The Encyclopedia of Bait Your guide to today’s best lures, rigs and flies from A (Alabama Rig) to Z (Zoo Cougar). By Joe Cermele, with Will Brantley, Kirk Deeter, Colin Kearns, John Merwin, T. Edward Nickens and Don Wirth.
Alabama Rig
The bass weapon everyone’s talking about Last October, bass pro Paul Elias used a strange new rig to win an FLW Tour event on Lake Guntersville. He weighed in more than 102 pounds of bass in four days, rivaling tour weight records that are normally set in spring. A week later, Dan Morehead fished the same rig to win another major FLW event on Kentucky Lake. Three of the other top five finishers on Kentucky Lake used it, too. Elias’s and Morehead’s secret weapon was the Alabama Rig. And it’s been on back order ever since. Basically a castable umbrella rig, the Alabama Rig is a far cry from your standard bass bait. Five 1⁄8-ounce jigs tipped with swimbaits (or other plastics) are attached to a wire harness. With a simple cast-and-retrieve, the plastics swim in tandem to imitate a school of shad. “I’ve fished competitively for 18 years,” Morehead says, “and I’ve never seen anything trigger a predatory response in fish like this. When bass are suspended and targeting baitfish, it works like nothing else.” Morehead once reeled in three fish at once–including two 4-pounders. An Alabama Rig is heavy, so it requires heavy tackle. Morehead uses a 7-foot 4-inch, medium-heavy swimbait rod and a baitcasting reel with 80-pound braid. “It’ll wear you out by the end of the day, but anybody can fish it,” he says. “And it’ll work on largemouths, smallmouths, stripers, you name it. I even hear they’re coming out with a smaller version for crappie fishing.” In January, BASS outlawed the Alabama Rig in Elite and Classic tournaments, and it has been declared illegal in some states. Check regulations. –W.B.
Bacon-and-Eggs Rig
The two-in-one meal trout can’t resist Combine a strip of bacon (a mealworm) with a delicious egg (a synthetic floating salmon egg) and you’ve got a rig that trout can’t resist. The bacon-and-eggs rig not only presents two morsels at once but does so in a way that gets the bait in front of big trout more often. By ditching the natural salmon egg and opting for a synthetic one, such as those made by Z‑Man or Berkley, you’ve got an eye-grabbing attractor and a means to float a mealworm just off the bottom as it ticks through a run. First, slip the egg onto the hook and push it up to the eye. Now run the hook through the worm and add a split shot or two 18 inches up the line. It’s best fished on 4- to 6-pound-test. You can cast the rig to distant seams and eddies without worrying about the egg flying off like delicate natural roe. –J.C.
The newest artificial baits bass hit out of hate In late spring, pro bass angler Jami Fralick passes over the shad and crayfish lures in his box. He has something else that’ll tick the bass off–something they don’t eat as much as attack. That something is a bluegill. “The cool thing about a bluegill lure,” he says, “is bass don’t have to be in a feeding mood to hit it. They’ll smack it out of sheer aggression.” The lures come in several styles, and the newest models, such as the Ultimate Bluegill or the Giron (pictured), look as good as the real thing…only they can cost upwards of $20 or more. But as Fralick puts it: “That’s a small price to pay for a heavy sack of bass in a major tournament.” Or a fat lunker on your wall. –D.W.
The British Invasion of carp bait Over the last few years carp fishing has grown in popularity in the U.S., but it’s long been the main passion of European anglers. If you chase suckermouths, steal a page from the European carp book and try a boilie. This round bait ball, made with everything from soy flour to milk proteins to semolina, ranges greatly in size and flavor, as European boilie makers have their own unique ingredients and formulas. Most boilies float, and in the U.K. the bait is fished on a hair rig: The boilie is threaded onto a thin piece of line extending past the hook bend. Keeping the hook out of the boilie allows it to float up and hover just off the bottom, making it easier for carp to eat. Several U.S. tackle companies, such as, import boilies and hair rigs to sell stateside. –J.C.
Charles, Ray
The best scud pattern you’ve never heard of I walked into the fly shop for work, and the manager showed me a new batch of flies she’d tied. They were beadhead scuds, but not like any I’d ever seen. “What fly is this?” “It’s a Ray Charles,” she said. Like a dumb trout, I took the bait. “Why’s it called that?” “Because even a blind man can catch fish with them.” I bought a couple of the flies that day, and caught more than a couple of big Missouri River trout with them that evening. The Ray Charles has been my go-to scud pattern ever since, catching me hundreds more trout in big western rivers and technical eastern streams. For best results, dead-drift the fly under an indicator or an Elk Hair Caddis while whistling “What’d I Say.” –C.K.
The insect that slays fish no matter the year The cicada is a big bug, fat as a pig in a blanket, so it’s no surprise it’ll lure stout bites from bass, catfish, or even a panfish willing to handle a supersize morsel. There are two types of cicada: the annual dog-day cicada that emerges every summer and trills from the treetops, and the periodical cicadas that erupt every 13 or 17 years (depending on location) in uncountable millions. When the periodical cicada hatch is on, fish gorge on the red-eyed insect, but even the dog-day cicada is worth stringing on a hook. Just pluck one off a branch, but don’t fret: Even though it’s a bit freaky to hold such a large insect, cicadas can’t bite. If it’s alive, float the bug on the surface with a light cork and let the big wings provide a buzzbait ruckus for largemouths. If it’s dead, sink it slowly with split shot. –T.E.N.
The lure that’s never out of style It’s hard to beat a Dardevle spoon, at least when it comes to an all-purpose lure. That’s just as true now as it was in 1906 when Lou Eppinger began concocting it while working as a taxidermist in Detroit. After some early variations, Eppinger called his creation the Dardevle in 1918, and by 1923 was advertising it in Field & Stream. Sales went from a few hundred a year quickly into the thousands. By the 1980s, Eppinger Manufacturing was selling more than 3 million every year. Two things account for a century of success, starting with brand recognition combined with angler loyalty. Every fisherman knows what a Dardevle is. And fishermen are typically intensely brand loyal; if it was good enough for Dad and Grandpa, it’s good enough for me. The other reason is simple: Dardevles catch fish. That wobbling back-and-forth action in assorted spoon sizes and colors still catches everything from bluegills to muskies. A Dardevle is probably not the single best lure for largemouth bass. Not for walleyes, either. Some very specialized lures will often work better for a particular species. But when it comes to one all-around lure for catching some of everything, you can’t beat a Dardevle. –J.M.
The bait that broke a 29-year-old world record In Aug. 2011, Connecticut angler Greg Myerson caught an 81.8-pound striped bass that trumped the former all-tackle world-record striper by nearly 3 pounds. Myerson’s fish ate a live eel, which is arguably one of the best striper baits ever. The problem with eels is they’re expensive–about four bucks a pop. Hooking an eel through the top jaw and out one eye lets the bait breathe better–and lets you return any uneaten eels to the live well for later striper adventures. –J.C.
The proof that it’s easy fishing green Whether you pitch lures like a tournament pro, carry a 7-weight fly rod, or tote a bucket of live frogs, one of these presentations will help you hook a big bass. Green Machine: To maximize your catch with the ­River2Sea Dahlberg Diver Frog, which kicks and retracts its legs subsurface, then floats up to rest with only its eyes breaking the film, work it aggressively between the pads–but give it a minute-long pause against a pad to simulate a frog that thinks it’s found safety. Super Fly: With leather legs that flutter on the strip and a front popping disk that throws plenty of water, the B-17 Jumping Frog Fly (top) draws more attention than a classic spun-hair frog–and floats longer, too. To create a better bubble trail for bass to follow, snip the legs down the center to make four strips. Leg Up: Pass the hook through one back leg of a live frog right where it meets the body. Fifteen inches above the hook, add a 1⁄2-ounce clip weight to your line and cast the rig to the edge of the lily pads or cover. When the frog tries to swim up for a breath, it won’t be able to lift the weight, and its struggles will grab the attention of any largemouth bass in the area. –J.C.
Garage Lures
The cult of the boutique bait Rapala, Zoom, and Heddon are household lure names, but there are innumerable baits you’ve never heard of that will outfish your old standbys. Some of today’s lures are being churned out in garages, small workshops, and basements across the U.S., and in-the-know anglers are using them to up catch rates. Here are three underground patterns you should know about. Trophy Stick (top): Handcrafted, hand-tuned, and engineered to survive a beating, the Trophy Stick has earned a quiet cult following among anglers looking for behemoth bass and epic trout. With its ultrarealistic scale patterns and an erratic ripping action, think of a Trophy Stick as what Van Gogh would’ve come up with if he’d been asked to redesign the Original Rapala Floater. Lunker Punker (middle): From California-based Black Dog Baits, the Lunker Punker is a walk-the-dog topwater with a unique design that causes the head to ride a bit higher above the surface, creating more noise and a bit more splash. This secret weapon among largemouth and striper fishermen is available in a wooden or injection-molded plastic body. Bass Kandy Delight (bottom): The brainchild of Capt. Steve Seigel, the BKD (as faithful users call it) combines the action of a Slug-Go with that of a Zoom Fluke. It has a wigglier tail and the plastic is more durable, making this bait a favorite among trophy striper and largemouth hunters. The ribbed sides also create a vibration that similar soft plastics don’t have. –J.C.
The latest in a long line of flops “But wait, there’s more!” Sound familiar? It should, as it’s the phrase made famous by TV pitchman Ron Popeil in selling his Pocket Fisherman, which was the world’s bestselling useless fishing product. It was Popeil’s success that provided a model for fishing-lure infomercials hawking a variety of gimmicky gadgets. There was the Banjo Minnow, the Flying Lure, and the Helicopter Lure–all of which carried the “As Seen on TV!” label as if that fact alone made them worthy. None ever dominated the tackle industry despite the hype, nor did they become classics. The latest lure in infomercial puffery is the Mighty Bite fishing system, which is basically a scented, soft-plastic swimbait sold as a kit with hooks, rattles, and weights for just $19.95!* The “only proven 5-sense fishing lure system” with its “incredible spasmic action” is hyped to catch just about anything. Please, give me a break. I can buy pretty much the same lure in any tackle shop for less money, made by a major-brand company that I trust. Hopefully the Mighty Bite will eventually fade as all such gimmicks do. –J.M. *Plus $9.95 “processing and handling.”
The meanest, wickedest smallie bait ever There’s nothing new about hellgrammites. They’re still expensive–about $20 per dozen. Their pincers still draw blood. But anglers gladly put up with all of that because when it comes to hellgrammites, well, nothing is new: They still catch more moving-water smallmouths than any other bait today. Anglers who put serious stock in ‘mites can save cash by seining their own in late spring and summer using a piece of door screening stretched between two posts. One angler lifts rocks, while the other stands downstream with the makeshift seine to collect hellgrammites that flush downcurrent. Once you have your bait, you can make it last with proper hooking. Slide the point of a long-shank hook just once under the collar, which is the first body segment behind the head. Hellgrammites are hardy, and hooked this way, the bait should slide up the line when a bass attacks, allowing you to reseat the hellgrammite and cast out again. –J.C.
The cutting edges of modern tackle Long gone are the days when hooks bent with little effort, rusted inside your tackle box, and dulled after one snag on a submerged branch. Tackle companies have taken hooks to the next level, combining science, technology, and modern art to create hooks that would have shocked your grandpa. These two are the strongest and sharpest you’ll find in tackle shops today. Lazer Trokar (left): The three-sided point on a Trokar is surgically sharpened to such a razor edge and needle point that a fish can practically breathe on it and get hooked. The hook is made of high-carbon steel, and its extreme sharpness helps punch through even tough soft-plastic baits on the hookset with ease. VMC Cone Cut Point (right): The Cone Cut Point ensures solid hookups two ways. First, the smooth, conical tip penetrates with little effort. Second, the triangular sides below the point quickly push it in past the barb. Several Cone Cut models are made of vanadium steel, which is used to make engine parts; it’s light and strong. These hooks have become popular with anglers that need to present small baits to brute fish–like sardines to yellowfin tuna. –J.C.
Ice Dub
The revolutionary fly-tying material that does it all Flies fall into two categories: They imitate natural bugs or they attract the attention of fish. A new synthetic called Ice Dub, when wrapped into the body of a fly, does both. Classic nymph patterns like the Hare’s Ear and Prince look just as realistic when they are tied with Ice Dub, yet they also flash and draw eyeballs–especially in low-light conditions–better than the same patterns tied with natural fur and feathers. In flyfishing, seeing is half of the believing equation for trout, and Ice Dub commands notice better than anything else. –K.D.
The innovation that brings lures to life What makes a hard bait come alive in the water? Based on the latest from major manufacturers, the answer is joints. ABT’s new Banshee swimbait (top) is a triple-jointed flat-bodied baitfish imitator. This lure just might be the best match of a live baitfish in hard plastic ever. Lucky Craft is now using joints to modify a lure style that has remained relatively unchanged. Its Fat Smasher (bottom) combines the short, stocky body of a crankbait with the tight-wobbling joints of a swimbait. At any speed, the Fat Smasher whips its body while spicing up the proven profile of a crank. –J.C.
The bait trick that makes catfish go “Oh yeah!” Kool-Aid powder can be used to dye bucktail for use on lures and flies, but if you’re a catfisherman, don’t overlook this stuff when baiting up. Cut a few hot dogs into bite-size chunks, place them in a zip-seal bag, then add one packet of strawberry Kool-Aid powder and half a cup of water (and even some minced garlic for extra flavor). Refrigerate for 48 hours, and you’ll have baits that slowly release a sweet, fruity scent and will stand out in the murky water big cats love. –J.C.
The plastic surgery of modern lures For a long time there were two styles of crankbait and stickbait lips: long and short. Long lips got lures deep; short lips made them run shallow. Nowadays, manufacturers have begun rethinking lip designs to achieve different actions and increase hookups. Two examples are Sebile’s Koolie Minnow ­and XCalibur’s Square Lip crankbait. The Koolie Minnow’s diving lip connects to the nose of the lure via a thin stem, which reduces drag and allows the lure to reach its running depth faster than others. In a minor tweak, the paddlelike lip of XCalibur’s Square Lip (pictured) is shaped to deflect off hard cover, making a sound that will trigger strikes from otherwise reluctant bass. –J.C.
The perfect fish food–at the right price You may turn your nose up at a maggot, but to a fish, a fly larva is pure protein, without all the fuss of dealing with a hard exoskeleton, backbone, or even worse, pincers. And when you consider that $10 plus shipping will deliver 1,000 maggots to your door, maggots are about the best bait deal going. Bottle-fly larvae are deadly on crappies, bluegills, perch, landlocked salmon, and trout. Just like a wedding dress, they come in basic white, or your choice of outlandish reds, blues, pinks, and greens. When it’s time to bait up, use a small dry-fly hook, and keep the maggot alive and active by skewering the hook through the skin on the thick end instead of threading the maggot on the hook. Maggots also make great chum and can push a slow bluegill bite into a feeding frenzy. Just keep them refrigerated, or they’ll hatch out wherever you happen to have forgotten them. –T.E.N.
The most exciting fake rodent you can fish There’s just something about a mouse getting inhaled by a largemouth in the lily pads or by a hog brown trout on a dark river that gets your heart racing. Mouse lures and flies have increased in popularity recently, thanks largely to an uptick in coverage in fly magazines and bass videos. Lynch’s White-Bellied Mouse is the latest rodent fly from Orvis, and it’s already gaining a reputation for raising big trout with its foam head, rubber legs, and bushy body that gurgles across the surface. Z-Man’s new soft-plastic UltraMouse floats high and will right itself so you always get a clean presentation. If you like handcrafted lures, the Water Vole from CL8 ­ is a jointed wooden imitator that will swim just below the surface or right on top, creating a wake with its side-to-side action and long rubber tail. –J.C. Pictured, clockwise from top left: Lynch’s White-Bellied Mouse; CL8 Water Vole; Z-Man Ultramouse.
Nelson, Willie
The high-and-mighty imitation of the lowly leech The Willie Nelson streamer is nothing but a variation of the egg-sucking leech. Yet it is one of the patterns that kicked off the recent articulated streamer boom, giving way to other popular articulated flies, such as the Sculpzilla and Trina’s Bullet. These patterns have more action in the water with less need to aggressively work the rod. Such flies can be lethal in cold temps. Slow-crawl the streamer through an eddy or beneath an undercut bank and get ready to get slammed. –J.C.
The lures with peculiar patterns Sure, you’ve heard of colors like Sexy Shad and Motor Oil, but how about Herpes, Hematoma, or Sweet Potato Pie? These unique patterns have become go-to tones in the bass and muskie world. Hematoma, offered by Reaction Innovations on their line of soft plastics, is a black-and-blue combo, reminiscent of how your eye would look after a bar fight. And what started out as a custom color for muskie lure maker Tony Spicker became Herpes (top) after the original client noted a similarity between the ugly dot pattern and the venereal disease symptoms. (We don’t even want to know.) Today, Herpes is one of Spicker’s most sought-after patterns. If you’re after an original color that catches tons of fish but isn’t so gross, Wave’s Sweet Potato Pie (bottom) has swirls of red, orange, yellow, and brown–and drives bass crazy. –J.C.
Panfish Crawl
The slow-popping, slow-water fly retrieve Developed to work wet flies on still water, the panfish crawl is a retrieval technique all fly anglers should have in their back pockets, as it can be used to give flies a different action in a variety of situations and really helps bring flies with newer undulating materials (see Undulation) to life. After laying out a cast, grab the fly line just ahead of the reel with your stripping hand. Alternating between your pinky finger and forefinger, quickly gather the line into your palm, turn your wrist down, then drop the slack line out of your hand. This achieves a slow popping action with the fly as you advance it forward and automatically imparts short pauses. The tactic works great for wet flies on lakes and ponds, but try using the crawl to bring a bunny-strip streamer through a slow eddy, skate a foam hopper across the surface, or bounce a shrimp fly for bonefish or red drum on the flats. –J.C.
Quick-Strike Rig
The killer rig with a catch-and-release twist Most muskie hunters who send out live suckers are familiar with the quick-strike rig. This bait harness features two treble hooks connected by biteproof steel wire. One hook is rigged in the bait’s head, and the other is near the tail to thwart short strikes. The only problem with the traditional quick-strike is that it doesn’t do much to promote catch-and-release. That’s easily fixed with a tiny rubber band and a flip of the bait. Rather than rig a sucker headfirst, plant one point of the lead hook in the tail. Then, using a rigging needle, thread a small rubber band through the bait’s nostrils to create an anchor point for the second hook. Muskies often attack headfirst, and with the treble seated in the rubber band, it can quickly break free upon the hookset, increasing the odds that the fish won’t swallow the sucker and all that hardware. Not only will this help keep the muskie hooked just inside the mouth, but it will reduce the odds of the second hook’s snagging its face or gills, which can hinder a quick release. –J.C.
The world-record-breaking lure company The numbers don’t lie. Since 1975, Rapala lures have caught 502 IGFA-certified record fish–more than any other lure company’s. The Rapala record book includes more than 150 different species caught across six continents, and the records are shared among many styles of ­Rapalas–although popular models such as the Skitter Pop (top), CountDown Magnum (bottom), and Shad Rap are among the leaders. It’s worth noting, however, that multiple record entries merely list “Rapala” as the name of the lure. In some cases, the fisherman of note might not have known the specific lure model that caught the fish–or it’s possible that Rapala was listed because the angler didn’t know any better. Still, there are vastly more cases where the specific Rapala lure was cited, so you can’t deny that these lures catch fish–­period. Because after all, the numbers don’t lie. –C.K.
Sebile, Patrick
The man behind the world’s coolest lures It’s easy to tell that Patrick Sebile is perhaps the world’s most imaginative lure designer. None of his creations look like lures from other brands. There’s a fair amount of copycatting in the industry, but over the past five years, Sebile has been the strikingly original exception. His first hit was the Magic Swimmer, a double-jointed hard swimbait that debuted as he formed his company in 2006. Other models soon followed–stickbaits, topwaters, and jerkbaits, each with some unique Sebile touch, such as putting suspended glitter inside a translucent lure body to simulate the scales falling from a wounded baitfish. The next home run was the Magic Swimmer Soft (pictured) in 2009 and its included soft-weight system. This superb soft-plastic swimbait relies on molded grooves in its sides for action, instead of the more common paddletail. The soft-weight system, meanwhile, uses small tungsten-impregnated flexible washers that can be added to or removed from the large, wide-gap hook to change fishing depth. The weights can also be repositioned on the hook shank to change the bait’s attitude in the water from level to nose down, for example. Sebile sold his company in 2011 to Pure Fishing. To my mind, such acquisitions don’t often foster innovation. But I’m hoping that Sebile will again be the exception. –J.M.
Slow Death Rig
The rig walleye pros wanted to keep hush-hush The Slow Death rig originated in South Dakota, and for years walleye pros tried to keep it secret. Word got out. This rig blends the subtlety of a Lindy rig with the efficiency of a spinner and bottom bouncer. On the uniquely shaped hook, the nightcrawler has a slow, corkscrewing action when trolled at the optimum speed–.8 to 1 mph–that walleyes can’t resist. Each hook comes tied to a 6-foot, 10-pound fluorocarbon leader (shorten the leader if you’re snagging), which you then tie to a 1- to 11⁄4-ounce bottom bouncer with 10-pound braided main line. Thread a nightcrawler onto the hook just past the knot and pinch it off so it extends 3⁄4 inch past the hook bend. Walleye pro Eric Olson typically pulls his Slow Death rigs along breaklines with two rods–one 71⁄2-footer in a rod holder and one 61⁄2-footer in his hand–with low-profile baitcasting reels. –W.B.
The super metal Bullet Weights’ quick-change weight system, designed for Carolina rigging, is one of many new products taking advantage of tungsten. Flies with tungsten beadheads or tungsten weights for bass fishing cost a little more money than the brass and lead varieties, but this super metal is taking off lately for two reasons: First, conservation-minded anglers can feel better about break-offs, as this material isn’t toxic to wildlife. Second, tungsten is dense, which means it takes less of it to get a fly, jig, or worm down fast. When you need to present a small-profile lure or fly deep, tungsten will get it into the zone more effectively and can stop you from having to scale up your offering. –J.C.
The motion that makes flies come to life There was a time when fly design revolved exclusively around factors such as body profile and colors. But with the application of today’s innovative tying materials like rubber legs and synthetic fibers, tiers can give their flies a lifelike action in the water that looks almost as good as the real thing. The realistic undulation of patterns such as ­DeGala’s Hula Damsel (top) or Craven’s Double Gonga (bottom) often amounts to an offer a finicky trout or bass simply cannot refuse. Running any of these patterns through a feeding lane is like having a robo duck spinning its wings in the middle of a flotilla of decoys. Making it look real is half the battle, but making it actually act as if it is alive is as close as you can come to live bait and still call yourself a fly angler. –K.D.
VanDam, Kevin
The No. 1 bass pro–and his No. 1 bass lure In 10 BASS tournaments last year, Kevin VanDam earned $706,500 for 471.57 pounds of bass. We asked KVD for his top moneymaking lure. Here’s his selection: “The KVD Series 1.5 square-bill crankbait in black-back chartreuse has been very good to me. It was the winning lure for me at the Bassmaster Classic. It runs to about 6 feet, and I like to throw it around shallow cover–stumps, rocks, boat docks, anything like that. Instead of just a normal side-to-side wiggle of a crankbait, this has an erratic hunting or searching action to it that the bass just can’t handle.” –C.K.
The new lures for a classic technique In the 1930s, Heddon introduced the Zara Spook topwater. Little did anyone know then that this oblong hunk of wood would be responsible for sparking a whole new fishing technique. Although an original Zara retrieved in the rhythmic, zigzag cadence still crushes fish, a new line of imitators offer their own unique tweaks. Yum’s Money Hound is a soft-plastic version that can be rigged weedless and tossed in cover where Zaras couldn’t go. Rapala’s SubWalk riffs on the original by adding tail fins and a bit of weight to cause the bait to have that same walking action just below the surface. –J.C.
The next-generation floater Though Rapala’s Original Floater was, is, and forever will be a staple, those who haven’t tried an X-Rap are missing out on a fresh version of the Floater, equally destined for long-term greatness. Introduced in 2005, Rapala’s X-Rap twitchbaits are similar in shape to the Floater but meant to be fished far more aggressively. The harder you twitch the rod, the more erratically these baits slash from side to side, diving with each whip of the tip and suspending in place. From walleyes to bass to trout, there is no species an X-Rap won’t catch in shallow to middle depths, which is why this lure has already earned its rightful place in the tackle bags of guides and pros in just a few short years. –J.C.
Yamamoto, Gary
The man who invented the Senko Every year, soft-plastic lure manufacturers scramble to one-up one another with new spins on worms, creature baits with the most gnarly tentacles, or tougher materials that can be stretched 2 feet before snapping. The Yamamoto Senko, however, is arguably the most revolutionary soft plastic created in the last 20 years–and its form has yet to change one lick. Company owner Gary Yamamoto has been designing baits for more than three decades, but the Senko made him a legend in the bass world. The bait, tapered at both ends, is far denser than other soft plastics, which allows it to sink quickly. Many bass anglers refer to Senko fishing as “stupid fishing,” because anyone, regardless of skill, can catch fish with this lure. They can be rigged in countless ways, but the wacky rig–one hook straight through the center of the lure with no added weight–is easily the most potent Senko delivery method. Cast out, let the lure fall, and wait for a strike. The slow wobble on the drop is irresistible to largemouth bass. And for that, you have Gary Yamamoto to thank. –J.C.
Zoo Cougar
The pattern that changed streamer fishing Big flies catch big trout. Why? Because the fish that get older, longer, and tougher inevitably morph from being timid insect sippers to river predators, and that means they key on pure protein. They also don’t like to share with others, so they attack things that get in their face. Kelly Galloup created his Zoo Cougar streamer specifically to target the biggest boys in the river. With a wide deer-hair head, a tantalizing mallard flank, a calf tail, and sparkle braid accents, this streamer pattern actually floats on flat water. But when you tie it to a short leader below a sinking fly line, then throw and strip it in moving current (especially near the banks), it jerks and weaves. It displaces water and makes nervous bubbles. It wheels wildly in a way that demands attention. Big rainbow and brown trout aren’t sure whether they should eat the Zoo Cougar or just fight it. But they bite it either way. –K.D.

_Your guide to today’s best lures, rigs and flies from A (Alabama Rig) to Z (Zoo Cougar).

By Joe Cermele, with Will Brantley, Kirk Deeter, Colin Kearns, John Merwin, T. Edward Nickens and Don Wirth._