During a business meeting with a high-level company manager from Minnesota about five years ago, the conversation changed from discussing how to sell more products to a passion we both shared -- bass fishing. For the remainder of the evening, my colleague shared with me how he caught literally hundreds of bass using a simple rig. I was skeptical -- a trait of most fishermen when they talk to other fishermen -- but I listened and told him I was game to try it. The results were astounding! I began easily catching dozens of bass each time I hit the lakes and ponds. If there were bass to be had, this rig would get them into the boat.
Now I'd like to share this with others, but with one condition. I'd like to ask that you practice catch-and-release when you fish. That's important to me because I want my grandkids to always enjoy the same thrills I've had over the years. The thrill of stalking, hooking, fighting, and landing a lunker bass is an experience everyone should have at least once in his lifetime.
- The tools. Before I tell you about the rig itself, it's important to ensure you have the proper gear. First, a medium-to-heavy rod is best because it will handle both the smaller fish as well as that monster you're searching for. The reel depends on your preference. I've never been good at handling a baitcaster, so I usually opt for a spinning reel. But my grandkids even catch nice bass on small closed-face reels, although I'd hate to see them have to get a 10-pounder into the boat with their SpongeBob Squarepants rod and reel! The line should be at least 8 lb. test and probably no larger than 14 lb test. This often depends on your skill level and experience in landing bass -- the more skill and experience, the lighter the line you can have success with. I typically use 10 lb. test, which I think is a good all-around choice.
- The rig. Now for the secret, and you have to promise not to laugh because I've already had the last laugh and it's mounted on my living room wall. The "secret" bait is commercially manufactured by several bait companies. It's best known as a "Salty Centipede," sold by Zoom. However, I've found other manufacturers with the same basic bait that is much less expensive when purchased in quantities. I generally use about 150 or more per season. The bait is a plastic or rubber worm that looks nothing like a worm. In fact, it closely resembles a crinkle-cut french fry. They are four inches long, but equally critical is the color. I've tried several colors and had limited success with some, but when I was first told of this bait, I was told that the best color is Watermelon Seed -- basically, a dark olive color with black specks throughout. Indeed, this has proven to be the ultimate weapon against bass.
- The hook. There are lots of "worm" hooks designed to hold plastic/rubber baits, particularly worms. You want to rig a weedless hook, meaning the point of the hook is embedded into the worm. To accomplish this with most worm hooks, you stick the point of the hook into the end of the rubber worm, exit about 1/2-inch down the worm, run this to the shank of the hook, and twist the worm so you can embed the point back into the worm. This works well, but has a disadvantage. You usually only get one good strike and the worm is too torn up to re-use. I've found a better way with a better hook. I use the Mister Twister Keeper Hooks. These hooks have a barbed baitholder pin attached to the eye. With these hooks, you simply slide the end of the worm up the baitholder pin and embed the point of the hook into the worm, keeping the entire worm body as straight as possible. I use 3/0 for the hook size and have caught bass from 1/4 lb. up to 6 or more pounds easily.
- The method. Now you have the secret rig, how do you fish it? Since it's weedless, you can fish very shallow, weedy areas where bass like to hang out. The Keeper Hooks also come in weighted models if you're fishing deeper than 10 feet or so. But I like to use it without any weight. You can still cast it about 30 yards or more and let it sink slowly. When I think I've hit bottom, I simply give the rod a few upward tugs to make it rise and sink, rise and sink, rise and sink. Meanwhile, keep an eye on your slack line. Most of the time, the bass will grab the bait as it is sinking back down and begin to move away with it slowly (although some feisty fish will immediately run with it). As you see your slack moving away and straightening, reel up slowly until you can "feel" the fish tugging on the line. Then it's a matter of hooking the fish with a quick and decisive backwards pull on the rod -- just like you see on the bass fishing shows. Once hooked, make sure your drag allows the fish to run if it's so inclined, but gradually reel in the line. It's important to keep your rod up and your line tight until the fish gets tired and rolls up to the boat.
I realize this isn't the ONLY way to catch a lot of bass, but I have to tell you -- I've been a bass fisherman for many years, and I've never seen anything that will catch bass and provide the fun and excitement that this rig does. Now that you know my "secret," I hope you enjoy catching these fighters as much as I do. But again, please remember that big bass are also the breeders for future generations. Practice catch-and-release so our kids and grandkids will also have plenty of fish to enjoy.