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Bass Baits for Saltwater

There are not many plastics more versatile than this saltwater friendly bass bait.

“After 15 years of feeding–sometimes force-feeding–fish soft plastic baits professionally, there are two lists: winners and losers,” says bass tournament pro Davy Hite. Not all soft baits are created equally; many spin in circles, causing line twists. Some just don’t have the right scent, and some just don’t impart the right action.

Well, Trigger X baits’ newest Minniow soft jerkbait is a winner. Let Davy Hite, perennial Bassmaster Elite Series threat, explain how. Soft jerkbaits are a top presentation just about everywhere. The baitfish lookalike is versatility in fresh and salt. Here’s a rundown on how to work these bass baits for saltwater.

Freshwater Tactics

Twitiching: The South Carolinian Hite uses jerkbaits beyond their originally intended freshwater purpose: twitching. Classically rigged with a 4/0 or 5/0 Wide Gap Worm Hook, Hite imparts three twitches to solidify the darting action, followed by a brief pause. Worked just beneath the surface, jerkbaits serve Hite best during the postspawn period when bass have baitfish on the brain and in their bellies.

Skipping: Hite calls it skipping, but to a bass, the lure’s action looks like a spastic, easy to whack minnow. Hite casts the unweighted jerkbait, and just as the bait impacts the surface, gives it a vigorous “buggy whip.” The minnow cartwheels out of control, like the worst gymnastics floor exercise you’ve ever seen. Hite takes up the slack and gives it another power jerk, never letting the bait come to it senses.

Carolina Rig: Rounding out Hite’s tricks, the bass bully takes it down a notch, and several feet, to Carolina Rig. Bass, according to Hite, can grow indifferent to the usual suspects: soft plastic lizards and straight tail worms. So around deep grassbeds and decided structure, he unconventionally Carolina rigs a Trigger X Minnow.

Saltwater Tactics

For salt water, jerkbaits are at home on oyster and grass flats no deeper than five feet. Trigger X and other soft plastic jerkbaits are prime casting options.

Jigging: With little cover to mess with, rig jerkbaits to a jighead that forces the bait to the bottom. Different jighead styles work; pick your own favorite. But side with a jighead weight that allows the bait to fall gradually–this is the time when most bites happen. A good starting weight is 1/8 of an ounce. Depending on tides, currents and depth, you may have to switch jigheads throughout the day.

Weedless: An exposed hookpoint will hook more fish than a bait rigged weedless. But when fishing heavy oyster or grass, fresh- or saltwater weedless worm hooks are a must. Most baits come in packs of at least a dozen, but it’s still pricey to lose baits to structure. Plus, no one wants to leave tackle in the water if they can avoid it.

Use a weighted wormhook to get the bait to the bottom and to force the bait to “swim” true in the water column. To properly rig a soft bait, line up the soft plastic along side of the hook before impaling the bait. This gives the angler an idea of where the hook should enter and exit the bait. When finished, expose the hookpoint, just a touch, through the top of the bait.

Sink or Swim?: Hite gets his softbaits running tight-and-right and swims it toward certain death. Stuck with a 1/8-ounce keel weighted hook, Hite drags it along subsurface at a lively clip to emulate the activities of shad and herring. This technique works well in saltwater and fresh when gamefish are actively feeding on baits at the surface. Hite, in fact, nearly won the 2011 Bassmaster Elite Series event on Lake Murray this way. FS

First Published in Florida Sportsman Magazine, Print Edition.

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