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In Search of the Right Search Lures for Florida Bass

What's the buzz over search baits for lunkers? These lures draw strikes in a variety of settings.

In Search of the Right Search Lures for Florida Bass
A buzzbait (this one with tandem hooks and toad trailer) is definitely an attention-getter.

Many Florida lakes are easy to read, set up well for pitching and flipping, but sometimes you’ll need to put in the time finding the most productive areas. One way to do that is to fish what we call search baits. That basically means lures that are easy to throw and retrieve and designed to attract attention from bass in a variety of habitats.

A bite’s always welcome, but even a flash, swirl, wake or boil can focus our attention on an area. From there, the usual analysis of why that fish was present helps answer the question of, “Should I stay or should I go?”

One of the most productive ways of covering water and finding the aggressive fish is a big, noisy topwater presentation like a buzzbait or a sputtering bait like the Mach Patroller. The former relies on front-end blade commotion, while the latter and others in this category, use a spinning back section to drum up business.

soft-plastic bass lure
In heavily vegetated or otherwise snaggy cover, a weedless swimming worm is a good search bait.

Topwater walkers also fit the search-bait plan, but the sauntering side-to-side action takes a little more time than the winding wonders. Not necessarily the wrong choice, but a time-management consideration.

Key point to note: Whatever topwater you throw, keep a follow-up bait handy for missed strikes or boils. Often a fish may take a run at your search bait, but breaks off the attack at the last second. Could be the sun’s too high, maybe you’re too close, or perhaps the fish has been stung by a topside imposter recently.

In any case, that aggression does not easily dissipate, so a vulnerable subsurface offering—wacky-rigged stick worm, fluke, jerkbait—could close the sale. A few special Florida situations where search baits are especially useful:

lily pads and bass fishing
Bladed jig pulled this fish (inset) out of moderate cover, but a fully weedless frog would be better for heavy pads shown here.
  • Shad Spawns: When the baitfish are doing their thing in early mornings, the intense flashing and splashing of tiny silver shads is hard to miss. However, this dynamic picture typically has a here-and-there nature, so work the likely areas—grass edges, docks, seawalls, etc.—with topwaters, swim jigs, bladed jigs and spinnerbaits until you establish some consistency.
  • Bedding Zone: We tend to equate spawning bass with sight fishing, but sneaking up on ‘em is easier said than done. Fact is, you’ll spook a lot of fish off their spot by zipping right into those likely bedding flats; whereas, a patient, methodical outside-in search preserves the opportunities. From topwater intrusions with prop baits, poppers, and frogs, to subsurface irritations with weedless-rigged swimming worms or paddletail swimbaits, you’ll move a lot of fish that are less likely to actually bite these reaction baits, but will crush a well-placed worm or creature bait. Search your area until you see one charge at the intruder and if it’s all a bluff, target the spot with something that’ll stick around long enough to find trouble.
  • Heavy Weed Cover: Once the warm season finds topped-out hydrilla and milfoil offering bass vast areas of cover/feeding opportunities, flipping the edges and punching into the denser areas can deliver straight-up arm-stretchers. Frogging goes hand in hand with this technique, as the amphibian imposter brings out the best in mat fish. You’ll catch plenty this way; and wow, is it a fun way to get ‘em. But when they just bump the mat or take a half-hearted swat at your frog, follow up with a Texas-rigged plastic and get ready to lean back on one.




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