Reaction Strikes

Four tactics to make bass bass strike your lure.
A straight running, loud crankbait that bumps structure can trigger a bite.

It’s great to find a bunch of frantically feeding bass that will hit anything you throw at them, but that doesn’t happen all that often. Most of the time bass are just sort of hangin’ out. In that respect they aren’t much different than a well-fed, family cat lounging on a window sill, or the dog lying under the pickup truck in the front yard.

Yet, if you dangle a ball of yarn in front of that cat it will take a swipe at it. Toss a ball and the dog will chase it. Bass are hard-wired with the same predatory responses. Given the right stimulus they will strike a lure, even if they are not feeding. Call this reaction strikes. The right lure presentation will trigger it. Here are four techniques:

1 Move it away, fast: A lure that quickly approaches a bass from behind and above, zips over its head and then rapidly moves away is a serious strike trigger. Think of suddenly tossing a ball over your dog’s head. The key here is the position of the bass that allows the angler to make that presentation. You can’t always know which way the bass is facing. In two situations, however, you can get a pretty good idea.

In moving water, bass normally face into the current. In the absence of current they normally face into any significant wind. If you put the current, or wind, at your back and retrieve the lure against the wind or current, you have an excellent chance of triggering strikes. In weedy cover, a spinnerbait or speed worm run quickly within a foot of the surface is deadly. In open water over submerged cover or along weed edges, a fast-moving countdown crankbait does the same thing. Savvy anglers will figure wind or current into their approach of a potential bass holding cover.

2 Sudden change in speed or direction:A bass will watch, but may ignore, a diving crankbait wandering by at a leisurely pace. But if that lure suddenly bangs off of something and makes a rapid change of speed and direction, the bass is likely to react.

Erratic swimming plugs such as the Rapala Scatter Rap may also trigger a bite.

Many expert anglers feel a diving lipped crankbait is not effective unless it is hitting something. If you’re fishing an offshore shell bar that’s seven feet deep, don’t use a crankbait that dives to six feet. Use one that dives to 10 or 12 feet and dig it into the bottom to get that sudden change of direction. If you’re fishing downed timber, bang your bait onto the wood. Lipped crankbaits can be banged or dug into a lot of objects without fouling because that big lip will prevent a lot of hang ups. It hits the cover, bounces off, and keeps on going.

As a corollary, lure makers are now exploring designs which depart from straight-ine retrieves in unpredictable ways, in open water, just as baitfish do.

3 Pause the retrieve on a floater/diver crankbait in the strike zone: During the 15 years I spent as a guide on Lake George, the most effective retrieve when fishing the offshore pilings was to crank a diving crankbait down quickly, stop the retrieve and let it float upwards a foot or so, then repeat. Most of the hits came on the pause, and some of them would just about take the rod out of your hands! A straight retrieve produced far fewer strikes.

4 “In your face” approach: Imagine you’re talking to someone a few feet away. Their hand suddenly comes up and throws an object at your face. Your instinctive reaction will be to put up a hand up to block it. Bass have instinctive reactions as well, and since they don’t have hands, they use their mouth.

A spinnerbait zipped over a weed bed with the retrieve suddenly stopped at an open pocket or edge and allowed to fall does that. A Texas-rigged plastic worm with a half-ounce sinker to produce a fast fall rate dropped into a pocket or over a weedline edge does the same. The lure is right there, falling quickly past the fish’s face. What does that surprised fish do? In many cases, it bites the lure. FS

First Published August 2013