March 16, 2017
In the realm of modern-day professional bass tournaments, it’s common for pros to stack as many as 20 rods on their boat deck in a day of fishing. That’s a nice perk for pros and even semi-pros who have plenty of rods and reels, and a bass boat large enough to hold that many.
But what if those pros could only use 10 rods? What if they had to pare down to just five rods? What would they do?
Okay, how about three rods? Better yet, what three lures would they tie on their three remaining rods? What precious three lures would make the coveted must-have list of a top-ranked bass pro?
To find out we went to 2012 Forrest Wood Cup Winner Jacob Wheeler from Indianapolis, Ind., and asked him to select just three lures to catch fish in any season, any condition and anywhere.
The question did not take Wheeler long to address. Within two minutes he cut three lures off his rods and held them out in his hands, giving up the deets on each one.
“First of all, I’m more of a moving bait guy,” Wheeler started. “I like casting, reeling and covering water. The search for bass is what I like most about the sport of competitive fishing. Yes it’s fun to sit there and waylay them once I find them, but it’s that searching process I really like. So with that in mind, I’m going to be more search-bait oriented in my picks.”
Additionally, Wheeler is fond of reaction baits.
“I’m not really into the finessey, tease-them-into-biting kind of thing,” he added. “There are guys who have built tremendous careers by fishing that way, but it’s not my deal. I’ll do it if I have to, but I like to force a fish into biting out of reflex; a bait suddenly gets in their space and they react to it by biting it.”
And with that Wheeler reveals his three offerings
First on Wheeler’s list is a Rapala DT-6. When it comes to crankbaits, Wheeler insists that the DT-6 is the most universal one out there.
“It’s the perfect size in terms of general bass forage and covers that 3- to 6-foot sweet spot where I like to fish most,” he detailed. “And that Live River Shad is just an all-around good color.”
“From water temperatures in the mid 40s, to the pre-spawn, to the post-spawn, through summer and back into the fall, it’s on my deck at all times,” Wheeler continued. “It works in rivers, highland and lowland impoundments, smallmouth lakes in the northeast – you name it; it’s just an extremely versatile crankbait.”
Wheeler usually fishes the crankbait on 12-pound-test Suffix Siege monofilament, but by varying the line size, he can extend its versatility.
“If I want it to get more depth out of it, I’ll go to 8-pound line and it will get down there 7 or 8 feet to hit deeper targets,” he explained. “If I want to fish it like a squarebill, I’ll push my line size up to 15- and even 20-pound monofilament to add a lot of buoyancy to it on shallow logs or laydowns.”
Second on Wheeler’s list of must-have fish finders is a buzzbait. He prefers a 5/16-ounce Game Changer buzzbait with a custom large blade made by Accent Fishing Products in a white or blue glimmer color. The buzzbait features a heavier gage wire for increased durability and a larger blade to get the lure to the surface quicker and to be worked at a slower speed.
While most bass anglers might consider a buzzbait to be a window-specific lure relegated to just early morning and evening summer-time fishing, Wheeler argues a buzzbait is one of the most over-looked versatile tools in a tackle box.
“From water temperatures of 55 degrees and up, I’ll throw a buzzbait anywhere, anytime – even in the middle of the day,” he said emphatically. “Over the years I’ve learned to make a buzzbait a reaction bait by fishing it in places where most people won’t throw one – even skipping it under docks and over hanging bushes.”
One of Wheeler’s biggest buzzbaits secrets is to pitch it like a jig to bushes, logs and laydowns.
“I literally want to contact the cover with it,” he revealed. “I’ll pitch it right next to a laydown or under a bush so it clacks against the cover. It’s a classic reaction bite. Bass that live in close quarters are so used to seeing something drop in next to them and sink, but when it gurgles on the surface instead, they can’t handle it and just react.”
For most of his buzzbait fishing Wheeler prefers to fish it on 17- or 20-pound monofilament. He typically trails it with a color-matching Gene Larew Biffle Bug or Biffle Bug, Jr.
Speaking of a Biffle Bug, that just happens to be Wheeler’s final pick to complete his must-have trio of bass baits. Wheeler picked the Biffle Bug creature bait due to its ability to be several lures in one, as his buzzbait trailer proves.
“I’ve already picked two moving baits, but I know I need a soft-plastic in there, too, and the Biffle Bug can fit so many situations, so that’s what I’m going with,” Wheeler explained.
“I can fish it on the bottom on a Hard Head; I can Texas-rig it on a ½-ounce weight and flip it like a creature bait; I can pull the swimming legs off it and make it more like a tube for pitching bushes or sight fishing; I can pull the tongue off and it use it as a jig trailer. It’s just such an adaptable piece of plastic; if I just have one bag of them in green pumpkin, I can fill in a lot holes that the crankbait and buzzbait can’t get to. But with those three lures, I feel like I could go fish anywhere at anytime and catch bass.”