Vertical Presentations with Horizontal Baits
By Paul Strege
This past winter you've organized your tackle, spooled reels with fresh line, cleaned the boat twice, and spent countless hours reviewing lake maps and navigation charts. All of this has been done in meticulous preparation for the upcoming tournament season. What else can you do to get ready? Not much really. If you are like me, you have also spent a considerable amount of time flipping the pages of Bass Pro Shops and Cabelas catalogs, drooling over the hundreds of pictures of lures. I especially enjoy this part of my winter ritual, not because I am preparing to win the lottery, rather I am looking at the lures for new techniques, similarities and differences, and unique presentations to incorporate into upcoming tournaments. One tactic that I discovered and now specifically employ for springtime bass is a "vertical" presentation with "horizontal" baits. This technique is commonly used by bass anglers during pre-spawn, spawn, and post-spawn conditions, whether it is intentional, or by mere coincidence.
My favorite lures for the spring period include jerkbaits and stickbaits. The Rapala Husky Jerk, Gambler Super Stud and the Gambler Ace / Yamamoto Senko are tried and true lures. In general, they all employ the characteristics of an elongated profile and a suspending or slow-falling action. The profile is important to simulating the bass' forage while a suspending / falling action elicits a natural interest in the bait being offered. Carefully pinpoint or forcefully rip these baits in front of even the most wary bass and you'll be amazed at the effectiveness.
Before the spawn, anglers can expect a bass' reaction to these lures to be out of hunger or reaction. Keeping the bait in front of the bass is essential for a feeding strike, whereas fast-moving, stop-and-go baits create a reaction strike. Pay attention to the type of forage the bass may be targeting this time of year. Is it panfish, shad, or terrestrial (land-based)? Often, the best indicator for this is simply your fishing location.
During the spawn, a more subtle presentation is required. At this time of year, expect the majority of the fish to either be cruising flats or located on a bed. In either case, a "horizontal" lure is deadly. When pitched onto a bed, I believe that stickbaits and other lures of a similar profile fall slowly, and in essence, disturb a greater area within the nest territory. Granted, traditional "nose-down" presentations such as a jig or Texas-rigged plastic worm have their place. However, anglers should carefully evaluate the bass' personality before selecting the most effective presentation; a horizontal lure may trigger an uncooperative fish into biting.
Inside weedlines are my favorite place to target post-spawners. Gambler Aces or worms rigged with weighted hooks work great in this situation. Again, focusing on a vertical presentation with a horizontal bait is the key. In preparation for a tournament a few years ago, I observed the majority of the larger fish moving in towards shore rather than immediately out to the weedlines. Those bass were roaming and cruising the super-shallows in pursuit of the bountiful sunfish. The lake had formed a distinct inside weedline which made great ambush points for the bass. Simply throwing a worm Texas-rigged with a weighted hook put dozens of fish in the boat for me rather than a sporadic few found on the edge of the outside weedline.
I encourage you to experiment with this technique on your own. You'll be amazed at the results that can be obtained by taking a few of your confidence lures that you typically pitch or flip, and presenting them with a "horizontal" look.
For more information on the information contained in the article above, feel free to contact Paul Strege at firstname.lastname@example.org. To order many of the lures described above, visit the Gambler-Bang website www.gambler-bang.com.