Bigger Bait, Bigger Fish

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Bigger Bait, Bigger Fish

Poppers, spinnerbaits, lipless crankbaits, and the soft plastic worm on occasion. This is what I threw… every trip... every time! I always classified myself as a "Power Fisherman". The baits I always threw covered a lot of water very quickly. Now these methods worked, and when they didn't, I threw the worm. I almost always caught fish, but the size of these fish-that is an entirely different story. I decided it was time to expand on my techniques and go out of my comfort zone; I wanted to go "Bigger"! I have always read stories about anglers who threw big swimbaits and had success catching bigger fish. Now I had my reservations, but I was off...WAY OFF. Let me explain...

Bigger baits to many mean bigger fish. Now, my first reservation was "bigger fish means catching quality, not quantity", which in turn could mean increasing my chances of a catching a "skunk" instead of a "hawg". Was I willing to do that? Let's face it, telling my buddy that I caught 14 bass instead of 6 bass sounds like a "WOW" day (if I leave out some details such as the size, right)? That doesn't make me a liar, I am just leaving out the details that the average size of these bass was 12"-13" because I threw a 1/4 oz. spinnerbait all day or perhaps a 1/2 oz. lipless crankbait. Sure, I did catch the occasional big bass here and there, but often, I was catching average sized fish. I wanted to do better than that. I decided it was time to go big or go home, so I posted on a social media page, asked a few friends about some gear details, and my research began. Here is what I found out and to my surprise, I was way off in my thinking.

My first thought was that I was going to need a broomstick of a rod and a massive reel. I was thinking that this setup combined with these big lures was going to weigh a ton and my arm would fall of at the end of the day. That was my absolute first mistake. After seeking information from a variety of sources, most anglers recommended a rod over 7'6" long, heavy action, and not too fast of a taper. Most of the anglers stated a heavy action rod would give you the backbone to horse a big fish if needed as well as allowing you to "lob" the lure rather than casting it to eliminate shoulder stress. In addition, they recommended a moderate to moderate fast taper for keeping a fish hooked; if the taper was too fast, it would rip the hooks right out of the fish’s mouth. As far as the reel, a 300 sized casting reel would do the trick, and the only advantage of a conventional round reel over a low profile was line capacity.

Now, I just did not want to jump right into the deep end and start throwing 8-9" baits so I decided to start with a 6" Triton Mike Bucca Bull Shad in the Gizzard color. I picked up a 7'9" Falcon Lowrider rod with a moderate action and a Daiwa Millionaire Classic reel and I was off to become a swimbait angler. Now, this is where I had my epiphany. My first day out with this rod and reel, it sat in my BlackPak for most of the trip because I was hesitant to throw it. The bite was hot and I actually caught 15 Bass on that particular trip so I did not want to jinx myself. Finally, during my paddle back to the launch I decided to give it a cast or two before I loaded up. So, I paddled towards a dock situated near some cover. My first cast was a complete dud! I accidentally hit the bait clicker and my cast went half the distance so that doesn't really count. My next cast (my first real cast, HAHA) fell just short of the front of the dock and as soon as I started to retrieve the bait, I saw the fish roll on it and I had hooked! I landed my first swimbait bass on my first cast! I thought it was supposed to be harder to catch bass on swimbaits due to their larger size. Catching a bass on my “second” cast was not the norm and I felt super lucky.

 Bill Sikora Bullshad Largemouth Bass 

   Here in South Florida the weather has greatly fluctuated. We have had several cold fronts move in and days of rain (which to be honest, we needed). Now let's fast forward to my next trip out after popping my swimbait cherry. I decided to give this lure some more time on the water this trip. Like I previously thought, my main concern was having difficulty catching bass on a bigger lure, but I made the commitment and was off to the races. I paddled to an area where there was a creek that opened into the lake. There were docks on both sides and large boulders along the bottom. To my surprise, about 6-7 casts into working the area, I had hooked another bass using this technique. I continued to use this lure throughout the day and I had caught and landed another 6 bass. I lost a 7th fish due to me fumbling the hookset in the rain, but this is where the thought hit me. I really did not sacrifice quantity with a bigger bait, but the bass WERE bigger! Except for one bass that was maybe 12", who was obviously ambitious hitting a bait half his size haha! But this bait worked just as well as a bait half its size. Granted, this is not the huge 8" or 11" Bull Shads, but I definitely doubled the size of my offering and did not see any fall-off in catch rate. 

 Bull Shad Bass Fishing

   All this time, I have thought that using heavier tackle and larger baits would only provide me with a catch "here and there" and that I had to be fishing somewhere where big bass lurked or I would be going home skunked. I was wrong! By throwing a bigger bait, I was imitating a bigger "offering" and larger bass were coming after it! In turn, I was now catching more rewarding fish. In addition, I also have another technique to use when the bite is off. I have not yet caught that double-digit bass on this technique, but believe me, every time my Bull Shad is hit, the possibility is there, and I can’t wait for that moment! So, if you have had the same thoughts as I did when it comes to throwing bigger baits, give it a try! Trust me, you may just catch that bass you have been waiting for! 

-Bill Sikora

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