Soft Plastic Jerkbaits and Fall Bass

Soft Plastic Jerkbaits and Fall Bass thumbnail
Mike Iaconnelli

Some things just go together. They make a team. And that’s definitely true for soft plastic jerkbaits and fall bass — largemouth, smallmouth and spots.

Now’s the time when bass are moving shallow to take advantage of easy feeding on baitfish. So, when you think about it soft plastic jerkbaits are a natural. They look exactly like the real thing, they’re easy to rig, they’re affordable and they catch fish.

I’m going to share a few tips about how to rig them and make them even more effective than when they’re fished in the usual way. I developed these modifications in the mad scientist lab right here at my house, and I’ve tested them on real waters under real fishing conditions. They work.

Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon
Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon

My fall jerkbaits are always rigged with a braid to fluorocarbon line system. My braid is Berkley braid — they’re all super good — and my leader is Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon. I usually go with 15 to 20-pound-test braid and 10 to 15-pound-test fluorocarbon.

But, I don’t tie them together with a knot-to-knot deal. I put a barrel swivel in between the two lines. It’s a big one, too. The swivel helps eliminate line twist and the extra weight helps with casting distance.

The final reason is that in really clear water the swivel looks like a tiny baitfish chasing something or being chased by something. I know you think I’m crazy when I say that, but I’m not. I spend a lot of time modifying rigs, lures and tackle. I’m telling you that’s what it looks like.

VMC Ike Approved Heavy Duty Worm hook
VMC Ike Approved Heavy Duty Worm hook

My hook is usually a 4/0 or a 5/0 offset worm hook. When I want the bait to fish down in the water I go with a heavy model like the VMC Ike Approved Heavy Duty Worm hook. When I want it to stay up near the surface I use a lighter model, something like a regular VMC Ike Approved Worm Hook.  When I want it to stay up near the surface I use a lighter model, something like a regular VMC Ike Approved Worm Hook.

I always Texas rig my minnow imitating jerkbaits. If I want my lure to ride up near the surface, I run the hook deep into the nose of the bait at least an inch. The eye is buried and the line runs through the plastic and straight out of the nose. The extra plastic makes the bait rise. If I want the bait to run deeper I rig it the standard way, about a quarter of an inch in. The eye is exposed.

VMC Sinker Stops
VMC Sinker Stop

When I’m having a problem with short strikes I rig my plastic jerkbait the usual way except that I put a VMC Sinker Stop (large) right through the point of the hook and run it about half-way up the shank of the hook. I then attach a #4 VMC Short Shank Round Bend 1X Treble Hook with one of the points straight up towards the belly of the lure.

VMC Short Shank Round Bend 1X Treble Hooks
VMC Short Shank Round Bend 1X Treble Hooks

I run that point into the plastic and slide the stop down to help keep it in place. This gives me two extra hook points curled up on the bottom of my bait. It’s a great little modification and it doesn’t do a thing to how the bait looks or acts in the water.

I fish the Berkley HAVOC The Jerk a lot of the time. But, another great choice is the Berkley Powerbait Maxscent Flatnose Minnow. The 4-inch size is about right most of the time. The important thing is to match the hatch. If you look at all the offerings from Berkley, you’ll see something that’ll catch ‘em in your lake or river.

Berkley Powerbait Maxscent Flatnose Minnow
Berkley Powerbait Maxscent Flatnose Minnow

Like I said before, there isn’t a better fall lure than a soft plastic jerkbait. You can fish it on casting or spinning tackle. Don’t just fish it the usual way, though. Try some of the tricks I’ve talked about in this blog. You’ll catch more bass.
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Position Your Boat Correctly

Position Your Boat Correctly thumbnail
Mike Iaconelli

I haven’t seen much media coverage lately about boat positioning. That is not a good thing. If your boat isn’t positioned correctly in relation to what you’re fishing, you’re doomed.

We all know that to fish a log correctly you need to cover the top end, the bottom end and both sides. To do that you must have your boat positioned correctly and move it a little with each cast so that you have the right angle. The same thing is true with a brush pile, a rocky flat or a drop. You have to cover it all, and from different directions.

The trick to doing that is to know how to control your boat.

Bass Cat Cougar
Bass Cat Cougar

My Bass Cat Cougar and my Yamaha 250 V MAX SHO make starting out easy. I can get where I’m going in a hurry but, at the same time, I’m not making a lot of noise or creating massive waves that’ll mess up my spot.

I like the Cougar because it suits my style of fishing. But, they have a ton of other models that might fit you better, and they range in price to fit almost any budget. Check them out when you’re in the market for a new boat. And don’t forget: You can get accessories for them if you’re disabled or physically challenged.

The Yamaha on the back is a great addition to my Cougar. It’s quiet, efficient and reliable. Again, they make all sorts of different sizes and styles. As far as I’m concerned it’s the best outboard I’ve ever owned. Check them out before you buy anything.

V6 V MAX SHO
Yamaha 250 V MAX SHO

As a package this combination gives me a stable casting and fishing platform. That’s what you need as a first step in proper boat positioning.

Once I get near my spot it’s time for my Lowrance equipment to go to work. We’ll talk about my trolling motor — Ghost — first. It gives me a 130 pounds of thrust which is enough for any situation. And, it’ll hold me in position with absolute certainty as well as do a lot of other neat things.

But the real deal is that it’s quiet. It doesn’t scare the fish like most trolling motors when you’re in shallow water.

Lowrence LiveSight Sonar
Lowrence LiveSight Sonar

Once I have that going I check out my Lowrance GPS and SONAR system. It’s unbelievable. I’m seeing things with my new LiveSight that I didn’t know were on the bottom in waters I’ve fished for years.

In just a minute I’m going to give you a few tips that’ll help you position your boat correctly. Before I do that, though, I want to say something from the heart. My equipment is top of the line. I know that. I’m a pro and depend on it to earn a living. But, just because your equipment is a few years old, or less expensive, or has less features on it doesn’t mean that you can’t put your boat where it needs to be or catch a boatload of big bass.

Here’s the truth of the matter: I learned to position a boat long before any of this new equipment was around. It’s easier and better now. That is for sure. Nevertheless, back in the day we used 12 volt trolling motors and flashers, and we caught a lot of fish. What I’m saying is that if you can get the newer equipment, go for it. You won’t be sorry. But if you can’t, don’t give up. Use what you have efficiently.

In order to do that — with new equipment or old — you need to learn to do a few things, and learn to do them well.

  1. Always create a safe zone around your target, an area your boat never goes into or disturbs anything. Don’t hit the bank or stir up mud. There’s nothing wrong with making long casts.
  2. Use the wind and current to help you position your boat. Drifting backwards while you’re casting is OK. I did it for years.
  3. When you do use your trolling motor set it to the lowest possible power stetting you can get away with. The less noise and disturbance the prop makes the better.
  4. Run your trolling motor on constant whenever possible. The off and on turning of the prop disturbs the fish more than a constant speed.
  5. Use your electronics as your underwater eyes. I have one eye on my map and one eye on my SONAR at all times. I want to see everything both of them is showing me. Two screens are the best, but a split screen will do the same thing.
  6. Don’t neglect marker buoys just because you think they’re old-fashioned. I use commercial ones when I’m practicing or fun fishing. When I’m in a tournament I go with clear soda bottles. Wrap some heavy string around them along with a heavy weight. They’ll work as good as the ones you bought at the tackle shop.
  7. A drift sock is super good when you want to fish across a long break or a giant weedbed. The strings on them will control them pretty well once you get the hang of using them.
  8. Avoid anchors when you can. I only use them in extreme conditions, when I want to protect a spot from other competitors or when I’m bed fishing.

Careful and precise boat control will put as many fish in your livewell as anything else you can do when you’re fishing. Do it!

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Crank Deep When the Weather’s Hot

Crank Deep When the Weather’s Hot thumbnail
Mike Iaconelli

Last time we talked about topwater options for the postspawn and early summer. As good as those baits are, though, they only last so long. At some point the weather and the water turn hot. We need to think about bringing them up from deep water.

There are several ways to do that but one of the best is with a deep crankbait. A deep crankbait will help you search for them. And, when you do find them it’ll catch them when they’re hungry as well as with a reaction bite when they aren’t. It’s a universal-type bass fishing lure.

My education into deep cranking came early in my career. Back in 1993, I was fishing a B.A.S.S. Top 100 tournament as an amateur. On the third day I drew the legendary crankbait pro and Bassmaster Classic champion, David Fritts. He was throwing a crankbait on slow tapering points in 15 feet of water. I was throwing a Carolina rig. He wore me out. I’ve never forgotten that day.

The toughest part of deep cranking is in your head. Deep to me used to mean anything below 12 feet. Now it means as deep as 20 feet. I know that cranking that deep is hard for a lot of anglers to wrap their heads around. Twenty feet sounds really, really deep. The thing is, though, it isn’t all that deep. Look at your bass boat. It’s probably about 20 feet long. That’s all there is to it.

Now let’s talk about how to do it. In my mind deep cranking can be broken down into four parts — the lure, the line, the rod and reel, the cast.

Rapala Ike's Custom Ink DT Series Crankbaits
Rapala Ike’s Custom Ink DT Series Crankbaits

The lure: There are several good deep crankbaits on the market today. For my money, though, I’m going with Rapala’s Ike’s Custom Ink DT Series Crankbaits. The four deepest running models will run anywhere between 10 and 20 feet deep. That’s where you want to be at this time of the year when the fish start moving from the postspawn into a true summer pattern.

Another thing about our DT Series is that the colors have been custom designed by me for maximum effectiveness. I guarantee you they’ll all catch bass. Pick the one that matches the forage where you’re fishing. If you’re in doubt, go with a shad looking color.

Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon
Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon

The Line: Your line is what’s between a big bass and a broken heart. Why take chances? I don’t. That’s why I fish my baits on Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon. It’s thin. It’s tough. It’s affordable.

I always fish with the lightest test-weight I can get away with given the size of the fish I expect to catch and the water conditions. The thing to remember about line is that the lighter the test-weight, the deeper your plug will run. As a general rule every two pounds of test weight will move your bait up or down about a foot and a half depending on whether you’re moving your line’s test-weight up or down.

And, don’t be afraid to go with light test-weights. I fish deep with 10-pound-test all the time. Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon is tough. It’ll hold a knot for a while. Still, deep crankbaits put a lot of pressure on line so I recommend retying often. You know, just to be sure.

The rod: This is an easy one. I fish my deep crankbaits with my Abu Garcia Ike Delay Series Casting Rods. The longer models range from 7 feet to 7 feet, 10 inches. The longest one has a medium heavy action. The others are medium actions. They all have a moderate taper with a short delay — less than a second — when you set the hook. They’re perfect for deep crankin’.

Abu Garcia Ike Delay Casting Rod & Abu Garcia REVO IKE Casting Reel
Abu Garcia Ike Delay Casting Rod & Abu Garcia REVO IKE Casting Reel

The cast: Make as long a cast as possible and make sure it goes past your target. Every lure takes a few cranks of the reel handle to get down to its maximum depth. I usually crank fast for a few turns and then slow down a bit.

Pointing you rod tip down helps with depth and so does a medium or high-speed reel. I personally use an Abu Garcia REVO Ike Casting reel with a 6.6:1 gear ratio. That gives me what I need as far as speed and power is concerned.

Now I want to tell you the most important thing of all about deep cranking: Hit something, anything, with your lure. Almost every bass I’ve ever caught on a crankbait happened when it was striking or deflecting off of something.

Don’t let deep bass get the better of you this year. Crank ‘em up!

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Six Pre-spawn Lures I Never Leave The Dock Without

Six Pre-spawn Lures I Never Leave The Dock Without thumbnail
Mike Iaconelli

Before we get into the actual lures I use we need to talk a little about the pre-spawn. I define it as somewhere between the middle to upper 40 degree mark on up into the upper 50 degree mark. Another thing is that the bass are feeding right now. Once they go to their beds eating isn’t so important anymore.

The final thing I want to mention about the pre-spawn is that the fish can sometimes be hard to find but when you do find them they’ll be all grouped together. You can catch a ton of them from one spot.

OK, with those things in mind let’s look at my six favorite pre-spawn bass lures…

1. Crankbaits

The first thing I like about crankbaits in the pre-spawn is that you can cover water with them. Like I said before, bass can be hard to find. Nothing replaces a lure that’ll cover lots of water at different depths fast.

Rapala Shallow Shad Rap Crankbaits
Rapala Shallow Shad Rap Crankbaits

Your crankbait should have a tight wobble. That is really important. One way to tell if your bait does that is by checking the angle of the lip. The straighter — more in line — the plastic comes off the nose of the lure, the tighter the wobble.

My two most favorite choices are the Rapala Shad Rap and the DT 6. The Shad Rap has a really tight wobble. The DT6 has a moderate to tight wobble. Both are made from balsa, and that’s what I want. I shy away from loud, heavy rattling lures at this time of the year. I want a subtle bait.

Rapala Ike’s Custom Ink DT Series Crankbaits

The thing about fishing a crankbait is that you want it to react, bounce or deflect off of something. Pick a lure that runs as deep or just a little bit deeper than the water you’re fishing.

2.  Lipless crankbaits

There’s probably no other lure made that’s caught more pre-spawn bass than a lipless crankbait. The big thing about them is that they sink so they can be fished at any depth. All you have to do is let them fall. And, they’ll come through vegetation as well as anything. They’re really good when you’re fishing around grass. They’ll also cover a lot of water, too.

Rapala Slab Rap Lipless Crankbaits

Rapala makes four models of lipless crankbaits. They have different designs but they all fish exactly like I described above. Pick the one that most closely resembles the forage where you’re fishing — match the hatch. I usually fish a 3/8-ounce or a 1/2-ounce size.

I hardly ever bring a lipless crankbait straight back. I yo-yo them. It’s pull and fall, pull and fall, pull and fall.

3.  Suspending Jerkbaits

If the water’s on the cool side, maybe no warmer than 55 degrees, it’s hard to beat a suspending jerkbait. The only limitation to them is that they aren’t very effective in muddy or heavily stained water. They’re a visual-type of lure. The bass need to be able to see them from a ways away.

Rapala Shadow Rap Jerkbaits

My favorites are the Rapala Shadow Rap and the Shadow Rap Shad. They both come in two models that dive to different depths.

The big thing about fishing suspending jerkbaits is the cadence. If the water’s on the cold side you should shorten and lighten your twitches, and lengthen your pauses. As the water warms up you should increase the speed of everything. And, make sure you change your cadence every 15 or 20 casts. Sometimes that makes a big difference.

Rapala Shadow Rap Shad Jerkbaits

There’s one other thing you should be aware of — a small blade on the belly hook won’t hurt a thing.

4.  Compact jigs

What I’m talking about here is something that’s smaller and more compact than a traditional flipping jig. I don’t want anything that’s big, heavy or bulky. It’s the same with my trailer. I want a short one and I want it to have a neutral action, not a big movement.

Missile Jigs Ike's Mini Flip Flipping Jig
Missile Jigs Ike’s Mini Flip Flipping Jig

My choice is a Missile Jigs Ike’s Mini Flip Flipping Jig in either the 3/8 or 1/2-ounce weight. It’s compact and has a really sharp hook. My trailer is usually a Berkley Powerbait Power Chunk. As far as colors are concerned I like green pumpkin, brown and orange and you can’t beat black-and-blue.

I soak my jigs around isolated cover, weeds and wood. If they were alive, I’d drown them. Sometimes I wiggle them in place and sometimes I drag them along. I never fish them fast and I almost never hop them. This is a lure and a time of the year when slow and easy will outproduce anything else.

5.  Shaky heads

I’m talking true finesse here. A small head on a standup worm. Fish it on spinning tackle with 10-pound-test braid and an 8-pound-test leader. I only use Berkley line.

VMC Ike Approved Finesse Rugby Jig

My favorite head is a VMC Ike Approved Finesse Rugby Jig. The reason I like this one so much is that it’s lightweight and it has an offset hook so I can Texas rig my plastic. There’s another Rugby Jig called the Ike Approved Rugby Jig, but it’s heavier. I like the finesse version for the pre-spawn. It gets me more bites.

I fish my shaky head around heavy cover most of the time. I want my plastic to stand straight up, and the only movement I give it is a soft shake. I want it to wiggle in place, no forward movement. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of fishing this bait slow. That’s what it’s about.

This is a great bait to get those last couple of bites after you’ve caught two or three from a spot with another lure. Never forget to do that.

6.  Spinnerbaits

A lot of people have forgotten about spinnerbaits because of other baits, but don’t you do that. It’s special in the pre-spawn because it elicits vicious strikes and because you can cover a lot of water quickly with one.

Molix Water Slash Double Colorado Spinnerbait
Molix Water Slash Double Colorado Spinnerbait

My spinnerbait is a Molix Water Slash in the 3/8 or 1/2-ounce model. If the water’s clear or only slightly stained, I fish willow leaf blades. If it’s dirty — often the case in the spring — I go with Colorado blades. Color is determined by the forage and the water. Go natural in clear water and bright when it isn’t so clear.

It shouldn’t surprise you to hear me say that I fish my spinnerbaits at a medium to a slow roll retrieve. I just move it fast enough to turn the blades.

7.  Vibrating jigs

I know, seven is one more than six.

The thing is, though, I couldn’t make up my mind between a spinnerbait and a vibrating jig. They’re both so good at getting me bites and covering water that it’s hard to pick just one of them. So I didn’t. I picked them both.

Molix Lover Skirted Vibration Jig

My favorite is a Molix Lover. It has a fixed lip which deflects it off cover. It’s virtually weedless because of that. And, it has a free swinging hook on the back that moves the skirt around and a trailer, too, if you want to add one. Match the size and weight of your lure to the forage and the depth of the water you’re fishing.

Fish it exactly like you would a spinnerbait.
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Six Pre-spawn Lures I Never Leave The Dock Without

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Top Secret! The MJ Rig

Top Secret! The MJ Rig thumbnail
Mike Iaconelli

This time in our Top Secret Series we’re going to talk about the MJ rig, otherwise known as the spinner-jig. It’s super simple but it gives the fish something they haven’t seen before, something totally different. Basically, it’s a combination of flash and true tracking through the water.

Let’s get started…

You’ll need three things to build the MJ rig:

Berkley Powerbait Maxscent The General Worm
Berkley Powerbait Maxscent The General Worm
  1.  We’ll start with a soft plastic stickbait. I use the Berkley Powerbait Maxscent The General Worm. The most important part of the stickbait is that it must have a big, fat blunt end on the back for the spinner to screw into. It comes in two sizes, the 4.5-inch and the 5.25-inch lengths. (Actually, there’s a 6.25-inch size, too, but I don’t use it on this rig.)

    VMC Ike Approved Rugby Jig
    VMC Ike Approved Rugby Jig
  2. The next thing you’ll need is a spinner along with a small swivel and a screw lock or a Tru-Turn HitchHiker on it. You can buy them pre-assembled from Tackle Warehouse or you can buy the component parts and make them yourself. Use whichever blade design you like best — Colorado, Indiana or willow leaf.
  3. The next thing you’ll need is a jig head. I usually go with a VMC Ike Approved Finesse Rugby Jig, but sometimes I switch to a VMC Finesse Half Moon Jig. The reason I like these heads
    is that I can do a Texas rig with the Rugby Jig if I’m in heavy cover or thick weeds. Or, I can leave the hook open with the Finesse Half Moon.

    VMVMC Finesse Half Moon Jigs
    VMC Finesse Half Moon Jigs

Both have a 90 degree line tie. That’s important because it helps keep the rig straight which is one of the most important things about it. And, they come in all kinds of different weights.

Let’s put one together:

  1. This is the easiest rig in the world to make. Just rig the stickbait with the jig head on the skinny end. Make sure it hangs perfectly straight. With the 5.25-inch size I’ll bite off a quarter-inch from the skinny end when I do this just to make it a little shorter and a little more compact.

    The MJ Rig
    The MJ Rig (Click image for video)
  1. After that screw the spinner into the back — the fat end — of the stickbait. Make sure it goes in straight and is perfectly centered.

That’s all there is to it.

Fish it:

You can fish this thing anyway you want. It’s good hopping along the bottom or swimming slowly along the bottom bumping into things. But the really neat thing about the MJ rig is that it’ll move through the water horizontally in a perfectly straight line with just a little bit of vibration and flash.

This makes it a great choice for suspended bass because you can count it down to the depth you want and then keep it there as you wind it back to the boat.

It’s also a great presentation when you’re fishing places where the bass have seen a million crankbaits and two million spinnerbaits, or where you want something that’s a little more subtle than a vibrating jig. It’s kind of like a spy bait only a little bit faster.

Give it a try the next time you’re out fishing heavily pressured water or when the fish are suspended. You won’t be sorry. I guarantee it!


Click the image below to hear Mike talk about the MJ Rig:

The MJ Rig
The MJ Rig

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Top secret! The Tiny Child Rig

Top secret! The Tiny Child Rig thumbnail
Mike Iaconelli

This rig is basically a weedless version of the Ned rig. At the same time, though, it has a completely different look to it.

The weedless part is a big deal. We all know that the Ned rig is one of the hottest finesse techniques around. And for good reason. It catches bass by the ton. But we also know that it’ll hang on anything and everything in the water. And, even with a weedless hook hangups can be an issue. The tiny child rig solves those issues.

You’ll need four things to build this bad-boy:

VMC Finesse Neko Hook
VMC Finesse Neko Hook
  1. We’ll start with the hook. I like a VMC Finesse Neko Hook in a size 2 or a size 1. It has just the right bend off its shank, and the hook point has a 3 degree offset that really helps with hooksets. The other thing I like about this hook is that it has an adjustable fluorocarbon bait keeper on the shank. That keeps the bait on the hook which makes fishing easier and saves money at the same time.
  1. Next, you’ll need a bait. I prefer a Berkley Powerbait Maxscent The General Worm in the 4-inch size, or a Berkley Powerbait Flute Worm in the 4.7-inch size. If you pushed me, I’d have to say that my favorite is the Flute Worm.

    Berkley Powerbait Flute Worm
    Berkley Powerbait Flute Worm
  1. Now you’ll need a nail weight. My most favorite is the VMC Half Moon Wacky Weight in the 1/8-ounce size.
  1. Our final component is a small bottle of Super Glue. Any brand will work as long as it’s strong, waterproof and dries fast.

Putting the tiny child rig together is easy: 

  1. The first thing we need to do is shorten our plastic bait. If I’m using The General, I’ll cut it off at about the ring (egg sack) and keep the thickest end. If I’m using a Flute Worm, I’ll cut it off at the last ring closest to the tail. Again, I keep the thickest part. Either way, I end up with something around 3 inches long, or maybe a little better than that.
  1. The next step is to Texas rig your bait with the VMC Finesse Neko Hook. Do that from the skinny end, not the fat end. This is important. Don’t put you hook through the thickest end. You’ll understand why in just a minute.
  1. Once that’s done it’s time to put the nail weight into the fat end of the bait. But before you do put a tiny dab of Super Glue on the end of the weight. That’ll hold it in place as the rig bounces along the bottom.
The Tiny Child Rig
The Tiny Child Rig

So now you have a Ned rig with the weight at the bottom and your hook on the top. That design will make it weedless as well as make it stagger along the bottom as you drag it over whatever’s there. It’ll stagger along like a tiny child who’s just starting to walk.

I’m telling you, this will take your Ned rig fishing to another level. You’ll know what I’m saying is the real deal the first time you fish with it.
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The Tiny Child Rig
The Tiny Child Rig

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Top Secret! The Stupid Tube Rig

Top Secret! The Stupid Tube Rig thumbnail
Mike Iaconelli

We all know that one of the biggest problems with tube fishing is that they snag easily. The stupid tube rig solves that problem. It’s totally weedless.

A second problem with conventional tube rigs is that all they’ll do on the fall is spiral. I’m not saying a spiral’s totally bad, but sometimes we want to show the fish something different — something they haven’t seen before. The stupid tube rig glides gently towards the bottom as it falls. That gives it a completely different look.

You only need two things to build a stupid tube rig:

  1. The right jig head is the first step. You’ll need one with a 60 degree line tie, NOT a 90 degree line tie. There are two hook choices on your jig head that’ll work really well. The first is to pick one with an EWG style hook. The second is to pick one with a round bend and a long shank. Your weight choice will vary depending on how deep you’re fishing.

    VMC Dominator Tube Jig Head
    VMC Dominator Tube Jig Head

The VMC Dominator Tube Jig Head is perfect for the stupid tube rig. It has the 60 degree line tie and it has a long shank, round bend super sharp hook.

  1. The only thing you need after that is a quality tube. I’m partial to finesse tubes in the 3.5-inch size range. My choice is the Berkley Powerbait Power Tube. If you want to go smaller than 3.5 inches, they’re made in a 2.5 inch size. If you want to go bigger, they’re made in a 4.5 inch size.

    Berkley Powerbait Power Tubes
    Berkley Powerbait Power Tubes

Let’s put it together:

  1. Hold the tube head down so that the tentacles spread out and make the hole inside the tube visible. Slide the jig head, hook point first, into the hole with the point of the hook facing you. Thread it all the way through until it’s about a quarter-inch from the head of the tube. Then push it out, through the plastic. Pull it until the head of the jig is against the inside wall of the tube.
  1. Rotate the head of the jig 180 degrees and push the line tie through the plastic.
  1. When you’re done the line tie should be sticking out of one side of the tube and your hook should be sticking out of the other.
  1. The last step is to run the hook point into the tube and make an ordinary Texas rig. Make sure your tube is perfectly straight when you get done. If necessary, take the time to adjust it. A perfectly straight tube will catch a lot more bass.

    The Stupid Tube
    The Stupid Tube Rig

That’s all there is to it. You now have a weedless tube that you can fish almost anywhere, and it’ll have a different look because of its soft, gentle glide on the fall.

Give the stupid tube rig a try this year. You’ll like it.

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Hear Mike discuss the Stupid Tube

Stupid Tube video

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Top Secret! The Eel Rig

Top Secret! The Eel Rig thumbnail
Mike Iaconelli

OK, this is a great rig for when the bite is a little slow and they’re short striking your lure. Basically it’s a cross or a hybrid between a Neko rig and a chicken rig. That sounds crazy, I know. But as you read on and figure out what I’m doing it’ll all make sense to you. 

Here’s what you’re going to need to build one:

  • A snap swivel or a snap and a swivel.  I use VMC Crankbait Snaps for this. They’re a little wider so they work a little better. And I like black. It’s less intrusive.
    VMC Crankbait Snaps
    VMC Crankbait Snaps
  • A drop shot sinker, any style or shape. The main thing here is that it must have a round, closed eye on top. Do not use one with a pinch style connector on top.
  • A short — 2 feet — piece of 15 to 30-pound-test braid. I like 20-pound-test for my eel rigs. Color doesn’t matter because it’ll be inside the plastic.
  • A Neko hook with a bait keeper on the shank. The VMC Finesse Neko Hook is perfect. I carry sizes between a No. 2 and a 1/0. I switch them around depending on the size of the bait I’m using. The main thing about this hook is that it has a bait keeper on the shank. That really helps hold the plastic in place.
    VMC Finesse Neko Hook
    VMC Finesse Neko Hook
  • A straight tail worm or a plastic stickbait. The perfect bait for this is the Berkley Powerbait Flute Worm, and I like both sizes. The thing here is that it has o-rings on it that help you measure where you want the hook to come out. 

Here’s how we’re going to build one:

We’re going to do this in a step-by-step process, but before we do I’m going to tell you what you’re building so you have an idea what’s happening.

When you’re done, the eel rig will have a sinker attached to the snap on the swivel. A piece of braid will come off the snap and run through the worm to a Texas rigged hook about two-thirds of the way back into the plastic.

  1. Start by tying a barrel swivel or snap swivel to your main line with a Palomar knot. Attach the snap to the swivel if that’s necessary.
  2. Then clip your drop shot weight to the snap — not to the swivel.
  3. Once you’ve done that attach a short piece of braid to the snap. Tie it right in the crotch of the snap. Keep your line away from the swivel. I like a Palomar knot for this. You can measure how much length you need by using the plastic as a guide and then adding enough line to make your final knot.
  4. Almost last, tie your hook to the far end of your line. I snell this connection. A Palomar is doable but a snell will give you better hooksets.
  5. The real last, run the hook through the bait but instead of pulling it out right away like you usually do go two-thirds of the way back through the worm. Basically you’re going to thread the braid through the worm. Pull it out and Texas rig it like you would any other bait. It’ll take you a time or two to get the length of the braid right and to pull the hook back that far but it will happen.

Here’s how you’re going to catch fish with it:

When you’re done you have an eel-like lure with a weight hanging off the bottom at the head. The worm stays flexible and the hook is in the back part of the worm. Beyond that it’ll drop down like a Neko rig before you snake it along the bottom.

And, you can change the weight and the rate of fall as the conditions change — in a matter of seconds. All you have to do is take the old weight off and clip the new one on.

I’m telling you fellow bass-heads, the eel rig is the real deal. Practice building it this winter so you’re ready to go this spring. You won’t be sorry.

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Listen to Mike walk you thought the process:

The Eel Rig
The Eel Rig

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The Best 6 Baits Every Serious Bass Angler Should Own

The Best 6 Baits Every Serious Bass Angler Should Own thumbnail
Mike Iaconelli

There must be a thousand fishing lures on the market. Choosing only six of them for this blog was no easy task. But sometimes we need to downsize so I did just that. I’ve listed the baits below in no particular order. The first three are power fishing lures. The last three are more in the finesse category.

A crankbait

This is a great bait because you can cover a lot of water with one and because they search out the bass. It’s almost like they’re calling the fish in to them.

Rapala DT Series Crankbaits
Rapala DT Series Crankbaits

Although there are hundreds of them available, picking one isn’t all that tough. Find one that runs at the depth, or just a little below that, of the water you’re fishing. That way it’ll deflect off of stuff in the water. That’ll trigger strikes.

Color is just as easy. Pick one that matches the local forage where you’re fishing. That is really important. Get as close as possible. Bass don’t have very long to look at a crankbait so first impressions are important.

If I had to pick a favorite I’d go with a Rapala DT 4 or a Rapala DT 6.

A spinnerbait

This one was a really tough choice between a spinnerbait and a vibrating jig. I went with the spinnerbait because it’s more versatile and won’t snag nearly as much. You can fish one of these things in places you couldn’t throw a vibrating jig and definitely not a crankbait with its treble hooks.

Molix Water Slash Double Colorado Spinnerbait
Molix Water Slash Double Colorado Spinnerbait

And, a spinnerbait looks about as realistic as anything made by man can look. They’re really effective under all kinds of conditions.

Every bass-head should have a 1/2-ounce shad colored one with them at all times. My favorite is a Molix Water Slash with either Colorado or willow blades. Go with Colorado when you want more thump. Otherwise fish with willow leaf blades.

A Jig

I’m talking about a traditional skirted jig. With the exception of a huge swimbait, skirted jigs have accounted for more giant bass than any other lure. That’s a fact!

Missile Jig Mini Flip
Missile Jig Mini Flip

The great thing about them is that they’re so versatile. You can fish them 12 months a year, at any depth and in any type of structure or cover. Along with that ways you can fish one are endless. You can drag or hop them along the bottom, swim them or use a combination of the two. A skirted jig is truly a must-have lure for any bass angler.

I have all sorts of sizes and styles. But if I had to pick just one it would be a Missile Baits Ike’s Mini Flip Flipping Jig in the 1/2-ounce size. My color choice would be black-and-blue.

A boot-tail plastic swimbait

This one wouldn’t have been on my list five years ago but recently I’ve been fishing swimbaits more and more. I like them because they’re super versatile but the number one reason I fish with them is because they look like the real thing in water that’s clear to stained.

Berkley Powerbait Power Swimmer Swimbait
Berkley Powerbait Power Swimmer Swimbait

Most of the ones I throw are small. I want them to look like an easy meal, something that’s swimming along that doesn’t have a clue its about to be eaten by a giant bass.

Once again, it’s important here to pick a color that matches the hatch. A small swimbait is primarily a sight-type of bait so you want it to look like what the bass usually see where they live.

My favorite is a Berkley Powerbait Power Swimmer. I usually go with the 3.3 or 3.8-inch size and I throw it with a 1/4-ounce VMC Dominator head. Pick the style you like the best. They’re all good.

A soft stickbait

This is the go-to bait for when the bite is tough, or beyond tough. I like it for when nothing else will get you a bite. There’s something about a soft stickbait that bass love, and it doesn’t seem to matter where they live or what they eat.

Berkley Powerbait Maxscent The General Worm
Berkley Powerbait Maxscent The General Worm

Another thing about a soft stickbait is that you can rig it almost anyway you want. You can Neko rig one, wacky rig one, Carolina rig one or Texas rig one. And those are just the rigs I can think of real quick. The truth is that your rigging options are endless. There’s no way you can rig one wrong.

I prefer something in the 4 to 5-inch size and I always go with a Berkley Powerbait Maxscent The General Worm. My color choices are pretty much like all the others — match the hatch. If you’re uncertain, go with green pumpkin. You can’t go wrong with it.

A shaky head

This last slot was a tossup between a Texas rigged creature bait and a shaky head. But, I agreed to do only six and so the last slot goes to a shaky head. The reason for that is that a shaky head is a great lure for when the bite is tough. You know, when a cold front just blew through or when there’s about a thousand guys in front of you fishing the same stuff.

VMC Ike Approved Rugby Jig
VMC Ike Approved Rugby Jig

A VMC Ike Approved Rugby Jig in the 3/16-ounce size works best for me, although I do go up or down sometimes depending upon the depth of the water and wind conditions.

I mostly prefer a straight tail worm. What kind doesn’t matter much as long as it has a flat side on the bottom. That’s important because that flat side will make the worm glide as it falls. That glide will get you a lot of bites when things are tough.

My worms are usually in the 4 to 6-inch size and, like with all these baits, I try to match the hatch. I fish my shaky heads on spinning tackle.

There you have it — six lures every bass angler should own and carry with them. They’re all versatile and, if you remember to match the hatch, you’ll catch a lot of bass with them.

___________________________________________Take a peek inside Mike's Flambeau box.

Take a peek inside Mike’s Flambeau box.

 

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The Chicken Rig

The Chicken Rig thumbnail
Mike Iaconelli

The chicken rig is basically a weedless version of the Neko rig. It’ll let you fish this deadly bait setup in almost any type of cover no matter how thick or nasty.

The parts I use to build it are simple and straightforward. I start with a VMC Finesse Neko Hook.  I like the No. 1 or 1/0 size with the bait I’ll recommend in a minute but you can go up or down depending upon the size of the bait you’re using.

VMC Finesse Neko Hook
VMC Finesse Neko Hook

The Finesse Neko Hook is perfect for a chicken rig. It’s super sharp, the shank is just the right length and it has a couple of fluorocarbon barbs on it to hole the bait in place.

VMC Half Moon Wacky Weight
VMC Half Moon Wacky Weight

My weight is a VMC Half Moon Wacky Weight. It’s a nail weight with a kind of nub on the end. I generally prefer the 1/16-ounce size, but if I’m fishing deeper I’ll go as heavy as 3/16-ounce. It just depends. Stick it in the fat end of the Flute and push it into the dimple. Make sure it’s straight into the center of the worm. This’ll make the weight flat with the plastic.

Berkley Powerbait Flute Worm
Berkley Powerbait Flute Worm

A Berkley Powerbait Flute Worm is my go-to bait. It’s fat on one end and has a thin, straight tail on the other. It also has a series of three ribs on it that’ll help you rig a chicken rig correctly. It comes in three sizes. I usually start with the 5 .7-inch size and then go down or up as necessary.

My color choices vary. I try to match the hatch as much as possible but I also make sure that the fish can see the bait. They don’t have a lot of time to strike it so I want to help them as much as possible.

The Chicken Rig
The Chicken Rig

I thread the hook about two-thirds of the way down the worm and Texas rig it. I use the ribs as a marker. It’s important to keep the hook in line with the bait. You can twist the worm around the shank of the hook to help. A perfectly straight, in-line hook placement will give you a natural action and help avoid line twist.

This rig will drop the plastic down at an angle, but no two falls will be exactly the same. When it’s on the bottom the worm will stand straight up. Just a little rod shake will make the tail wiggle.  It’ll look exactly like the real thing.

I’m not going to cover tackle right now because so much of it varies by where you’re fishing and how big the fish are that you expect to catch. That said, this is a finesse presentation so I use spinning tackle. And, as you know by now, I use Abu Garcia rods and reels exclusively and I never use any brand of line other than what’s made by Berkley. I’m a professional. I only use the very best.

Abu Garcia IKE Finesse Series Spinning Rod & Abu Garcia REVO IKE Spinning Reel
Abu Garcia IKE Finesse Series Spinning Rod & Abu Garcia REVO IKE Spinning Reel

It’s a little difficult to make things clear about the chicken rig in a blog so I’ll give you one more tip. Go to my YouTube channel and watch the video I filmed in the shop. That’ll help with the details. (Subscribe while you’re there, so you get all the good stuff automatically.  It’s free.)

There’s really not much else to say about the chicken rig. Like I said before, it’s a super effective, weedless version of the Neko rig. Try it the next time you want to fish one in heavy cover. You’ll be amazed at how efficient it is under tough conditions.

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Ike In The Shop - The Chicken Rig
Ike In The Shop – The Chicken Rig

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