By Randy Pringle
Over the last few years there has been a lot of talk about west coast fishermen using giant swim baits. A lot of bass have been caught on surface swim baits simply by waking them across the top of the water resembling a wounded food source. Most winning bags in recent tournaments include at least one fish caught with swim baits.
Wake baits or swim baits and I have become very close friends. But, it has become a love- hate relationship! First of all, where do you put them? I already have too many tackle boxes to start with! You want three of those, two of these, a couple of that one, ****; now I can barely lift the box! But you have got to have them! It is a hero or zero style of fishing. We all know it, but a lot of us, including me, are just plain dumb. We can’t help it… we are just bass fishermen. Fishing wake baits, just waiting for the one double-digit fish to come up and explode all over it, is what we live for. It makes you keep throwing it and throwing it and throwing it. It will suck you in just like a late-night movie. You need the sleep but you keep watching the movie even though you have already seen it, you have to watch it again! It sucks you in! Don’t get me wrong, the reward is phenomenal but there might be a lot of dead days with no fish.
Where do you fish it? Everywhere, anywhere, points, flats, rocks, weeds, trees, did I miss anything? It is a lure… a big lure… a big fish lure. You are looking for better than average bites from better than average fish. It is not a thirty fish per day bait. Sometimes you will be happy with just one swim-bait fish. Because it will probably be a big one!
Let’s break down the wake baits. They come in all shapes and sizes. One of the smallest is the new ima Rumba. This bait is only three inches long, it is light-weight and easy to throw with any style of rod and reel combo. No special equipment needed like many of the other larger swim baits. The retrieve is the key to success with wake baits. Finding what action the bass want and continuing to keep that same rate of retrieval is the answer. When retrieving it slowly it has a large side-to-side wobble. If you fish it too fast, it will flop out of the water; too slow and the bait won’t make its best Rumba dance moves.
Optimum Baits have some of the best wake baits on the market. Their OB Minnow comes in three sizes: 5 inch, 7 inch and 9 inch. These baits are a single jointed lure and each of these baits has a different style of wake from mild to extreme. Starting with the five-inch, it is an all purpose style wake bait. It is also small, light-weight and easy to throw on standard tackle. Its primary use is in calm water or when there is very little wind. However, if the wind does come up, it can be very effective just under the surface. The seven-inch is my favorite, but you need to beef up your tackle when the larger bait is needed. I recommend a seven foot nine inch Berkley’s Buzz Ramsey Salmon Steel Head Rod, one piece. Now hear me out, this is a wake bait, not a sub-surface swim bait. With sub-surface swim baits you need sensitivity and a fast tip, the tick, tick, is extremely important to feel. With a wake-bait, there is no tick-tick, it is a serious KABOOM! This is where you need a soft front part of the rod with a heavy back end. The bass comes up, grabs the bait, turns its’ head to go back under the surface. If the rod is too stiff, the bass cannot suck in the bait. I have missed a lot of bass by using a rod that was too stiff. A salmon rod is built with a soft tip so the large bait can be sucked in and the backbone of the rod has the power for the hook set. Just what the doctor ordered; don’t let the name Salmon Rod confuse you. Look how big the bait is that you are throwing. The Abu Garcia Record 60 reel has a wide spool, a power handle and its slow, 5:3 ratio provides the power to pull fish from heavy cover. My line is 25Lb Trilene MAXX, with a little stretch and a lot of power.
When retrieved at a medium speed, this plug will make a slight clicking noise. That is the bait hitting side to side as you retrieve it. It should look like a snake swimming through the water towards you. That is “money”! Hold your rod high after casting the bait out. This will keep the drag of the line on the water at a minimum so the plug does not nose-dive and keeps the bait up. As you get it closer to you, lower the rod slowly. This will keep the nose of the bait in the water and the wake going. If you keep the rod tip too high, the angle from the tip to the bait will lift the nose, stopping the side-to-side action.
The nine inch OB Minnow also requires heavier tackle. With the same retrieval as the seven inch OB Minnow, you will find this bait drawing up the largest lunkers in the lake! Dep is another company that makes a good looking wake bait; the High-Sider. This bait has multiple joints. It ungulates as you retrieve it! I know the word ungulate is a big word to use but I couldn’t think of another word to describe its action. This bait is offered in several colors and it looks outstanding in the water with all of the joints moving it flashes as the light reflects off of it. When retrieving this bait it can do an amazing things. Stop your retrieve, drop your rod towards your bait putting slack in your line, snap your rod up and then drop it immediately back down. The High-Sider will turn 180 degrees staring Mr. Bass eye to eye. Then when you start your retrieve again, Mr. Bass thinks that he just got snubbed. That is when he grabs it!
With all of these different styles and sizes of wake baits, don’t get caught up in the bait’s too big concept - a ten pound bass will eat easily a one pound bass. Big bass are lazy by nature and one or two large meals a day is all it needs to flourish. The rest of the day she is just kicking back and chillin’! Wake baits…fun or a pain in the butt? FUN!
Randy is sponsored by: Skeeter Boats, Yamaha Motors, Fenwick Rods, Berkley GULP!, Power Bait, Abu Garcia, Trilene, Persuader Baits, TTI Blakemore, Tru-Turn, Daiichi, X-Point Hooks, Road Runner, ima Baits, Optimum Baits, Zappu, Humminbird, Minn Kota, Tru-tungsten, WFO Sport Fishing, Bow to Stern