We all have those “can’t fish without” lures that go with us every time we go fishing. It matters not what we fish for — bass, perch, crappies, rockfish — there are those special lures that absolutely have to be on the boat, if not tied on. But what happens when our favorite baits just aren’t cutting it? Sometimes our favorite is used by many other anglers and fish become accustomed to it. There are also times that merely tweaking our number-one lure is all it takes. So, when you are not getting the bites you are expecting, why not try something different.
Many of us fish soft swimbaits on jig heads. It is an excellent way to catch rockfish while swimming the lure along the bottom. The bass crowd rigs them a bit differently. They rig them on weighted widegap worm hooks (section 1, left). It’s a fairly snagless and weedless presentation. Rockfish anglers should keep this set up within reach. There are times when a rockfish strike lures in the mid to upper reaches of the water column. The widegap hook allows a horizontal presentation without the head of the lure dipping when you give it a momentary pause.
Still, there times when straight line rigging of the swimbait is rejected. The thumping of the boot tail just doesn’t seem to be enough. With a little modification, you can still get the bite. I incorporate a spinner blade (section 1, right) to the hook. I put the blade on a ball bearing swivel and slide it over the hook point. To keep in in place I follow it up with skirt band. In some cases, the flash and vibration of the spinning blade will help you get the bite.
Most light tackle rockfish anglers would be at a loss if you took away their jig heads (section 2, left). As previously mentioned, it’s a favorite way to rig a soft swimbait. And let’s not forget the soft jerkbaits (to be discussed later). Along with swimming these lures along the bottom, you can jig them vertically. If the bite slows when you are on a school of rockfish, they may have become attuned to the presentation. A simple tweak can keep the bite going. Try a jig head with an integrated spinner blade (section 2 right). Like the spinner blade in section 1, the flash added to your presentation can get you a few extra bites.
A Texas-rigged worm (section 3, top) has been a standard in bass fishing for decades. It’s used for weightless presentations of a stick worm (as shown) or with a bullet shaped weight of various sizes to work the lure along the bottom. Legend, or urban myth, has it that a neophyte angler inadvertently impaled a worm through the side and commenced to loading the boat with bass. Legends and myths aside, this presentation is known as wacky rigging (section 3, bottom). In today’s bass fishing world, this “something different” is a standard for some anglers. In fact, the industry has a series of hooks dedicated to the style of rigging. I prefer the lightly weighted hook with snag guard as shown.
Old school and still relied upon by countless striper fishermen, the sassy shad (section 4, top), in various sizes, is used by both trolling and light tackle anglers. The light tackle set tend to use the 3 to 5-inch sizes. Years ago, I found the Crème Lit’l Fishie (section 4, bottom) to be a good substitute for the small sassy shad. Unlike the boot tail of the sassy shad, the Lit’l Fishie relies on a flapped, segmented body, as shown by the top down view in the middle, to swim along. It has a more natural swimming action than the boot tail standard.
If you are into the bass scene, you have definitely heard about “dock talk.” It’s the fishing equivalent to neighborhood gossip or Marine Corp scuttlebutt. Sometime during the course of a bass fishing season, dock talk will be all about how hot the black back/chartreuse square bill crankbait (section 5, left) is. The problem with dock talk is, once everybody buys into it; the bass turn off of the lure. Sometimes, casting the same lure in a different, but similar color (section 5, right), is all you need to do something different. This is a pattern that I call “old school.” It was once a popular color in crankbait and rattle traps. Fortunately, I have a friend who is very skilled with an air brush who can replicate the pattern.
Many credit the Lunker City Slug-Go (section 6, top) as being the first soft plastic jerkbait. Other manufacturers followed and made their version more fish-like. All the while, these lures were made with the intention of being a slow sinking, erratic action lure that resembled a dying baitfish. Somewhere along the line, an angler decided to do something different. He or she – a genius by my account — threaded a soft jerkbait on to a jig head (section 6, bottom) and started a trend that transcends many light tackle saltwater species. The lure has long been a staple for jigging up rockfish.
Now, if we reverse this logic being that the jerkbait jig is the norm; something different would be rigging the Slug-Go weightless. In a shallow water scenario, the erratic dying baitfish presentation work wonders.
When we hit the water in coming trip, we know there will be times when our favorite lures and presentations will not produce as expected. At this point, why not try something different.