike many game fish, catfish can be harder to catch during the spawn. Here are some...

Panfish

Find and Fish Bluegill Beds Efficiently

Terry Madewell - May 22, 2019

You can catch bluegill faster with these strategies.

See More Stories

More Bass

Bass

MLF Pros: What's With the Moon?

G&F Online Staff

We're told to pay attention to the lunar phases. What do bass pros think?

Bass

Topwater Lures, Tactics for Summer Bass

Ronnie Garrison - June 24, 2019

Here's how you choose the best topwater baits and where, when and how to fish them.

Fishing How-To

Why You'll Lose Your Next Big Bass

Larry Larsen

Now that you know you might screw it up the next time a big fish bites, let's fix it.

See More Bass

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×