Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Twitching Soft Jerk Baits in Grass

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Fishing the Tennessee River, like many lakes around the country, means that you have to learn to fish grass. I find that many fishermen are daunted when it comes to grass because it seems that baits and presentations become limited, especially in the thick stuff. Most people think they are limited to only top water frogs.

I found myself in that category. I would throw a hollow belly frog in the thick stuff and a plastic swimming frog in the scattered stuff. I would sometimes go flipping, but it wasn't (and still isn't) a technique I have confidence in. And, sometimes the fish just wouldn't want to hit the frog. Many times I thought it was simply the shape and size of the bait. The bass on Guntersville see every single style and color frog there is, and I am sure they have seen every hop and twitch cadence known to man (and fish). Additionally, I always wondered just how many frogs actually get eaten by bass.

Best5Zach's Basics to Frog Fishing

Surely not as many as are thrown at them each and every year. Come to think of it, I have never seen a frog jumping around the grass. What I HAVE seen is minnows....and lots of them.

One day in 2013, I found myself in an interesting spot in late August. The fish simply weren't hitting the frog and flipping wasn't panning out. When these days happen on Guntersville, it is usually a sign to go home early. Borrowing a tip I learned from a fishing buddy, I decided to throw a weightless swimbait on the grass. But, I was all out of swimbait. However, I had another option that I thought might just work...and succeed....even better.

One of the first products that I bought from PowerTeam Lures was the Hammer Shad. It is one of their more unique baits. It comes in two different versions: The 3.6" and the 4.8". It comes in 7 very unique colors

For the magnum fish we experience on Guntersville, Wheeler, and Pickwick, I had bought a lot of the 4.8" Hammer Shads. That turned out a good choice, as the 3.6" was a little hard to throw on 50lb braid.

Here is what they have to say about their own bait:

"Big brother to the popular 3.6" JP Hammer Shad, the 4.8" JP Hammer Shad was designed to do an equal amount of damage on the water. But now with its proportionally larger size, the 4.8" not only appeals to largemouth and small mouth bass, but it's also the perfect profile for both stripers and redfish as well. The 4.8" JP Hammer Shad can be fished a multitude of ways; Bottom bounce it on a football head, stroke it through the water column on a jig head, or fish it weightless as a twitch bait on a 6/0 EWG hook and Hammer bass near the surface. Also, due to its flat belly design, the 4.8" JP Hammer Shad is great for skipping in and out of the water like a fleeing bait fish. So when you see bait fish getting busted at the surface, you know what to do!  And for you Chatter bait lovers out there, rig one on the back of your 1/2 oz Chatter bait for an awesome big fish presentation."

One of the main uses of the Hammer Shad is using it as a soft jerk bait, just as most people use a Zoom Fluke. I didn't have much success early in the year with using them as a jerkbait. So, I quit throwing them and the Hammer Shads were put away. This seemed to be a good time to pick them up. After all, what better time to throw something they had never seen. So, I picked up a H2O XPRESS ETHOS 7 foot 6 inch heavy action rod with a Shimano Citica reel spooled with Suffix braid. I tied on a 5/0 EWG Gamakatsu hook and threaded on a PowerTeam Lures 4.8" Hammer Shad in "money".

I threw it on top of the famous Guntersville grass, keeping the rod tip up, and twitched the bait back, just as you would do a similar soft jerkbait in clear water. Within 2 casts, I had a fish come through the grass, 2 feet in the air, and engulf the Hammer Shad. It was probably the hardest hit of the year. He wasn't a monster, but it was awesome to have such an immediate reaction to this bait.It hit the bait so hard, it bent the hook, as you can see. I stuck to it for the rest of the day and went through an entire bag of plastic baits and registering some great catches, which you can see in the video.

The next day, we had our family fishing trip to our little lake in Tennessee. Before I handed over the tackle to my wife and mom, I tried the technique out. Unlike Guntersville, our lake doesn't have much grass. What it does have are scattered. So, when the bait was in those holes in the grass, I slowed down and let it sink. The buoyancy of the plastic and the braid and the weight of the hook, the bait drifted down to the bottom just right. Every once in awhile, I would twitch it like a standard soft jerk bait. The fish would destroy it.

It didn't take long to figure out that it was the key. Almost every cast, I would throw it out, wait for the ripples and splashes to settle, twitch it twice, let it sit, and as I took up slack...one would either nail it head on or I would watch the line take off. After I had caught 3 or 4, I handed it over to my mom and my wife and I sat and watched. I told them to ignore where the grass was. Just throw it. if it was on the grass, twitch it on top. When it got to a hole in the grass, let it fall and then twitch it some more.

The looks on their faces were absolutely priceless as they experienced such hard hits. Sometimes, they would get too excited and keep the bait close to the surface and the fish would come exploding out of the water. Did they catch one on every cast? No. But the technique is fun and versatile enough that a novice can have fun with the bait and experience a great amount of success.

It has also served me very well in standing grass, not just the matted grass. Wilson lake, two dams down from Guntersville, is a much deeper contoured lake that doesn't have the matted grass. The thinness of a soft jerkbait makes it perfect for casting into the standing grass and twitching back to the bait. Where a frog might struggle to maintain contact with the water and is consistently fouling because of its bulk. The twitch bait doesn't exhibit these issues.  I find that jerking and twitching through the grass and then dead-sticking it on the edge is absolutely impossible for local fish to resist.

After seeing the bait succeed in both the thick and scattered grass situations when the typical frog baits aren't working or can't work, I decided to add that to my arsenal. It has paid off mightily over the last two years. I started out using it just on the tough days I couldn't get a frog bite, but it has transitioned to a mainstay that I lead out with on days on the lake. It is a bait and technique that I KNOW no one is using (though I chuckle that a few more people might start using it), and it gives me a serious numbers advantage. Soft jerkbaits mimic just what the bass are actively hunting 9/10ths of the time....shad. This is why I think it is such a deadly bait. Frog bites, 9 out of 10 times, are pure reactionary. I have personally witnessed fish follow the soft jerkbait to the boat as well as hit the same bait 5 or 6 times in a row. Neither of these things will happen with a frog. In the following vid, you will see it happen.

As I stated, fishing grass is something you must do in the South. Many times it can get tough, sometimes because the fish aren't biting your frog because they don't aren't reaction biting. Sometimes it's because they have seen all of them already THAT DAY. This technique presents a realistic meal to a fish, and not just a reaction bite. It is extremely versatile for any grass condition, whether scattered, matted, or standing. It doesn't foul up. And...the bites are plentiful and brutal.