There are no “real secrets” when it comes to the shared knowledge of the modern competitive bass fishing world - we know who caught what and where, and what bait did the damage. Television, magazines and the Internet have exposed all the top anglers’ secret choice in baits and in the process developed many up and coming anglers.
One aspect of a pro’s approach that is not as easily understood, is what they are thinking when they choose and utilize a particular bait within a particular scenario. In this context, not just any angler can duplicate this approach and enjoy success. This is their secret!
I feel confident in summarizing every swimming bass into one of the three following categories, namely bass that want to bite, bass that will not bite and bass that you can force to bite. I see many anglers, including myself on occasion, trying to force fish to bite that simply will not. You need to make the distinction between these categories of fish and use your choice of bait as your identifying indicator. 90% of my fishing is spent using baits that elicit bites, baits that appeal to fish that want to bite and baits that force bass to bite. A Mojo rigged plastic is not forcing a fish to bite, get the picture? In the last three seasons my partner and I have enjoyed 10 first place finishes including dozens of top 3 finishes. The real achievement behind this is the fact that we owe a total of zero of these wins to conventional plastic baits! Another classic example is KVD’s recent convincing Bassmaster Classic victory - fishing a lipless bait in 45 degree water. He never touched a plastic bait for 3 days and neither did any of his close rivals! He was targeting fish that wanted to bite, and fish that were forced into biting by using an epic example of a reaction bait.
here am I going with all of this? You need to start incorporating this thinking into your approach and trust me, you will see the difference. So what baits do I use that make this difference for me? Remember, I am appealing to fish that want to bite and fish that will react to a chosen tactic. Shallow, grassy areas call for 2 types of baits. Firstly a frog representation scores high on my list. I mainly use 2 styles of frogs namely the Horny Toad as well as the Bronzeye Frog. When I approach a shallow, flooded vegetation type area I will always prospect the area with a topwater frog. If the particular area is monotonous with few targets, I will burn the Horny Toad. If there are particular breaks in the cover with distinguished targets then the Bronzeye Frog will take to the water, allowing me to slow down the approach when needed. Topwater frogs catch fish - they catch fish that are hunting and make fish react into biting even when they do not want to. That constant irritating buzz and invasive speed causes wary bass to lash out without thinking twice. You will notice that many fishes are missed on these baits and apart from adjusting your hook set, don’t throw the frog back at a missed fish. The frogs get the fish to give away their position. Once a fish has blown up on your frog, you now know the position of this fish. It is wary but its mood has changed and it is on the lookout for what made all the noise. I never throw the same bait twice - instead I will vary this with a spinnerbait or even a jig, and that invariably puts the fish in the boat!
The Aruku Shad is my second reliable shallow water bait and by saying shallow, I will swim this bait from 2-8ft with confidence, ripping it through the vegetation and pausing it intermittently to prompt bites from dormant fish. This is another fantastic example of a bait that puts bass in the mood. The fact that it moves fast and erratic and sounds like an approaching train, makes it extremely hard to resist.
Moving down in the water column brings me to my next best kept secret, and not only mine, I can promise you that. The “McStick”, designed by Mike McClelland is a killer mid water reaction bait. The bait is weighted and sounded by a soft tungsten transfer system which consists of a tungsten ball weight which transfers to the back of the bait when cast. This weights the bait correctly, preventing it from tumbling in the air and so increases your casting distance. Another awesome benefit of this tungsten rattle is the truly unique sound this bait generates when being worked from side to side. Instead of a high pitched rattle, predominant in most jerkbaits, the constant deep clacking of the McStick provides the fish with a new sound to hone in on! Loaded with super sharp trebles ensures that once hooked, the boat is the next stop. I absolutely recommend this bait when it comes to covering water fast, appealing to fish in all moods. Work it fast, work it slow and let it suspend over deep cover, and you will be amazed at the fish catching power of this bait!
Continuing with the depth element of my secret baits, brings me to my deepest secret, the all new Little John DD pioneered by Bass Pro John Crews. I have been fishing this deep diving bait for quite some time now and have enjoyed the fact that it really dives to 20ft. It has a slightly smaller than usual profile for a bait of this intent and thanks to its flat sides, gives off an extreme vibration and tight wobble. Instead of the lazy controlled action found in some deep diving baits, the Little John DD is a crankbait on steroids, angrily vibrating and deflecting off the deepest of cover, inviting bass over for a closer look. Reaction bites do not only take place in the shallows, with the Little John you will experience some of the most aggressive strikes imaginable. The already talked about Tungsten transfer system has once again been put to use and with the bait weighing in at 1oz, you will have no problem launching this crankbait into the distance, enabling you to achieve maximum dive depth. So now you are more aware of what baits will make bass bite, even when the may not want to. When you find yourself in a rut throwing the overused Mojo-rig or weightless jerkbait, change your approach a full 360 degrees and instead of begging fish to bite, leave them with no choice.
Unfortunately for me, all of these tactics and baits are no longer my secrets, because you now know about them!
*Grant Hewitt is a member of the Goya pro Staff.