The Deadly Drift

When all else fails, leave it alone.

Field & Stream Online Editors

The more natural a lure appears in the water, the better the chance a big bass will strike. One of the most natural of all presentations is the technique of dead-sticking, which can be used in both shallow and deep water.

In either situation, the presentation is the same: Cast, then leave your lure alone. In water less than 10 feet deep, this may mean letting your lure lie absolutely motionless on the bottom for two or three minutes before you reel in and cast again.

"Dead-sticking works because the lure looks natural and also because spawning bass are very territorial and can't stand having an intruder remain that long around a bed," explains Art Berry, a San Diego¿¿¿based guide who has used dead-sticking to land bass over 15 pounds.

For shallow water, Berry prefers a 4- to 5-inch plastic centipede or lizard, rigged weightless on a 2/0 hook and 6-pound-test line. On occasion, he also tries a drop-shot, using a 1/16-ounce sinker and putting the lizard 4 inches above the weight. When he sees a bass over 10 pounds, Berry throws a larger shad- or trout-pattern sinking swim bait and lets it sit in the nest. He then may wait 15 to 20 minutes or longer. "The worst mistake you can make with any bedding bass is to chase it after you've spooked it from the bed," Berry says. "In a few minutes that bass will return, and if your lure is still there, the fish will eventually pick it up to move it.

"The key is being patient and not moving your lure at all. Don't shake it, hop it, or crawl it. You may not even be able to see the bass or its bed, so you have to watch your line. Most of the time you won't feel the pickup, either."

Dead-sticking in deep water is done with a 10- or 12-inch floating swim bait. The technique is to make a long cast to the outside edges of points or over submerged cover and simply let the lure drift quietly on the surface.

"Your bait may float 40 minutes," Berry says, "then all of a sudden it disappears in a huge strike. Big bass can't resist the chance at such an easy meal."