By Nick Simonson
As area lakes and flows heat up, fishing action for bass can be fast, but that doesn’t mean a quick presentation always rules a day on the water. While crankbaits and spinnerbaits may pick up a few fish, the use of soft plastics like tubes, craws and sticks allows for direct and prolonged presentations in the strike zone around structure for hungry largemouths and smallies alike this time of year. By slowing things down as the world rushes toward summer, fishing success will increase exponentially, and a bit of patience can pay off with some of the season’s biggest bass.
Reel & Feel
When casting soft plastic baits, such as tubes, for bass It is ultimately important to keep the line in a semi-taught state, so that the sometimes-subtle take from the trademark inhale of these fish can be detected. Place the bait with a precision cast along the structure to be explored, be it a rock ledge, developing reed bed, emergent weeds or lily pads. Once the bait has settled to the bottom and the line is motionless, showing no further downward pull, tighten things up with a few cranks of the reel. Once things are tight, wait a second or two for a bite to come, and if nothing happens, slowly begin hopping the bait along the bottom.
It’s important to move plastics naturally when presenting them to bass. Short, furtive movements imitate how a crayfish moves along the bottom and creates a natural action that fish will hone in on in their immediate area. Test out various presentations in the clear shallows to see how it will look in deeper areas. Jump the lure slightly with a twitch of the rod tip, moving it back toward the boat and then reel up the slack with a turn or two of the handle and feel for a bite. Repeat the process along the fish-holding structure, keeping a degree of tightness in the line to detect the pick-up when a bass takes the offering. Remember to set the hook hard to drive the point of the hook through the plastic and into the fish’s mouth.
Sometimes the patience required to work tubes and small creature baits slowly along the bottom can seem like a challenge to an active angler. Other baits, however, like soft plastic sticks such as the Yamamoto Senko or Yum! Dinger, or minnow-shaped baits like the Lunker City Sinking Slug-Go or Case Plastics Salty Sinkin Shad, require a level of slowness that makes a snail’s pace look like that of Kyle Busch.
Dubbed as “do nothing” lures for the simple fact that nothing is required by the angler to set off their subtle shimmy and descent through the water column (other than not messing with them), it’s tough for one who hasn’t experienced their magic to understand. But a free-falling plastic stick or minnow has become one of the most effective baits for bass when just allowed to do its thing.
The process starts on the cast. Allow the bait to fall in or near bass-holding haunts like timber, docks or rocks and let it hit the bottom. Let it sit there and wait several seconds for a pick-up, again keeping a close eye on a tight or semi-tight line for any jumps, twitches or side-swimming movement. After a fairly long pause, pick up the rod tip and lift the bait two or three feet up in the column and allow it to free fall once again, repeating the process through the area noting that the fall in deeper waters will take longer – sometimes up to one foot every two seconds, depending on the type and density of the bait While it can be a bit maddening at times at how slow the process is, these baits work when others won’t and are also effective when fish are actively feeding, covering many angling scenarios.
In the end, soft plastic baits of all stripes can’t be worked too slowly in order to get the most natural action out of the offering and trigger the feeding instincts of predatory bass. Paying attention to the line and keeping tabs of any takes or odd sensations on the other end should result in a hard hookset and things speed up after an unhurried presentation. After the challenge of working the bait slowly and learning how fish react is understood, comes the reward of many battles with big bass and a summer full of soft plastic success.
Featured Photo: Fishing soft plastics slowly pays off in tough times and in periods of readily-biting bass. Simonson Photo.