January 01, 2005
Kick sand in a fish's face with these plugs.
When you're after bass hiding in submerged vegetation and none of the usual lures and tactics is paying off, try a hard body, treble-hook jerkbait.
Lip angle, weight and body shape determine how deep hard-body stickbaits run.
I know what you're thinking: there's no way to keep a jerkbait's treble hooks from hanging up in grass—the standard lure is a soft-plastic jerkbait with the single hook Texas-rigged to avoid snatching grass. But all it takes is the right lure selection and a little know-how, and you'll find hard baits often outfish the soft stuff. By learning to control the action and depth of your favorite jerkbaits, you'll be on your way to extracting bass from grass in no time.
To start, it's important to have a variety of jerkbaits to choose from, depending on the weeds—mature hydrilla may come all the way to the surface, while eelgrass in a clear lake may be several feet down. Having the right jerkbait to reach an appropriate depth in these and other applications is essential. The trick is to select a lure that ticks the tops of most of the cover, without completely burying itself in the vegetation.
Each model of hard jerkbait is designed to run at a predetermined depth. Some popular brands include the Rapala Husky Jerk and X-Rap, Lucky Craft Pointer, Bomber Long-A and Storm ThunderStick.
Swimming pools are ideal for this.
A jerkbait's running depth is determined by several factors, including weight, profile and the length and angle of its diving lip. Fat-bodied models with high buoyancy struggle to dive, while those with sleek profiles, lengthy diving bills and/or additional weight go deeper. Through experimentation you will quickly learn how they perform.
There are other ways to control the depth of a jerkbait. The heavier or thicker the line's diameter, the greater the resistance, and thus the tendency for the lure to ride higher in the water column. If it runs a little too deep for a given spot, switching to heavier line might solve the problem.
Rod angle during the retrieve can also force a lure up or down in the water column. A rodtip at the surface causes the bait to run deeper, while a high rod causes the lure to run shallower.
The trick is to make the lure contact the weeds, but not dive so deep it bogs down. Much like bumping a stump with a crankbait, anytime a lure deflects off cover it can provoke bass to strike. By twitching or ripping a jerkbait through the tops of underwater weeds, you can draw bass, sometimes from great distances, to take the bait.
Once you have a feel for the performance characteristics of these baits, lure choice becomes simpler. Thin-profile models like the Husky Jerk have a very erratic action. Those with a fuller profile like the Long-A and ThunderStick tend to sashay in a wide gate from side to side. The Pointer and X-Rap combine erratic movement with a side-to-side wobble.
For shallower applications, models like the Long-A and ThunderStick are good choices. Their full-bodied profiles and short diving lips make them ideal for traversing the tops of shallow grass. By tying them to thicker line and holding the rod high, it's possible to work these lures in less than two feet of water—a depth where bass rarely see a jerkbait.
For extreme skinny-water situations, try balsa minnows, such as the original floating Rapala or Bagley Bang-O-Lure. These will remain near the surface throughout the retrieve.
Wind creates current, and current will form a grain to most grassbeds—even submerged vegetation. By casting downwind, you can take advantage of the open alleyways formed in current-swept grassbeds. Through these small channels you can retrieve a jerkbait cleanly (even below the top of the vegetation).
Sufficient current and wave action will even force matted grassbeds into a grain or checkerboard pattern—making the application of treble-hook lures possible. This is an awesome opportunity to access otherwise impenetrable, carpet-like areas. Fish hiding in thicker grass become very aggressive on windy days, particularly when they see a jerkbait darting erratically within range.
You'll pick up some weeds with hard lures in heavy grass. You can knock a lot of it off with a sharp snatch of the rod. And even if you have to de-weed every three or four casts, the slamming strikes you'll get with this tactic will soon make you a convert.