9 ‘Must-Try’ Bass Strategies For 2016

by Mark Melotik

HuntStand Pro Contributor MORE FROM Mark

Have you tried ‘dead-sticking’ soft plastics? Have you added a dedicated ‘flipping’ or ‘drop-shot’ combo? Expand your skills, and you’ll boat more bass this year.

9 Bass Walker 600When it comes to chasing bass, or most any fish anywhere, the best anglers are typically those who like to experiment. Why? Tinkering pays. When you find a lure or presentation that works, wise anglers like to dig deeper. They know they can benefit by finding what else will work—and those results might even be better. With the bulk of the 2016 fishing year still ahead, here are nine deadly, proven presentations you may or may not be familiar with. All can help you catch more bass this season, or even better: salvage a day when nothing else will work.

WalkerJigPlastic600Flipping Jigs/Plastics–This technique allows you to slow down and catch finicky “sluggish” bass, and better yet, it excels during any time of the year. Flipping a Texas-rigged soft plastic bait or jig/plastic combo is a great way to “dissect” fishing-holding cover, and give you the opportunity to catch some of the waterway’s biggest bass.

My “go-to” flipping rig is a 3/8 oz. Lazer Sharp Tungsten Weight above a 4/0 Lazer TroKar TK130 Flipping hook, tied to 20-pound Seaguar Flippin’ Fluorocarbon line. This rig will allow for rigging of multiple styles of plastic baits, such as a Zoom Z Craw or Super Hog. I like to use a 7’6” Wright & McGill Victory Pro Carbon flipping rod that features dual triggers, which helps me get a solid hookset, and feel everything my lure is doing by keeping my finger in contact with the rod blank.

WalkerTopwater600Topwaters–As soon as water temperatures begin to creep near or above that magic 60-degree mark, bass are actively feeding and I’ll always have a topwater rigged up and ready to go. When fishing around vegetation or ultra-shallow water, I like to toss a 3/8 oz. War Eagle Buzzbait in white or black. If the bass need more of a tempting cadence over their head, a walk-the-dog style plug, such as a Zara Spook, is a good choice.  As the year progresses and bass are even more aggressive I’ll use a popper-style plug.

WalkerPads600 Topwater Frogs–When vegetation has grown up to the water’s surface and created a “canopy” for bass to hide under, you’ll find me throwing a Snag Proof topwater frog—either the “Bobby’s Perfect” or “Ish’s Poppin’ Phattie.” Prime areas for this technique are over and around lily pads, or matted vegetation.  Looking for “standout,” fish-attracting features in the vegetation is one way to help eliminate unproductive water and pinpoint key stretches of frogging vegetation. Fishing in these challenging conditions requires the use of a braided line that has no stretch and will cut through the vegetation; for this I depend on 65-pound Seaguar Smackdown.

WalkerSpinner600Spinnerbaits–The spinnerbait is a time-honored “staple” for many bass fishermen, yet sadly, many other anglers tend to ignore these proven lures in favor of the currently “hot” presentations that include swimming or vibrating jigs. What makes spinnerbaits so consistently effective? Their ability to remain effective with a wide range of retrieve styles—based on the depth of water you are fishing, and the activity level of the bass. For instance, in the spring I’ll “slow-roll” a ½ oz. War Eagle single Colorado model, just barely turning my reel handle on the retrieve, yet even at this ultra-slow speed, that single blade puts off a ton of vibration. Then in the summer or fall, when bass are really on the prowl feeding voraciously, I can go with a 3/8 oz. double willowleaf blade combination, as it mimics baitfish better. That kind of versatility helps you boat more fish.

WalkerCranks600Crankbaits–Crankbaits give an angler the ability to target bass in water depth measuring less than a foot, to an impressive 20-plus feet. The first step to effective crankbaiting? Figure out what you want your lure to emulate—maybe it’s a bluegill, crawdad or shad. Next, determine the water depth you’ll be fishing and what type of cover is present. When fishing shallow cover, you’ll want a bait that will bump into the cover and not get hung up, such as square-bill model.

DropShot600Drop Shotting–Deep-water structure, whether it is a rock pile or weedline, is a great place to catch a lot of bass—both largemouth and smallmouth—during the sometimes-challenging summer months. One of the most-effective ways to target these fish is to “finesse” them into biting with a drop shot rig. Better yet? Rigging and fishing a drop shot is easy.

The activity level of your local bass will dictate how much action you give your bait; sometimes basic, do-nothing “dead sticking” works, while other times you’ll need to “shake it” a few times. Two items I consider critical for any drop-shot rig are a high-quality hook—such as the Lazer TroKar Drop Shot Hook—and a good rod that has a soft tip, and also a strong backbone that allows for solid hooksets.

WalkerSwim600 Swim Jigs–The specific retrieves and techniques for “swimming a jig” often depend on how the local bass are feeding, and any clues the fish will give you once on the water, which is why fishing a swim jig is so versatile and effective. There are three basic retrieves that I employ when throwing a swim jig: A steady retrieve, a “reel and twitch,” and finally, a slow roll.  Another factor that makes the swim jig so adaptable to the current conditions? You can attach a wide variety of soft-plastic trailers that will instantly change your lure’s size, action, color, and sink rate. Options are good.

Walker_Swimbaits600Swimbaits–Fishing a swimbait offers an angler numerous ways to retrieve, and present the bait around different forms of cover. Maybe the biggest key to the bait’s success is that it presents bass with a very natural presentation that they can “key-in” on. One proven way to rig soft-plastic swimbaits (both solid- and hollow-bodied) is the venerable Texas-rig. This allows you to fish your bait through very heavy cover, with a very natural-looking presentation, where other lures struggle. When fishing a swimbait in open water—such as around/over underwater points, humps, flats and sand drops—rigging your swimbait on a jighead is a good choice. Regardless of which way you rig up, you want to ensure the lure is more or less perfectly straight. If, for instance, the tail is bent or the body “off-center,” the result will be a “non-true” or otherwise unnatural swimming action. And yes, the bass will notice.

WalkerColdwater600Dead-Sticking Soft Stickbaits–The soft-plastic stickbait is an extremely effective way to tempt finicky bass; there’s just something very cool about casting one of these simple, smartly designed lures toward some promising structure, don’t move it an inch, and still have a pot-bellied bass inhale it. Casting out a soft-plastic stickbait, such as a Zoom Fluke Stick, rigged on a 5/0 Lazer Trokar Magworm hook, results in the bait sinking slowly to the bottom with a gentle side-to-side shimmer. This action entices most bass—hungry or not—to come check it out. These baits can be fished around most any form of cover, and the slower you fish them, the more strikes they seem to trigger.

Add The ScoutLook Fishing App–No it’s not a hot lure or presentation, but the free ScoutLook Fishing app can help you catch more fish than both of these combined. How? By giving you up-to-the-minute insights into current wind and weather conditions and detailed, accurate forecasts, with a few simple clicks of your smartphone. Knowledge is power, and nothing impacts fishing conditions like wind direction and weather patterns. The ScoutLook Fishing app helps you know before you go, what the day will hold, offering keen insight into the best fish-holding structure, launch spots, and more.



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