Every bass angler has his or her favorite bait that they take to the water whenever they head out, its just common nature for anglers to stick with something that has produced for them day in and day out. And with literally hundreds of different bait options it can often seem intimidating to branch out and try new things. The fact of the matter is to be successful in any fishing situation you need to have a variety of baits to meet those needs. Now, I’m not saying you need to own everything that’s out there – though it’s fun trying – but there are five baits every bass angler should have in their arsenal. Some are oldies but goldies while a few may be entirely new to you. Regardless as a bass angler having an arsenal of different bait selections in your tackle box is vital to continual success. Lets check out my five recommendations:
The ChatterBait was created by Z-Man and has since given life to an entire new category of baits called vibrating jigs. These baits combine a little bit of everything into one lure. They have the bulk of a swim jig, the flash of a spinnerbait and the vibration of a crankbait making them ideal for fishing all types of cover.
When it comes to old standards in bass fishing probably one of the most popular choices is a spinnerbait. There is no doubt it has caught plenty of big bass for anglers over the years. But the ChatterBait is a great substitute for it and you can still fish it in all of the same places – if not more.
What makes a ChatterBait so versatile is the way the blade is positioned on the head of the bait. This allows the lure to track through cover better than a spinnerbait or crankbait would. Aside from coming through cover better, a ChatterBait also offers great flash and vibration that most lures can’t duplicate. Often times if you fish an area behind someone that is throwing a spinnerbait you can catch fish that turned their nose up at the previous offering.
ChatterBaits show their versatility in the places they can be fished but they also demonstrate that in when they can be used. These lures work great early spring all the way until late fall. If the water temperature is above 50 degrees you can get bit on it. There are circumstances where you may be able to catch fish in cooler water but above 50 degrees is a good rule of thumb.
These baits excel in shallow cover like wood, rocks and grass. Fishing them around stumps and lay-downs is a sure-fire way to get bit. Making contact with the cover you are fishing – like with any reaction bait – will increase your number of strikes. This holds true especially when fishing in grass. When covering shallow, weedy flats fan cast the area and when the bait comes in contact with some weeds simply snap the rod to break the vegetation free. Basically, fish a ChatterBait wherever you would a swim jig, shallow crankbait or spinnerbait.
The other nice thing about a ChatterBait is that it tends to get bigger bites. Common spinnerbait trailers work great on the back, but if you are looking for a bigger profile don’t hesitate to put a swimbait on the back.
I think this one goes without saying but surprisingly there are plenty of people out there that just don’t throw a jig for bass. There are tons of manufactures of jigs on the market as well as several different head types. With such a buffet on the market it makes sense as to why a lot of people don’t know where to start when it comes to a jig.
There are essentially four different styles of jigs: football, casting, flipping and grass heads make up the majority of jigs you find in stores. While all of those have their time and place, the nice thing about a jig is that you can fish it almost anywhere, anyway, and anytime despite head style.
The one jig I won’t head on the water without is a Terminator Pro Series jig. The great thing about this jig is that they are relatively inexpensive but still offer high-quality components. These jigs come in several sizes from ¼-ounce all the way up to 1-ounce making it easy to fish any depth and any cover.
A jig is something that can catch fish year round. Usually the only modification needed is to adjust the size of the trailer or weight of the jig. Early in the year start with a light jig – ¼- to 3/8-ounce depending on depth – and tip it with a do-nothing trailer like a Zoom Chunk or Uncle Josh Pork Frog. These add bulk to the bait slowing the fall rate down. As the water warms up go bigger in weight – again depending on depth and cover – and add trailers with more action to them like a Trigger X Flappin Craw or Strike King Rage Craw. The Terminator Pro Series jig is just as comfortable being dragged over deep rock piles as it is being flipped into heavy grass or wood. Its head shape also makes it great to use as a swim jig if you need to cover more water.
Arguably one of the most exciting ways to fish is with frog-style baits. Not only is it a visually pleasing way to catch bass, it also opens up a lot more water for anglers to fish either from shore or on a boat. Oh, and it also is a great way to catch some of the biggest bass that swim in a given body of water.
Some people will argue that certain frogs are better than others, while others ride the train of thought that they all do the same thing. While there can be some truth to the first argument, it really depends on what you plan to do with the frog. Over the past few years professional anglers have begun to discover just how deadly these baits can be when fished outside of the traditional “slop” frogs are generally associated with.
The Spro Bronzeye Frog is one of the more well known frogs on the market mainly due to the coverage that professional bass angler Dean Rojas has given to it. Rojas has shown fellow frog fanatics that it’s ok to break the mold of traditional frog tactics and cast a frog in open water or skip it under a dock.
There really isn’t a wrong way to fish a frog. They are weedless and can be fished around whatever cover you please. While matted weedbeds and lily pads are prime targets for these frogs, they are just as effective around weedlines, shallow flats and standing timber. Most modern frogs feature a keel shape on the belly of the bait to allow the frog to “walk” in open water with simple slow twitches of the rod. With the versatility of a frog to be fished around thick cover and in open water places you may otherwise throw standard topwaters with treble hooks, it naturally lends itself to be a standard in an angler’s arsenal of baits.
Another reason these baits are a must in a tackle selection is due to the fact you can catch bass on them from pre spawn all the way through the fall. Once the water temperature reaches above that 50-degree mark a frog can be fished with confidence.
As far as frog choices go, there are a few things to consider when buying one. Make sure the frog has a high quality hook and soft body. These two things will provide much better hook up ratios. The Spro Bronzeye, Scum Frog Trophy Series, and Strike King KVD Sexy Frog are just a few on the market but there are plenty of others that will get the job done. Don’t hesitate to sample the popping- and buzzing-style frogs that are out there either – they can be lethal in open water.
When it comes to mimicking baitfish, nothing beats a crankbait. With the right selection of colors a crankbait can resemble a bluegill, crawfish or shad with ease. Not only can a crankbait elicit a strike from a hungry bass they can also trigger a reaction strike when bounced off of cover which is why they work so good in a wide array of conditions.
The main thing when fishing a crankbait is to select one that will maintain contact with whatever cover you are fishing. The one exception to this can be weeds, though that is when a square bill crankbait can come into play. Whether its weeds, wood or rock it is important to have a lineup of baits that run true right out if the package.
Rapala makes a series of crankbaits as well that fit the bill perfectly – the DTseries. One of the best aspects of the DT series is that you know just by looking at the bait number how deep it will dive. Say you have a DT-10; it will dive 10 feet on a cast with 12-pound test line (which is the standard pound test for crankbait diving depths). The DT Fat series is their square bill and is perfect for working around shallow wood and over the tops of weeds.
Spring is prime time to throw a square bill. The fish are moving shallow and relating to structure and a square bill can often trigger bites from fish reluctant to strike anything else. When the water warms and the fish move deep the DT-10 and DT-16 are the perfect tools to find fish on deep rock piles. Though the nice thing about crankbaits however, is that you can find fish willing to eat anyone of these baits during the open water season.
This last rig is something most bass-heads know about though they rarely utilize it. The shaky head jig is known as a numbers producer rather than a big-fish bait. Without a doubt a finesse worm rigged on a shaky head will catch fish day in and day out in almost any season.
Both the VMC Dominator and Stand Up Shakey Head jigs excel in different situations. The Dominator jig has a straight shank and collar to hold the plastic. When the jig falls it imparts a spiraling motion to the plastic, which usually draws more strikes. But if the fish are less active then the Stand Up head with the screw lock gets the nod. The VMC Stand Up jig keeps the plastic straight when rigged so it provides a more subtle action when the fish are less active.
Early in the year when fish are in lethargic moods a light shaky head – like a 3/16-ounce jig – and a small finesse worm such as a Berkley Power Shaky Worm is the ticket. This can be fished all season long but by using larger profile worms or creature baits and heavier jigs the shaky head becomes a rig for numbers and size. The smaller profile works well early in the year but once the fish move into their summer haunts then it’s time to beef up the presentation. Often time’s 5/16- or ½-ounce shaky heads with bigger baits produce the better bites in the summer. Experimenting with different jig sizes and plastic types that fit your style of fishing is the best way to see what works.
Due to the way plastics are rigged on a shaky head the rig is virtually weedless. Like many of the other baits discussed, shaky heads can be fished around and through most any cover. From skipping under docks to pitching them into wood cover on heavier line, shaky heads fit right at home wherever they go.
This is a perfect bait to throw when times get tough or you know you need to get bites. It will add confidence to any angler if you keep a few shaky heads in your arsenal.
As anglers we often fall into ruts where we can get too close-minded about what works and what doesn’t. While a lot of you reading this probably have a few if not all of these baits in your tackle box ask yourself if you utilize each of them to their full potential. Crazy as it sounds a lot of these baits go overlooked by anglers because they simply aren’t willing to try something new. Put these five baits in your tackle box this year and be prepared to handle anything you come across when you take to the water!