An Expert Guide to the Latest Techniques in Bass Fishing

Work a Worm in Reverse
Instead of a standard Texas-rig worm presentation, Florida pro Terry Scroggins takes a 4¿¿-inch french fry (stick worm) and inserts a 1/32-ounce nail weight, the kind normally used with soft jerkbaits, in its tail. He then rigs the worm on an offset hook, casts around likely cover, lets it settle to the bottom, and retrieves with light twitches of the rod tip. "When you pop the worm off the bottom and drop it, the nail in the tail actually makes the bait move away from you as it glides back down, much the way a live crayfish backs up when it's frightened,-¿ he says. "I can tell from the way they slam it that bass haven't seen this presentation in a soft bait before.-¿
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Add Wiggle to Your Worm
The ingenious WiggleFin ActionDisc, already a sensation among trout and salmon flyfishermen, is just beginning to make waves in bass lakes. "It's awesome,-¿ proclaims a top West Coast pro who is currently using it successfully (and anonymously) on the tournament trail. Created by Idaho angler Dean Teegarden, the ActionDisc enhances the movement of soft-plastic lures. Slide it on your line in front of the lure and use your normal retrieve; the martini glass-"shaped disc traps water, imparting sensational shimmy to the bait. It can be used with any soft-plastic lure, but the effect is most pronounced with ribbon-tail worms and lizards. It works great with Texas, Carolina, and drop-shot rigs.
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Float a Fly
This revolutionary light-line system catches surprisingly big bass in water as cold as 37 degrees. "Bass suspending in hyper-chilled water are extremely lethargic and often won't strike a moving lure,-¿ says Tennessee guide Jim Duckworth. "This method works by dangling a small hair jig resembling a tiny minnow in front of their noses for a long time.-¿ Position the jig 8 to 12 feet under a bobber, and present it on a whippy 8-foot spinning outfit spooled with 4-pound line. Cast to a steep rock bank and allow the fly to sink. In choppy water, hold the rod still-"waves will give the fly action. If it's calm, jiggle the rod tip slightly, pause, and repeat.
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Take a Jerkbait Deep
Jerkbaits are generally fished in 5 feet of water or less, but pro Frank Scalish of Cleveland, Ohio, catches bass down to 15 feet by jerking a big-lipped Bomber 24A minnow, which is normally trolled for walleyes. Scalish adds weight to its belly to make it suspend and dive deeper. To do this, pound two 1/16-ounce lead bullet sinkers flat and epoxy them to the lure on both sides of the leading treble hook. To test for the proper balance, put the lure in a bucket of water. File the lead weights until it suspends. Scalish casts his modified 24A on 8-pound-test monofilament to clear-water bass holding as deep as 25 feet. The bait gets down 11 to 12 feet on a long cast and brings up bass that don't respond to regular jerkbaits.
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Drop-Shot The Weeds
Drop-shotting is an established clear-water finesse tactic, but many pros are modifying it into a heavy-line power presentation. They tie a 1-ounce sinker to the end of 20-pound-test mono spooled on a heavy 7-foot 6-inch flipping stick. The heavy sinker breaks through the thick mats of vegetation but still keeps your choice of soft plastic, rigged 6 to 12 inches above the weight, off the bottom. Shake the rod to give the lure some action.
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Fish a Beaver
The Sweet Beaver, a quirky soft-plastic creation from Reaction Innovations, is the hottest soft plastic on the pro circuit. Is it a tube bait? A grub? A creature? A craw? "It's totally unique,-¿ says California pro Ish Monroe. "I love the Sweet Beaver in murky conditions because it moves so much water, making it easy for bass to find.-¿ To flip the Beaver into brush or grass, he Texas-rigs it with a ¿¿-ounce tungsten sinker and a 3/0 offset worm hook. The compact critter sinks into the strike zone quickly, its multiple tail appendages flapping and pulsating like the pincers of an angry crawdad. Monroe then lifts and drops it repeatedly.
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Make a Wake
Tennessee guide Ralph Dallas has caught 60-pound stripers by "waking-¿ a Cordell Red Fin minnow plug across the surface, but he's also landed a surprising number of lunker bass with this topwater tactic. "Bass will get right in with a pack of stripers to bird-dog a baitfish school and drive it to the surface,-¿ says Dallas. Using a 7¿¿-foot baitcaster and 20-pound mono, he casts the Red Fin across a tributary point, gravel bar, or hump. With the rod tip at 10 o'clock, he reels just fast enough to make the tail slosh back and forth, throwing a wake across the surface. Keep your drag loose-"your next strike could be a 7-pound largemouth or a 40-pound striper.
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Buzz a Grub
Everybody fishes plastic grubs, but only a handful of pros have recognized how effective these short plastic worms can be when they're fished in the style of topwater buzzbaits. Choose a grub with a strong swimming tail so that a fast retrieve really stirs up the water. Rig it weedless on a jighead as light as 1/8 ounce. You can fish it anywhere, especially through shallow weedbeds. Another advantage is that when you stop reeling, the lure will sink, and you can continue to work it like a mid-depth crankbait or even on the bottom like a jig or plastic worm, all on the same cast.
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Jig a Worm
In the past, the "desperation bait-¿ of most tournament pros was a lipless crankbait. Now, many have changed to a plastic worm on a jighead-"but not just any worm or any jighead. The worm, which measures 4 to 6 inches, must be very skinny. The round-ball jighead usually weighs 1/8 or ¿¿ ounce and has a size 1/0 hook. This combination is fished on 8-pound-test line, shallow or deep, depending on the cover. Let it sink, but keep it off the bottom. Once the lure is in the zone, give it a shake and the skinny worm will respond with a shimmy. Effective depths range from 10 to 30 feet, and favorite places include deep points, steep bluffs, and boathouses.
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Put a Swimbait in Bed
When spawning bass won't respond to normal bass baits like lizards, pro Mark Kile of Payson, Arizona, aggravates them with a big 9- or 12-inch Osprey Talon swimbait. This oversize soft-plastic minnow was designed to catch California's giant Florida-strain bass. Kile pulls the tail-wagging Talon into the middle of the bed with a stout flipping stick, then shakes the lure on the bottom by twitching his line. The hefty bait threatens and excites a previously torpid bass, which will usually swim quickly around the lure and may nip at its tail. When Kile thinks the bass is significantly roused, he reels in the swimbait and quickly casts an unweighted, Texas-rigged 5-inch Wave Worm Bamboo Stick to the bed. The bass inhales the sinking bait before it reaches the bottom.
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Go Shallow With a Lanier Rig
Take the proven Carolina rig, eliminate the sinker, and you've got a "Lanier rig-¿ (named after the Georgia reservoir). It's a killer shallow-water technique, and pros are using it when they need a slow-falling lure, such as after a cold front. Favorite locations include scattered weedbeds, brush tops, boat docks, and other cover down to about 4 feet deep. The swivel connecting the main line to the leader serves as the rig's weight; since the Lanier rig is fished with lighter lines and spinning tackle, it also keeps the lure and line from twisting.
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Tail-Weight a Dinger
Penetrating thick cover, such as flooded bushes, is a pain with a Texas-rigged soft-plastic bait that has a bullet weight on the line because the lure's free-swinging tail can whip around and latch onto limbs and branches. Pro Tim Horton of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, flips a 5-inch Yum Dinger into the nastiest cover without a hitch. Rigging it Texas-style with a 4/0 hook and no weight, he then clips off the hook from a ¿¿- to ¿¿-ounce ball-head jig that has a keeper collar. He inserts the jig's collar into the Dinger's tail. This rig slides straight into dense lairs tailfirst when Horton flips it, and it pulls out of cover more easily.
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Drop the rod to about 3 o'clock, pointing the tip at your target. Release the line as the lure arcs forward and pulls the extra line through your fingers.Field & Stream Online Editors
When the lure reaches the target, stop it with thumb pressure on the spool.Field & Stream Online Editors