By Massimo Zanetti
Massimo was a member of the "Kick'n Bass
Pro-Staff," our first international Pro.
All Rights Reserved By Author
A Few weeks ago, after the publications of my first article Italian Bass, Ive received an E-M mail from a fellow bass angler from Missouri who asked me about spinnerbait modifications. Particularly, this guy asked me if, putting a #6 single willow leaf blade on the spinnerbait, the lure will run off-balance. I often hear other questions from people in tackle stores is because they catch only small bass using
soft-jerk baits. These and other questions about lure modification, sounds to be the most frequent Ive heard since I start bass fishing lot of years ago. My success in pursuit of this green freshwater game fish, always seems to do with customization of lures, no matter if its hard baits or soft plastics. My highest finishes in tournaments came from my maniacal care of the details. More often than you could think, a little customization means the difference between catching (big) bass or not. With lure
customizing I intend not only a physical modification of the bait (e.g.: changing the color, switch the blade and so on) but mostly a rig modification. I am vividly reminded of my highest finish last year, a third place in one of the most important tournament on Italian trail. I started the tournament fishing Slug-gos as it came out of the package but this pattern seems to attract only small fish. So I inserted half nail weight on the head of the lure and a couple of glass rattlers in the back. Fishing this way, by ten oclock in the morning I had the nice limit 13+ pounds that allow me to finish in the money.
Lets take a close look on how to modify your lures to catch more and bigger bass.
Plastic lures, along with spinner baits, are the most versatile lure Ive ever fished. These lures could be fished in a great variety of styles, depending the way you rig it. We all know the basic styles: Texas rig, Carolina rig, wacky rig and weightless rig. But even rigging the lure Texas style, that is a standard rig, you could slightly vary the rig to entice a bass to strike. The twisted rig. A friend of mine love to fish clear waters with some current in it, mostly with grubs and tube jigs rigged Texas style. One day, we were fishing a river with such characteristics and, while he was catching lot of fish with a watermelon tube jig, I wasnt able to catch a single one, even with the same lure and the same rig he was using. The trick, he explains, is not rigging the tube straight, but in a twisted way. Fishing the lure rigged twisted you significantly slow its descent in the water, giving the bass more time to react to your offering. You can rig this way not only tube jigs but plastic worms, craws or Slug-Os too! A soft lure rigged twisted sometimes looks more natural to the fish than one rigged straight. In its descent towards the bottom, the lure will have a spiral movement, that reminds the bass of a dying small fish.
Soft Jerk Baits Tricks
When you rig a soft-jerkbait, you can modify how it swims by placing a nail weight in its body. Depending on where you insert the weight in the lure, you can obtain a nose-down movement, a tail-down movement and an horizontal swim. Basically, these three rigs need a specific retrieve. Nose-down: If you rig the soft-jerkbait inserting the nail-weight right in the head, the lure will act like a shad eating food on the bottom. This rig works well in shallow to mid-depth waters, retrieving the lure slowly across the bottom, bumping it in any cover you will find. Another situation in which this rig is dynamite is when bass are spawning: the fish really destroy the lure rigged nose-down while often completely ignoring the soft-jerkbait rigged weightless or with an horizontal swim. Tail-down: When you rig the soft-jerkbait inserting the nail-weight on the back section, right under the slimming tail, the lure will have a random movement that seems to attract even the finicky bass. Fishing this rig for suspended fish or on the top of a weed bed, you will be amazed on the results you will obtain! Horizontal swim: Placing the nail weight in the middle of the lure, you will have an horizontal swim with this one. This is a good rig for fishing in clear water for visible bass because the weight gives more castability to the light plastic lure, allowing you to fish the bass from a reasonable distance, without reduce drastically your line size. After the
soft-jerkbaits I have found that you can rig with insert weight even the big 6 grubs, fishing a lure the bass has never seen acting this way.
I have heard and read a lot about spinnerbait customization but a thing Im firmly convinced that the first customizations you should made on this lure is to adapt the blade to the size of the bait fish and the skirt color to the water conditions. Another thing that is very important in spinnerbait fishing is the rattler. The lure attractiveness is contained in two aspects: the flash of the blade, (and for this reason
I never use painted blades), and its subtle and silent approach when its in the water. Considering these aspects, its easy to understand that rattlers are not important on spinnerbaits, and sometimes they even spook the fish. The customization we should make on spinnerbaits is then to remove the rattlers if they have them. In this way we dont alter the trigger properties of the lure. The critical aspect on changing the blade is the balance of the lure. You couldnt put a big #7 willow leaf blade on a 1/4 oz. spinnerbait: it will surely run off-balance because of the weight and drag of the blade. For such reason, before switching the original blade on a light spinnerbait, we should analyze the thickness of the blade, shape and cup. If you have noticed, spinnerbait manufacturers seems to not assemble lures with a single willow leaf blade, even though this is a very popular bait. So, the angler who wants such spinnerbaits, must do his home work. Since big willow blades are well known for catching bass under a variety of conditions, I usually change the Colorado blade on my spinners and put on a willowleaf blade. I take care that the weight of the spinnerbait will support an oversized blade and for this reason I use a 3/8 oz. head at minimum with a #5 or 6 blade (always depends on the thickness) and with lures weighing 1/2 oz. to 1 oz. I put even #8 willow leaf blades. Its important to consider the fact that you could put a smaller blade on a big spinnerbait, always keeping in mind the size of the bait fish the fish is catching. With smaller blades you will not have the problems you encounter with the bigger ones. Regarding the skirts, you could do a lot of personalization on your spinnerbait. Sometimes, as when you fish plastics, a subtle change in the color is the key to catch bass. Here is why I always keep on my tackle box some skirts which color vary a little with respect my basic colors choice (e.g.: basic=chartreuse, variation=chartreuse/red
or chartreuse pepper). In my spinnerbaits I usually cut the skirts so their length just fit the hook. I made this modification to prevent short-biters and to show to the fish a smaller lure. I dont like to use trailer hooks because I love to fish spinnerbaits in the heaviest cover available on the river or lake.
My old bassin buddy has a trick that had always worked well for him, even if Ive never tried enough to fish spinnerbaits the way he fishes them. He simply replaces the skirts with a plastic lure, generally a grub, a plastic shad or a twin-tail trailer. Fishing spinnerbaits this way, you show the bass a lure she rarely see swimming in her environment, he explains. Giving a different look to any lure has always paid well for me. Dont think he rigs a big grub on his spinnerbait. I was astonished when I saw him rigging a small 2 or 3 inches grub on a 1/4 oz. spinnerbait! He retrieves the lure acting more like a buzz bait than a spinnerbait and the bass seems to love this kind of game.
JIG & PIG
Honestly, the jig & pig is not my number 1 lure, but over the years Ive caught lot of fish with it. Original or innovative ways to customize this big bass lure are published in every bass magazine. In almost every issue you find an article, or at least small notes about the jig & pig and the tricks to make it more effective when it comes to fishing. The majority of modifications are generally done on the trailer, specially if it is the pork rind. The bass angler trim it, dip it in scents before fishing, rig it double on the jig hook and so on. Few personalization are perhaps done on the artificial lure in itself. Beyond the trimming of the skirts to avoid short-biters, or to offer to the fish a smaller profile, there is a trick that could allow us to land few more bass. It consists of adding another skirt to the jig. In this way, you will obtain a bulkier lure with a slow fall that could help you when bass are dormant or not so active feeders. Adding a skirt with a different color, youll obtain new and original color combinations that will
trigger the attention of the fish. However, you could put another skirt of the same color as the original one, to have a bigger lure for a bigger fish.
The most exciting way to catch bass is to fish with topwater plugs. This is the technique that hooked me on bass fishing in my boyhood. My first bass came from a pond near my home on a red-headed jerkbait. She literally exploded on my lure! Years ago, in Italy, bass fever wasnt yet affecting fishermen, so in the tackle stores you only found jerkbaits, chuggers, some prop-baits and other strange topwater plugs. I really began my bassin life with those strange pieces of plastics or wood. In the beginning, I caught real lunkers for Italian waters. But over the years, the topwater bite seems to be slowing down, mostly because of fishing pressure. Im always devoted to topwater plugs and I rely on them pretty often but for these lures to be effective for the bass I sometimes personalize them. The first modification I make to a topwater plug is to paint the belly black. I believe that a dark color is more visible to the bass when she is feeding on the surface. The black color gives a better contrast in low light conditions, a situation that often turns the fish on for surface feeding. A guy competing on the Italian tournament trail a couple of years ago showed me a surface lure Ive never seen before. This fat topwater plug had a small spinner attached on the rear treble. Fishing with this lure in shady areas he has caught lot of bass in the 4-pound range (that is a big fish for Italian waters). I think the flash of the little blade, along with the wide wobble movement of this plug is irresistible to the bass, he said. A good tip on prop-baits is to turn the propellers with pliers. In this way, you will create more or less water commotion when you retrieve the plug, depending the direction you turn the props. If you turn the propellers towards the lure body the plug will produce little noise during the retrieve while, turning them in the opposite
direction, you will obtain a really noisy lure, good for summer night fishing.
If there are bass lures that will be used as they are right out of the package, these are crankbaits. I believe crankbaits are subject to less customizations than any lure. The only modifications you could make on this diving plugs are on the colors and, in certain cases, on the substitution of the treble hooks. Talking about colors, I know that Im saying nothing new. But, without crankbaits, a list of bass lures is not complete. In Italy the forage fish is not so different respect those in the USA. Italian baitfish has
silver and golden color patterns. Painting crankbaits with a color that strictly resemble those of the forage fish bass usually eat in a specific kind of water surely allow you to catch more and bigger bass. This because the bass, as a predator fish, use mostly the sense of sight to catch her prey. The substitution of the treble hooks in a crankbait is a problem we usually encounter on the cheapest models. Actually almost every brand of crankbaits mount on its lures a good set of razor-sharpened treble hooks.
I hope the tips I have offered to you in this article will help you to catch more and bigger fish. I think theres no limits to the imagination and versatility of the bass angler when it comes to catching one more fish.
Massimo's email address in Italy is:
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