Jigging, Drop Shot, Carolina Rig, 3-Way Rig, Slip Sinker Rig, and the list goes on. These are all ways to get your bait down into the cover or bottom quickly, which seems to be the logical way to fish live bait and plastics when the water temperatures start climbing. Get them into the strike zone fast. Speed means more cast; therefore, more opportunities for fish to see the bait, plus it gets rid of the jitters when we first start winging baits. These are the preferred ways for most fishermen to present their baits. Unfortunately, these ways don’t always work. So, instead of making radical changes to our rigs, most of us just say they aren’t hitting today, and keep presenting our offerings the same way. Lead is where it is. Add more weight, use this sinker, rig it to slip, peg it, walk it, punch it. WOW! I can’t keep up with all of them. We are, too often, so infatuated with the new techniques and ways to rig our baits, that we often forget about how to use the basic instincts of predator fish against them.
Whenever I think of trying to get to fish that are holding tight to the bottom or in heavy weeds, I remember a catch phrase I got from the movie, “JAWS”. I still see Captain Quinn standing in the back of the small boat waving a machete and yelling, “We’re going to draw it out, draw it out and kill it.” Pretty strong words for a fisherman. The way he said it might be a little harsh, but the theory is sound and makes a lot of sense if you think about it. The good Captain was talking about drawing the shark into the shallows where he could kill it. In other words, he was using his boat as bait to lure the shark out of its natural environment where he knew he had a chance at it. He was using the shark’s natural predatory instincts against it.
Sometimes we need to get our fish out of the heavy weeds or off the bottom to have a chance at them. I have done a lot of tank and aquarium work with baits in controlled environments for various lure manufactures over my years. No matter how you present a weighted bait to them in their face, some days they just ignore it. This is especially true with pressured fish. They settle on the bottom or under some kind of cover and watch it. That’s when I decided to try something different. We had to find a way to draw them out of their comfort zone.
I took out a 7-foot Walleye Anglers Series Spinning rod and spinning reel loaded with 12 lb. mono. I then added a thin wire #4 short shank hook. For the bait, I added a Berkley Gulp minnow. I tossed this simple stealthy rig back to the non-aggressive fish, which included Largemouth, Walleye, Stripers, and even panfish. The bait hit the water and sank headfirst like it was weighted, no different than if I had added lead to it. Once again, the fish ignored it. I grabbed the bait and re-threaded the hook into the center of the bait. The weight was centered in the middle of the bait now, which kept it balanced, so the bait fell ever so slowly. I dropped it into the tank to check the fall rate. It was right. I once again cast it to the cover in the tank where the main school of fish was located. The bait did just what it wanted to, nothing. I wanted the bait to resemble a dead bait fish that was just fluttering to the bottom. As it sank, I noticed a few fish inching their way out of the cover to what they saw as a dying fish, or one that was already dead. One Bass, a Walleye, then a White Bass, all started moving to the bait. I thought to myself, “at least I am getting them moving.” Just then, a big catfish came off the bottom and nailed the bait. I quickly shook him loose and recast. I got every fish in that tank to come out of every nook and cranny and take a swipe at the bait. The crowd at the tank could not believe their eyes, nor could I.
A few days later, I got back into the boat and started working on the Smallies holding tight in the rip rap. We caught a few fish on cranks and a few on jigs. Later that day, the wind died, and the bite went cold. I mean, no hits for a couple hours. I remembered the simple way I got the fish to take bait when they did not want to in the tank at Bass Pro Shop last weekend and decided to give it a try for real on the lake that had no takers. I rigged my spinning rod the same way I had at the tank, checking first to make sure I had the hook in the proper position for the slow descent. I cast the bait towards the rip rap, closing the bail and letting the bait fall and flutter wherever it wanted to, not twitching, nor lifting or jigging, just letting it go on a loose line. Suddenly, I saw an ever so small bump on the line. Then it started to move away at a steady speed. I reeled up the slack and hit the fish. A fat Smallie cleared the water with an acrobatic leap. I turned around and smiled at my buddy, “not biting, huh?” We stayed at the lake and swatted Smallies, Walleyes, White Bass, and even an occasional catfish ‘til the sun was setting. No wind, too sunny, cold front, no problem. Just give them something they have not seen.
Since adding this technique to my arsenal, I have applied it to Muskies, Bass, Crappies, even stubborn Walleyes. You can match the size of hook with each plastic you use, I have downsized to the smallest bait about 2 inches all the way up to 12-inch worms with a little patience you can get the slow fall, and slow flutter out of all of them. and remember it does not take big hooks to hold big fish it takes strong hooks, also it does not take big baits to catch big fish!
See Ya on The Water