May Baits Of Destruction Part II
Living on The Bottom
by Bruce Callis

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May fishing can be so exciting! While the big girls have lost some of their weight, they are still big, and we are looking to catch them. There are 3 zones to catch them in, topwater, the bottom, and the middle of the water column. We just explored the topwater aspect in the last story, so let’s explore fishing the bottom.

The bottom, means making contact. No matter what we think, fishing is a contact sport. And fishing the bottom is all about contact. One of my favorite things to do is flip and pitch into those nasty laydowns. The feel of that bass sucking my lure into it’s mouth and the line getting tight. The feel of the line snapping tight as I slam back on the rod and drive the hook into their lip. Until you get it out, you never know if its a 1 pound bass or a huge 10 pound monster.

I like to use 65 pound braid when I am putting my bait in these areas. Usually, when its nasty, the bass aren’t going to see your line. I want to get the bass out of there and I believe the heavier line gives me the advantage. But if you are comfortable with a lighter line, it is still good. My buddy only uses 40 pound test braid, so it is each to their own. When I am flipping my bait in there, I prefer to peg my weight to my bait. I don’t want my weight falling on one side of the limb while my bait sits just over the limb. I want the weight to help work my bait down through everything.

Depending on who you talk to, the theory is to work the outside of these laydowns before getting into the heart or meat of it. Some will say just go into the meat first, to the big girls, but if you do that, you may miss them. I remember fishing this one pine tree that was in the water. I started on the outside and caught two three pound bass on 2 different limbs. I continued to fish around the outer edges and managed to land 2 more bass, a 3 pounder and another 2 pounder before I pitched into some of the nastier stuff. There I managed to land a sweet 5 pound bass. I had a sweet limit from this one tree. If I had just gone into the nasty stuff, I might have just gotten that one bass. Not every laydown will produce these results, but they could.

I like to throw a couple of baits up in there. My all time favorite is a Power Team Lures 3.5” Craw D’oeuvre. It is small and compact at long. I rig it on a 1/0 or 2/0 Gamakatsu EWG hook and either a 1/8 or 3/16th ounce WOO Tungeston Never Chip weight. This allows the bait to fall slower and the bass are able to watch it coming. The 3.5” Craw D’oeuvre doesn’t have a lot of action and when I want to add a little action to my lure, I will step up to a Power Team Lures 3.8 Mauler. The craws will flap or swim as it falls and will sometimes entice the strike before it even hits the bottom. I like to use a 3/0 EWG because of it’s size. Depending on the day and conditions, I usually use a 3/16th or 1/4 ounce WOO tungeston weight. Why a EWG hook over a flipping hook? I like flipping hooks, but I get hung up more in the nasty stuff for some reason. I like them, but just not in this situation. No matter what, I like a 6.3:1 or higher gear ratio Quantum reel and a 7 foot to 7’4” medium heavy rod. I will also use a Power Team 7” Tickler, 5” Finicky Tickler, 10” Ribbon Hinge Worm in addition to some of the Missile Baits, the D Bomb, D Stroyer, Baby D Stroyer and Baby D Bomb. It is all about making the bass bite!

Some people prefer to use a jig instead of a Texas rigged bait. The profile is a little bit larger with the skirt. It can be worked in all the same areas, but with the more open hook, I feel like I get hung up more, sometimes. I keep one tied on at all times, as it can tell me a lot about the bottom. It is also known as a big bass catching machine.

A Carolina Rig is another great choice for working the bottom. It doesn’t have to be for deep water either. Here, a variety of baits can be used. From the Power Team Lures 10” Ribbon Hinge Worm, 4” Diesel Craw, 4.5” Conviction Craw, to the Missile Baits D Stroyer. I like to work it along the edges of the drop especially, but it works throwing it up into a foot of water and dragging it back to me.

Around the grass beds and the lily pads, I like to use a Texas Rigged Bully Grass Devil or a 3.8” Mauler. For me, they both seem to drag in the strikes. I still prefer a lighter weight, from 1/4 down to 1/16 ounce, depending on the thickness of the cover and the wind. Wind creates current, and with current, you need a heavier weight to get your bait to the bottom. For the thicker pads and for the matted grass, I will step up to a heavier weight, 3/4 to an ounce, so that I can punch through it. Here I want a more slender bait, something that doesn’t hang up as it falls. Here I need the weight pegged and the 65 pound braid to haul them out.

The bottom is also where you want your crankbait to dig into the bottom. If you have stumps or laydowns, you need your bait hitting the bottom and the cover. You want it deflecting off the stumps, rocks, and laydowns. It is usually when it runs into something and deflects that the bass will destroy it. I love the Fat John 60, Little John 50, and the Hunter Crank 65 SB by SPRO. The Fat John 60 has that tight wobble and hunts. The small profile offers the bass that special meal. And the Little John has a much tighter wobble with it’s slender profile. And when you want a bigger profile that hunts, the Hunter Crank stands out. If you have a rock bottom, the RkCrawler is a great option. It comes through rocks and more like a square bill.

And the Gika Rig is a mix of finesse and power fishing. Here the weight is attached to the hook eye by a split ring so that the bait is above the weight. You can use it to flip into heavier cover where the weight will pull the bait through the cover to the bottom, or use it in open water where structure is on the bottom. Hop it or drag it, letting the bait float off the bottom. Here I prefer a worm, like the Tickler or the Missile Baits Quiver. Both work great at enticing a bass to hit it. Other baits, like creature baits will work just as well.

The shaky head is another option for finesse fishing the bottom. You can use a variety of baits, but usually a worm works best. Spinning gear works great for this, as you are using a light weighted head, like 1/8 up to 1/4 ounce. There are different styles of heads, so it all boils down to what you like the best. It is also a great bait to use when you are working behind someone from the back of the boat. Cast up to where you think the bass are, giving the bait twitches to make the tail shake and quiver.

Another option similar to the Gika rig is the Neko rig. The difference is that you put a nail weight in the head of the bait and the hook is in the middle of the bait. Usually an O-ring is put in the middle of the bait and the hook under it with the point up so it becomes more weedless. Hop it across the bottom and drag it. It can be worked around cover or if you are brave, in some. I prefer a spinning reel for this presentation.

The Wacky rig is in a class by itself. You can fish it with or without a weight, and use an open hook or weedless, depending on what you are fishing around. It floats and shimmys down to the bottom where you can shake it and make it hop off the bottom to float back down. The strike can happen at any time, but most of the time it is one the fall.

Bottom fishing is about making contact. There are many different styles of rigs to do just that. It just takes time and practice to use them. Some are a great way to cover water while others are made to work an area slowly. Anglers are always coming up with ways to make bass pay attention to their bait. But remember, you can’t fish the bottom if you don’t have your bait on the bottom. Get out there and practice and keep grinding!