By Skye Riggleman
Like any fisherman, over the years I’ve made a lot of friends and fished with a lot different people. Everyone has something they are good at, and some guys are able to make the fish eat certain baits and presentations in ways that nobody else can. We’ve all fished with someone who has ran the score up on us using the same bait on the same water and we wondered why. That being said, I’ve noticed something amongst a lot of people I know personally and what I hear through the grapevine that I always found kind of funny. A lot of guys are holding certain baits close to their heart that they believe only they, or only a handful of others are throwing, and they keep them secret like a winning lottery ticket.
Over and over again, friends and other fisherman look over both shoulders before they whisper to you about what these techniques are and make you promise not to tell a soul. Even better, every now and then, you can see what a person is catching them on out on the water, and when you ask them what they are fishing, they give you the pro talk. “Oh you know, I was just junk fishing” or “I’ve got something pretty good figured out, and I know nobody is doing it”. So in the spirit of fun, I’m going to list out the most common baits everyone is throwing that a lot of people still think is an ace in the hole.
Megabass 110 (+1, +2) in Elegy Bone
I figured since every bass from South Holston to the Potomac has seen at least 20 of these since Feburary, this was a good place to start. The 25 dollar Japanese jerkbait with the Chartreuse bottom and purple back that really doesn’t resemble any freshwater fish is in every tackle box. When pre-spawn hits and the fish start feeding up, you can bet at least half the field has one tied on or close by. This goes for Table Rock Shad, and the darker Chrome colors as well.
2. California Love- Big Swimbaits: Rago BV3D and SKT Swimmer, Optimum Swimbaits and more recently the Megabass Mag Draft/Mag Slowl and Keitechs
You can blame Skeet Reese, TacticalBassin or anything else, but the cats out of the bag on the East Coast swimbait pattern. At least since the Elite Series came to town, guys have been throwing big swimbaits. This trend is a cool to see. Some of the best anglers around Virginia and the Carolinas have really put their time in and learned how to throw these baits well and develop confidence. The sad part? If you hit Smith Mountain, Kerr or Gaston on the right windblown day and catch your first bag of all 4 plus pounders on a Mag Draft, you’re late to the party. Guys have been crushing big bass during all times of the year when the conditions are right for it and as time has gone by the baits and equipment have improved greatly. With the right gear they are a lot easier to throw than they used to be.
3. Jackall Mickey- As soon as the sun goes down.
This is probably the newest craze on the list. Some dedicated night fisherman might be disappointed to read this, but over the last couple of years a lot of those guys that bring big bags to your weeknight jackpot tournaments are lying about the Thunderstick and Buzzbait. I’m sure if the fish will get used to it or not, but right now, they can’t stand not to eat it when all other topwaters fail. A couple summers ago I heard rumors it was good, but I hadn’t thrown one until I found one somebody had broken off in a tree that fell. Needless to say It was worth getting covered in pine sap and bark to get. Cast it out, reel it slow, and hold on.
4. The Cheeseburger Jig- Buggs Island Killer
There was about a five year period a while back where it was the first thing that flew off the shelves. I’m not sure why nobody mentions it anymore but I can tell you it’s not because it stopped working or guys quit throwing it. A lot of guys are still making them themselves and there are a lot of others close to it. I learned this one the hard way. I took four of them to a Lake Norman tournament and couldn’t keep the fish off it. After two days of practice I had lost three. I took the last one to a local bait shops down there in a brown paper bag so nobody else would see it. It was busy in there that day and I quietly asked the owner if he had any jigs that were even close to that one. He looked at me dumbfounded and then chuckled. He proceeded to tell me that a local guy had been making a jig that looked just like that for about 30 years, pointed over to the rack and said, “You better get them while you can, because I’ve probably sold about two dozen or so today.” Long story, short, Bryan Thrift would be proud; I walked out with my first card of Shooter Jigs.
5. Evergreen Jackhammer Chatterbait- It’s worth it.
Chatterbaits obviously aren’t a secret, but this one is kind of an anomaly. This one is probably the funniest trend on the list because the guys that throw it will come right out and tell you they are throwing a chatterbait. That said, as soon as you ask if it’s the Jackhammer they say, “Heck no! I’d never spend 17 dollars on a chatterbait! You’re crazy!”. When tournament day comes, the guys who were telling the truth lost to the ones who lied and threw a chatterbait they paid a 20 dollar bill for. If you haven’t thrown one and you like a chatterbait, invest in one. It is just that much better, and the amount of guys who have figured that out is surprising.
So there you have it. Five baits I know a lot of people keep under lock and key that pretty much everybody knows about. If there is anything new on the list you haven’t heard of, by all means, go try them! If I ruffled any feathers, sorry about it, this piece is written totally in good fun. And what else is out there? What did I miss, or what don’t I know about? Comment below what baits you know are open secrets.