Updated: Dec 20, 2020
Don't Fear Topwater in Colder Months... Try These Techniques:
If you live in the Northeast and you fish for bass, you're probably well aware that we are smack dab in the middle of fall. The air and water temperatures have dropped significantly. The days are shorter and the nights are cooler and these fish instinctively know that winter is coming (Insert your favorite Game of Thrones quote here). The late fall transition is nearly upon us and the bass are about to enter their winter-time patterns. This can prove to be a very difficult time to catch fish. However, by utilizing certain Big Baits you can target giant fish that I believe to be particularly vulnerable during this period. Remember, these bass are looking to capitalize on larger, easy, calorie rich meals as the water temperature continues to drop. Bigger fish want to expend the least amount of energy possible to obtain the largest amount of nourishment available. It's that simple. Three bait types that I find to be particularly deadly throughout the fall are a various assortment of Wakebaits, big deliberate Walking Baits, and a fairly new, wildly Japanese addition to the mix, the Crawler.
Obviously, all of the aforementioned baits are essentially topwater applications. You may be thinking, "Why throw topwater in these colder temperatures?" This is a totally valid question. All I can say is, in my experience, big topwater baits worked painfully slowly in the right setting make big fish do dumb things. You may only get one or two bites a day but I can guarantee that the the quality of fish will more than likely be significant and if you can capitalize and land the fish, you're golden. I've found these baits to produce bites all the way down to a measly 43°. That's saying something. It's tough to get bit in those conditions anyways, so why not take a shot at a potential trophy fish by presenting a different look? Don't abandon the topwater through these colder months! You may be pleasantly surprised. Here's the breakdown for each type of bait:
The drawing power of a good Wakebait is simply unrivaled. They come in all shapes and sizes but there are some key factors to take into consideration before selecting the right tool for the job. Find a Wakebait with the ability to generate movement at the slowest retrieve possible. This is the key to success and there are no two ways about it. Perhaps the best example of a lure that possesses this quality is the legendary Black Dog Bait Co. G2 Shellcracker. If I could suggest only one Wakebait to someone just starting to throw these lures, it would most likely be this one. There's a reason why they are always sold out. They are fairly inexpensive as far as swimbaits go and you don't need specialized gear to throw them on as they come in at 4", 1.5 oz (A 7'4"- 7'6" Mod Fast Medium Heavy or Heavy conventional casting rod will do the trick). Their biggest selling point is that they still have amazing tail action on a frightfully slow retrieve. This is slightly beyond the scope of the particular blog but you can also crank them down a 1-3 feet and they essentially turn into a big squarebill, perfect for deflecting off of cover. To learn more about this bait watch this video (Keepinitreel is a legend). While this bait will pick up bites from smaller fish, it continually gets hammered by bona fide giants. There's something about a bluegill profile that just triggers big largemouth, especially in the fall months. Enough said. The bait is extremely durable and can take a beating. I've fished two exclusively over the past year and they show no signs of wear. The Shellcracker G2 is well engineered with solid hardware and has a solid hookup ratio. In short, it gets the job done.
Another quintessential Wakebait with the ability to generate movement at the slowest retrieve possible is the fabled MS Slammer. I prefer the medium or 9" version. This is a desert island bait. If I was limited to picking one Wake to rule them all, there's a very good chance that the Slammer earns my vote. I don't know what it is, but this bait just flat out gets decimated and is responsible for some of the most jarring bites I've experienced over the past year. It presents a big lumbering injured fish profile. I've found it most effective on a slow and steady retrieve (although it will perform a unique choppy style walk as well) with an occasional pop or twitch next to a point or cover. You can feel when it's swimming at the right speed as it will bounce and bob from side to side and provide some resistance while creating a nice V wake. When I twitch or pop the bait, I usually don't stop the slow and steady retrieve. It's simply one twitch or pop to create a directional change and then a continued slow and steady retrieve. Bites will often occur after the twitch as the slow and steady retrieve begins again. Fish you didn't even know were there will come out of the woodwork to crush this bait at the surface. I actually find the Slammer to be incredibly effective in the middle of the day under blue bird skies during the fall. This is another fairly easy Wakebait to throw. While you will probably need a dedicated swimbait setup to throw this successfully (and keep fish pinned), the bait is relatively light (around 2.5 - 3 oz) for its large profile. Like the BDB G2 Shellcracker, this is another wake that despite it's 9" profile, will generate bites from 2lb fish all the way up to mega lunkers no matter what geographic region you're fishing in. It has proven mystical allure.
The sound a wakebait emits plays a huge factor in getting bit. There's no doubt about it. I always carry a variety of wakes with different knocks or clacks depending on condition. If the water is dead calm, I tend to favor wakes that produce a subtle sound. If there is chop on the water, I choose wakes that have a distinct knock, clack or vibration. That being said, there are two wakes with signature sounds that I feel comfortable throwing in nearly every situation despite weather/water conditions. These two baits have been a huge factor for me over the past couple months. Enter the three piece PB Rat and Deps MT Wake.
The PB Rat is one of the few three-piece wakebaits that is consistently in rotation. It comes in at around 7" and 2.5 oz (excluding the tail). Just as a side note, I tend to favor two-piece wakes as their rather deliberate, mechanical action seems to transmit an injured baitfish vibe to would-be predators and generates more overall bites (in my experience). Obviously, there are a few exceptions to every rule and the three-piece PB Rat is one of them. It should be stated that PB Rat has a two piece offering as well. However, I feel that the three-piece brings something different to the table and is a standout in a crowded cottage "Rat" market. What is the secret sauce that really sets it apart? Well... it doesn't sound like anything else. Since the PB