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Tips for Smallmouth Bass
By Tim Allard
There's nothing fancy in the design of a soft-plastic stickbait, but
its fish-catching ability is far from ordinary. On days when finesse
tactics are what's catching fish, a Senko or similar style stickbait
is one of a handful of lures I'll rely on to coax smallies into
biting. Here are some tips on fishing the simple but effective soft
plastics known as stickbaits.
Circle Hooks Shine
Most often, I'll rig stickbaits wacky style for smallmouth bass and
use circle hooks to help reduce gut-hooking fish. The key to using
circle hooks is not to setting when you feel a fish. Instead, simply
apply pressure to the fish by reeling in line and slowly sweeping
the rod. Once the line tightens, start to fight the fish. The
increasing line tension positions and hooks the fish in the corner
of its mouth, doing all the hook-setting work for you.
tip when wacky rigging stickbaits is sliding a piece of tubing or an
"O" ring over the bait at its centre. Rig this set up by running the
hook between the bait and the tubing. The tubing keeps baits
secured, preventing them from ripping off during the fight and
letting you catch plenty of fish on one bait.
I carry a mix of three-, four- and five-inch stickbaits for
smallmouth bass. In general terms, I use the smaller ones when I'm
sight fishing over shallow rock and sand flats. When I'm using these
baits over deep water, say 20 feet, I'll often use a five-inch bait.
Fish mood also influences what size of bait I select. If fish
finicky, smaller is usually better. If I notice fish are grabbing
the ends, but not taking in the entire bait, I'll downsize as well.
When aggressive, five-inch baits can mean bigger fish, but four-inch
ones will still produce well.
Don't Discount Weighted Hooks
When I'm fishing in deeper water, I'll sometimes use a 1/32 to
1/16-ounce, shank-weighted hook. I like Falcon Lures' K-Wacky Worm
Hook. The hook gets the bait in the strike zone faster and I spend
less time waiting for the bait to sink. The extra weight also helps
me keep a taught line on the offering, so I can set as soon as a
fish hits. Although he best action on stickbaits is achieved by
letting them freefall un-weighted, adding a small amount of weight
doesn't impede their effectiveness.
When working stickbaits in deeper water I use a medium-power
baitcasting outfit with a soft tip. The sensitive tip instantly
displays a hit. I also use 10-pound test fluorocarbon line for its
low visibility underwater. The line's minimal stretch properties
also increases the overall sensitivity of my outfit. I find a
baitcast reel outperforms a spinning for fluorocarbon line at this
Drop Shotting Delivers
Drop shotting wacky-rigged stickbaits is another way to work these
lures for smallmouth bass. Focusing on bottom oriented fish, the rig
quickly takes the bait to bottom. Once there, the non-weighted bait
can be quivered or raised and dropped to fool bass. This
presentation shines for smallmouth in deep water situations,
especially during tough fishing scenarios common during mid to late
summer. As much as it's effective for deep water though, it's also
great for sight fishing the shallows when conditions are calm.
Three-inch baits, a 1/8-ounce weight, a small hook and four- to
six-pound test line is a great rig for working clear, shallow water
with a drop shot rig.
Remember to use a rod with an extremely sensitive tip for drop
shotting. This flex allows you to subtly quiver baits for a
seductive presentation. A sensitive tip also easily transmits the
distinct tap of a hard hit, but will also easily load-up to display
when a fish has lightly taken the bait without putting much pressure
on the fish.
Stickbaits have proven themselves as productive baits at
professional tournaments as well as with hundreds of
non-professionals. If you're not using these lures to fish
smallmouth, you need to start. They put plenty of bass in my boat
each year, not to mention a lot of big ones.