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Beware of the Speed Trap

High speed zoom and rapid response just a few of the words our culture has adopted to denote quickness. Everyone is in a hurry and there’s an emphasis doing everything at top speed. While the quickest route may be a good thing in traveling it doesn’t always apply to fishing. Paddles to pedals and trolling motor and now even gas-powered motors on kayaks is a legitimate thing and quite possibly an advantage for tournament competitors. However, fooling fish rapid retrieve may not be your friend.

Retrieve Speed

For years I’ve preached about the most misunderstood factors in fishing being R & R, random action and retrieve speed. Let’s “table” the discussion about random action and move (slowly) to retrieve speed. Personally, I’ve been witness to two people fishing the same bait on the same equipment in the same area with very different results, a major reason for this is in my opinion retrieve speed. Game fish being predators are making a mistake wen they strike an artificial lure. Normal, natural forage like minnows, crawfish, shad, frogs or others give off natural clues as to size, color, swimming motion and SPEED. The underwater world is a place where there’s competition for food and basic survival. It also bears resemblance to the business rule of ROI, return on investment. Simply stated if a fish (or any other wild creature) expends more energy finding or chasing down a food source it’s a losing proposition. They must maintain or gain weight from the feeding process. The superior of the species become adept at this activity to become the dominant examples. If the “prize” looks hard to catch fish will often just snub the fast fleeing food. Conversely if it looks easy and available and no flaws are detected…GULP.

Presentation Pointers

Certain bass baits require you to control the retrieval of your lure more than others. Crankbaits will generally rise if you stop your return, they’re buoyant, float at rest. In much the same way a few topwater baits construct of wood or hard plastic sit on the surface between pauses or twitches. Weighted baits including spinners, buzzers, blade baits all have enough lead head content to cause them to fall unless the angler intervenes. The rate of fall or descent is normally about one foot per second, if you don’t reel, the bait drops to the bottom. While in my own case I’ve caught bass on almost every bait imaginable (I don’t use jigging spoons, yawn) but like you I have my own category of favorites. My own experiences tell me to keep the bait in the strike zone as long as possible when the fish are in a neutral or negative feeding mode. When the they’re aggressively feeding, which often isn’t the case, it matters very little. When quizzed by other angers about what to do when the fish aren’t cooperating my constant advice is to go to smaller lures AND SLOWER retrieves. Another example is the use of a jerkbait for bass. The lure can be held at a certain depth often suspended and in proximity of the bass. In cold, clear water this lure accounts for many lazy fish that can’t resist the easy meal just hanging out in striking distance. Speed for baits especially, topwater offerings, cranking lures and spinners is dictated solely by the fisherman, but there are a few tricks to tempt bass to hit.

The Speed Trap

Anxious, excited, cover more water, losing light or time, each of these are part of the reason bass fishermen will be blazing baits through their favorite fishing holes. If you’re searching for a trophy you may want to slow way down. My constant fishing companion Debbie relies on the slow fall of a Ned rig, a craw attached to a bare leadhead and an underspin with a swimbait hooked to it. “I like the slow fall and have caught a lot of fish year-round on these rigs”.
As far as my own viewpoint I’m a fan of the old school Texas rigged soft plastics, worms and craws. For BIG bass I rely on a jig and have for years scored some of my biggest bass pitching a jig. I will opt for a lighter jig under difficult condition, cold, clear water has me reaching for finesse jigs BUT I add a full size Ragetail craw to slow the fall of the bait. This has proven deadly around bass that receive a lot of fishing pressure and skittish fish. My normal worm weight (or jig) is a standard 3/8ths ounce model. For the Texas rig I have some tiny slip sinkers 1/16th and 1/8th that makes the descent of my soft plastic agonizingly slow. Recently we’ve been experimenting with a different set up that has paid off big time, a weightless wacky rigged Strike King Zero. Cast on open face spinning gear and allowed to gently glide it has proven to irresistible to shallow water fish. Another fun part of the is set up is the use a 3/0 circle hook from Daiichi. Once the bite is sensed you merely reel, no big over the shoulder hook set. The circle hook is deadly in its efficiency to lock into the jaw of the bass.

Drop Details

The lighter the lead weight and the bigger the size of the soft plastic the slower the fall of the lure. Patience is required but the payoff is worth it. The new Punch Bug from Ragetail has the bulky body and is a great addition to employ the slow drift of any lure. Spinnerbaits can be altered or just a lighter weight with a bulky trailer will create a slow descent and allow for the reel, pause and “kill” the bait to keep it close to heavy cover. Another aspect of slow speed fishing is the use of larger diameter line which by its physical properties will allow for more “hang time”. * An additional detail, fishing reels have gone berserk answering the need for speed. Models now offer retrieve ratios never before available. Baitcasting models now brag of a retrieve ratio of 10.1:1 taking in over a yard of line with one complete turn of the reel handle!

It’s hard to slow down when you get excited or the fish are biting fast and furious. Don’t be lured into the concept of “buzzing and burning” lures being always the best technique. The outside world has become geared to all things fast paced but on the water, in pursuit of bass slow down…don’t get caught in the SPEED TRAP.