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Swimming Soft Plastic Jerks:
A New Look for Spring

Article: April, 2013
 
Lake Fork Pro Guide Tom RedingtonThere’s a time each spring when bass move up onto the flats and fixate on spawning. During this time, soft plastic jerkbaits like Hyper Sticks, Flukes, Senkos, Sluggos and Magic Shads have long been an angler’s most effective tool. Either weightless Texas rigging or wacky rigging, the slow dying flutter of these baits catch suddenly selective bass that would run down a spinnerbait or slurp a quick falling jig just a week prior. The problem is everyone crowds into the same pockets where the fish are and you can bet that 5 of the 6 boats in front of you are throwing the same lures.

Thankfully, there are now a number of new baits on the market that offer a new wrinkle to traditional favorites. With the addition of a swimbait tail to many of our favorite soft plastic jerkbaits, anglers add a swimming action while retaining the alluring shimmy when stopped. Sometimes the swimming motion between falls attracts bass to the lure; other times, the gently quivering tail of the bait on the drop gives enough of a different look to trigger fish to bite.

During the late-prespawn through the postspawn (water temps approximately 55-75), I use swimming soft plastic jerkbaits in shallow spawning areas, normally flats near the backs of pockets or creeks with hard bottoms. In addition, I catch big females moving in and out by fishing the first cover or structure outside the spawning area, such as secondary points, along deep or inside grass lines, and along creek channels running through spawning flats.

There are 2 components to a swimming soft plastic jerkbait’s action (swimming and falling), and I experiment with both until dialing in on what the fish want. I typically start experimenting by casting my bait out and letting it drop to the bottom. After it settles, I’ll swim it 6 to 8 feet forward, then let it fall to the bottom again, repeating this process all the way back to the boat. If bass are consistently hitting the bait during the retrieve, they’re more active and I’ll switch to a steady swimming retrieve with only an occasional ˝ second pause. On the other hand, if all the bites are coming on the drop, that tells me the fish are more sluggish and I need to slow down. In this case, I’ll only swim my bait 1 to 2 feet between drops, plus I’ll let the bait sit on the bottom for 15 to 30 seconds between swims. The tougher the bite, the shorter the swims and the longer the pauses I’ll use.

With the emergence of umbrella rigs, this category has really exploded, but I have a few favorites that work consistently well for me. If the fish are active or in stained to muddy water, I start with a boot tail version of the Live Magic Shad. This bait puts out a thump from its traditional swimbait style boot tail. In addition, all Live Magic Shad baits have a segmented body that starts the tail moving with the slightest twitch and keeps it swimming at ultra-slow speeds (often a key on cold spring days). If the fish are keying in on the drop, the original Live Magic Shad with its flat tail has an enticing dying quiver as it drops. On the toughest of days, I’ll go one step even subtler and switch to a Hyper Stick. Although it is more of a traditional soft plastic stickbait with a straight worm tail, the thin action segments in its body allow it to swim in an “S” pattern if rigged with the slots parallel to the hook. This finesse swimming action combined with a tail that erratically shimmies and darts on the fall is enough to trigger the most inactive of bass.

The final step is to match your tackle to get the most from these baits. I rig the 4.5” Live Magic Shads on a 5/0 swimbait hook (3/0 for 3.5” size) with a small 1/16 -1/8 oz weight built into the shank to help it run true. For the Hyper Stick, I stick with a traditional soft plastic jerkbait Texas rig, normally using a 4/0 offset or wide gap hook without any weight to maximize the fall time. In open water on clear lakes, dropping to 8 to 12 lb fluorocarbon will get you additional bites and be plenty strong to handle small to medium bass. For big fish in heavy cover, I upgrade to 15 to 20 lb fluoro. In general, if the fish are biting on the retrieve, you can go larger with your line, while you’ll need to drop in size if they are studying it on the drop/bottom. Lastly, shallow fish in the spring are very wary and I find that long casts produce more fish, especially big bass. When I’m using smaller baits and lighter line, the 7’3” Dobyns Champion 733C has plenty of tip to launch lightweight finesse presentations a long ways. When I’m gearing up for big fish and need to horse them out of thick grass or brush from a distance, the 7’6” Dobyns Champion 764C is the perfect blend of enough tip to blast out the 4.5” sized baits and plenty of backbone to drive home the hook and winch them out.

Fishing pressure is at its most intense levels in the spring. Show those pressured bass an update of your traditional favorites and I think you’ll enjoy the results
Good Fishing,
Tom


Fishing Tip by  Lake Fork Pro Tom Redington

 

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