We’ve all been there: It’s your local club tournament. You have a small limit. But several of the other guys probably have one, too. You need a big one in the last couple of hours. What to do? Frantically running around the lake isn’t an option. Hope and blind luck are not strategies. You need something more, something like a magic kicker bait.
We interviewed three legends Bobby Gentry, Ish Monroe and Bill Lowen – to find out what they use to get’ er done.
Bobby Gentry, longtime professional guide and seasoned tournament angler knows the feeling. He’s been there dozens of times and fished all over. Here are his choices of kicker baits, excellent choices anywhere in our country.
Norman DD22 Crankbait
“When I really need a big largemouth when I’m competing in a tournament I reach for a DD22,” said Gentry, who calls Dale Hollow Lake his home water. “I nearly always throw a shad pattern that’ll match the local forage. There’s really nothing better for deep largemouths. It gets down quick, forces reaction bites from neutral bass and is big enough to get the attention of heavyweights.”
Gentry’s approach is simple enough. He locates drops, ledges, stumps, rocks or shell beds in 15-25 feet of water and then cranks them from every angle imaginable and with every technique imaginable. Basically, he circles his spot and brings his bait back slow and fast, steady and with jerks, bouncing off everything in the area until he finds what they want.
10 1/2-inch Zoom
Old Monster Worm
“I use this one whenever largemouths are shallow. I fish it on a Carolina rig with a 1/2-ounce sinker, a couple of beads and a 3-4 foot leader. The idea is to get something that’ll attract big fish and that can be worked through stumps, rocks or weeds. This bait is perfect for that style of fishing,” said Gentry. “Any color will do so long as it’s plum.”
His favorite technique is to pull the worm along while allowing it to float up a bit and then slowly settle back to the bottom. Most of his strikes come while the bait is lying motionless on the bottom. He cautions anglers not to be in a hurry regardless of what the clock says.
Zoom Brush Hog
If your situation calls for a big smallmouth ASAP, he turns to a Texas-rigged Brush Hog or Baby Brush Hog.
“This is my smallmouth kicker secret. I can’t tell you how many smallmouths between 3 1/2 and 5 pounds I’ve caught just dragging or hopping one in green pumpkin or watermelon on the end of a main lake point.”
There’s nothing fancy here. Use a heavy enough weight to keep the bait on the bottom and move it along until you get a bite. The idea is to show lethargic smallmouths something different, something they’ve never seen before. Despite the popularity of this lure few giant smallies have ever seen one, especially one that’s Texas rigged. Take advantage of that.
If they aren’t in the mood for a Brush Hog, go back to the DD22. “Don’t believe that smallies always want a small lure with a finesse presentation. That’s one of the biggest myths in bass fishing. Some of my best brown bass bags have come off my old DD22. They’ll kill it when the bite is on!”
California native and top-rated professional bass angler, Ish Monroe, offers two lure choices for those afternoons when your back’s against the wall.
Snag Proof Ish’s Phat Frog
“This is my go-to bait when I need a big bass, and the bass are reasonably shallow. It’s got a lot of bulk and can be worked through the nastiest stuff in the lake, the stuff where giants live. I try to keep it in the strike zone as long as possible and change my retrieve from quiet to noisy as necessary. Color is optional. Pick one you like and then change if necessary.”
Take note: Monroe is talking about big bass waters. He isn’t fishing for bass less than 5 pounds, and a lot of times even one that big won’t do him any good. He wants a serious bass and is willing to fish a longtime for one big bite.
Jerry Rago Swim baits
“If the bass are a little deeper, and there’s no topwater bite, I’ll almost always go with a Jerry Rago Swimbait. There’s nothing on the planet that’s as natural-looking, or as versatile, for big fish. You can fish them shallow or deep, fast or slow and around almost any kind of structure or cover.”
In the spring and fall, or anytime they’re releasing trout, Monroe throws a rainbow trout pattern in the same size as the fish they’re releasing. Beyond that his primary goal is to match the prevailing forage. Swimbaits are not reaction baits. They mimic natural forage.
If the bass you fish for aren’t supersized, you might be interested to hear how Bill Lowen has put the seal on his many victories.
D&L Jig, Tightline
UV Beaver Trailer
“If I need a largemouth kicker at the end of the day on a Midwest or Northern lake or river I’ll be pitching and flipping. My lure choice will be a 1/4- or 3/8-ounce D&L Jig in black and blue with a matching Tightline UV Beaver as a trailer. I’ll toss it into the heaviest stuff I can find no matter if it’s grass, wood, rock or a combination of some or all of them. My goal is to get inside places where other anglers either can’t or won’t go and find the bass they missed.”
That combination will allow his presentation to work its way down fast enough to get a reaction bite but slow enough to give the fish a good chance to get it in the heavy cover he’s fishing.
Brass n’ Blades Double Willow-leaf Spinnerbait
“When I want to catch a big smallie, I go with a big, Brass N’ Blades double willow-leaf spinnerbait. The blades should be at least Nos. 4 and 5, but 4 1/2 and 5 1/2 is even better. My colors are standard, chartreuse or white.”
This lure will allow Lowen to fish almost anywhere. It’ll handle weeds and grass as well as rock and wood and will withstand the abuse monster bass routinely dish out.