Size Matters

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OK, you just saw Fat Head and me skipping a jig in the Salem Canal, a tributary of the Delaware River. It was the only way to catch them. Our day was cold and blustery. The fish were positioned back under the shoreline cover and aggressive doesn’t describe the bite. That’s called tough.

But, we had to make the best of it. Filming, fishing a tournament or fishing on your day off work is all the same when it comes to the weather. You deal with current conditions. Period.

We fished with Missile Jigs’ Mini Flip jigs. There’s a reason for that: It’s the best small skipping jig that’s available when the bite gets tough, and I don’t say that just because I’m a part of their team. It’s the bait I used to win the Bassmaster Elite Series event on the Delaware River.

There are at least four things that make it my go-to lure for the kind of fishing conditions you saw on Salem Canal Revenge.

The first is that it’s small and compact, much smaller and more compact than other jigs of the same weight. Even the largest size, 1/2 ounce, is relatively tiny. When you don’t want to show the bass a huge profile this one’s where it’s at.

That small profile is useful when the local forage is small. If the fish aren’t actively feeding, you don’t want to show them something different, something they haven’t seen over and over again. That’s an immediate turnoff.

20160128-missile-mini-flip-jig
Buy Missile Jigs Ike’s Mini Flip Jig

The smaller size also gives the Mini Flip a faster rate of fall for its weight. That helps trigger a reaction bite when the fish are tight to cover. They have no time to figure anything out. They’re predators. They attack.

The last thing — not counting quality construction and an affordable price — that makes this jig so great is that the head design makes it skip easily and with super accuracy. You can put it back where the fish are, and where the other guys aren’t.

No lure can live up to its potential, however, unless you throw it on the right tackle. My choices for the Mini Flip are:

I start with a 7 foot, 2 inch medium-heavy Abu Garcia rod with a soft tip. (It’s one of my Signature Series rods.) The length is critical. I designed this rod specifically for skipping small jigs. I added 2 inches beyond the 7 foot mark because that’ll give you extra distance and accuracy without the rod becoming too long and too heavy.

My reel was an Abu Garcia MGX model, 7:1 gear ratio. I spooled it with Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon, 17-pound-test. I selected that particular line because it’s heavy and has a fast sink rate. That helps the jig get down quickly where it needs to be. That’s a part of triggering a reaction bite.

I’ve mentioned each product I used not because it’s the only good stuff out there. It’s not. But it is what I use, and I only use products that help me catch fish and that I can rely on day after day under tough conditions.

How to Choose a Reel with the Right Gear Ratio

How to Choose a Reel with the Right Gear Ratio thumbnail
Mike Iaconelli — Reel Time

A big part of success when you’re bass fishing is proper bait presentation, and a big part of proper bait presentation is speed. To some extent that’s a function of the gear ratio of your reel.

It’s true that you can speed up a low gear ratio reel by cranking fast and you can slow down a high gear ratio reel by cranking slow. I won’t deny that. But it’s a lot of work. It’s much better, and a heck of a lot more efficient, to select reels with the correct gear ratio for what you’re trying to do with a lure. When you do that a steady wind will give you what you need.

Here’s how I select the gear ratios for my reels.

Low speed reels

I put any reel with a gear ratio between 5.4:1 and 6.4:1 in this group.

Abu Garcia REVO ALX Casting Reel
Abu Garcia REVO ALX Casting Reel 6.4:1

They’re at their best when you need to slow roll a spinnerbait, drag a jig or fish a crankbait. They keep your speed down and give you just a little bit of hesitation when you set the hook. That’s critical with this class of lures, especially crankbaits.

My strong preference is for an Abu Garcia Revo ALX. The ALX can be purchased with a 6.4:1 gear ratio that’s pretty versatile for fishing a wide variety of baits slowly.

Abu Garcia Orra Winch
Abu Garcia Orra Winch

An even slower model is the Orra Winch. It comes in at 5.4:1 gear ratio, and it’s much less expensive that the ALX.

Both of these reels are high quality and will do you a wonderful job for years if you take care of them.

Medium speed reels

Reels in this group will have gear ratios between 7.1:1 and 7.5:1.

Medium speed reels are at their bestik with single hook lures.  They’ll do a little of everything but really they’re made for things like normal spinnerbait presentations, swim jig applications and speed worming techniques.

Abu Garcia REVO Premier Generation
Abu Garcia REVO Premier Generation

The Abu Garcia Revo Premier Generation 3 reels with the appropriate gear ratio will do you a good job in this class. They’re tough. Take special care of this reel, however. It’s going to be your workhorse for many seasons.

High speed reels

These reels will have gear ratios in the 8:1 to 9:1 class.

They’re best use is for speed fishing lures or for when you need to pick up slack line in a hurry. I’m thinking lipless crankbaits when I say speed. I’m thinking frogs and flipping and pitching when I say pick up line quickly.

Abu Garcia REVO MGXTREME2
Abu Garcia REVO MGXTREME2

I like the Abu Garcia Revo MGXtreme2 and the Revo Rocket. The MGXtreme2 is a super fine piece of tackle. It’ll last a lifetime. A much less expensive choice in the high speed class is the Rocket. Despite its lower price, it’s still a top shelf option.

Abu Gracia REVO ROCKET
Abu Gracia REVO ROCKET

Think before you buy a reel. What is it you want it to do, and how much do you want to spend? Once you’ve answered those questions you can make an intelligent choice. Keep something else in mind, too. The medium speed reels are the most versatile so they are the ones you should get first or if you only have one or two reels.

You can buy whatever brand you want. Most of the major manufacturers have something in every speed range. But, do one thing first — look at what Abu Garcia has to offer. I honestly don’t think you can do better regardless of which company makes it or how much it costs.

 

 

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Let’s walk-the-dog

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Many anglers think of topwater presentations as something of a fun deal. They really don’t think of them as a primary pattern or something that can be used on a regular basis. That thinking limits their ability to put bass in the boat because a skillful topwater angler can often out fish other anglers two-to-one. That’s especially true if he or she chooses the right lure and presents it properly.

The best lure and the best presentation — at least for covering water and catching bigger fish — is a hard stickbait gliding back and forth across the water. We all know that presentation as walking-the-dog.

Rapala Skitter V
Rapala Skitter V

There are plenty of hard stickbaits around. Probably the best known is a Zara Spook. They’ll catch fish, of that there is no doubt. But for my money the all-time best is a Rapala Skitter V. It’s 4 inches long and weighs 1/2 ounce. That’s just what you need for most bass fishing.  Just as important, though, is that it has a kind of keel on the bottom that helps it glide from right to left and from left to right.

If you want to make that glide happen, you need to work your rod correctly. Start with the rod at the two position and bring it down to the four or five position. Do this with a sharp, quick snap on a reasonably tight line. As soon as your rod tip is down you should bring it back up on a semi-slack line. Then, before you snap it down again; take up all the slack. Develop a cadence. That’ll make all the difference in the world.The process is a little hard to describe in writing. I’d suggest you go to YouTube and watch some videos before you start your on-the-water practice.

Abu Garcia "Ike" Delay Series Casting Rods
Abu Garcia “Ike” Delay Series Casting Rods

Walking-the-dog correctly requires the right equipment. Start with a fairly soft rod that has a parabolic bend, and make sure it’s no longer than 7 feet and has a short butt for a handle. I have one that’s designed just for this technique. It’s the Abu Garcia 6 foot, 4 inch short butt Delay Series rod.

Abu Garcia REVO Premier Generation 3 Casting Reel
Abu Garcia REVO Premier Generation 3 Casting Reel

I use an Abu Garcia 7:1 reel. That’s fast enough to keep my line coming in and plenty strong enough to handle big bass. Most of the time I spool it with 40-pound-test Berkley Trilene Professional Grade Braid and I usually tie a short monofilament leader on to give me a little more shock protection.

Learn to walk-the-dog this year if you don’t already know how. It’ll make a big difference in your catch.

Giant Spinnerbaits

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I’ve written about spinnerbaits in the past. They’re one of several older, super good lures that have fallen out of favor because other baits have come along that are newer and more popular. That’s too bad because they serve a serious purpose.

I never leave the dock without a handful of them in my boat, and within that handful will almost always be a few giants.

Before we get too far into this thing, though, we need to define giant. I’m talking about something in the No. 5,6,7 or even No. 8 range. I want lots and lots of flash and a serious amount of thump when I wind it back to the boat.

What I don’t mean by giant is heavy. Most of the time I’m throwing a 1/2-ounce or a 3/4-ounce head. Almost never do I go above a full ounce. This isn’t about weight. It’s about creating a huge profile when the bass sees my lure.

Molix Venator with Willow and Colorado Blades

My choice of spinnerbaits is always a Molix Venator, at least when I’m going giant.  They’re well built, reasonably priced and can be modified quickly. The modification thing is really important. You only need four or five bodies and a box of blades to make dozens of different looking lures. I usually put a big willow leaf blade behind and a smaller Colorado up front.

Here’s when and why I throw giant spinnerbaits…

When I’m looking for a big bite

It’s no secret that big baits attract big bass. I know nearly every angler can tell a story about a big bass that bit a tiny lure. Most of them will be true. Nevertheless, if you want to catch big bass, I suggest you throw big baits.

When I’m fishing dirty water

Colorado Blade

Bass are primarily sight feeders but their lateral line is important, too. The bright flash from a huge blade and the hard thump that accompanies that flash makes it much easier for the bass to find your lure and attack it.

Hint: Sometimes replacing a big willow leaf blade with a big Colorado helps when the water’s really nasty.

When I’m looking for a really big smallmouth

Don’t believe all the nonsense you hear about smallmouth being partial to small forage and small lures. It isn’t true, at least not for the ones in the 5 and 6 pound class. They’ll grab something big before they even look towards something small. Most of the time, though, I downsize my big blade to a No 5 when I’m hunting big smallies.

Another thing to keep in mind about big smallmouth is that they are partial to shock colors. I often throw pink, orange and almost any hue of fluorescent. If you don’t believe me, give them a try.

Fish giant spinnerbaits, especially if you’re looking for giant bass.

 

 

 

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