How To Fish A Reaper

Finesse Fishing
Reaper bass fishing tips and techniques that are proven to catch more fish! Here's how to fish the Reaper in detail to catch more bass. Includes underwater video!


Don Iovino Reapers:

Gamakatsu Offset EWG Hook:

"Splitshot" (mojo) style weights:  

Top Brass Peg-It II 2 Pegging System:

Finesse Rod 7'1" Med-Fast Spinning:

Finesse Spinning Reel Size 2500: 

Seaguar Tatsu Fluorocarbon Fishing Line:



Simms Bugstopper SolarFlex Hoody:

Simms Superlight Pant:

Simms Women's SolarFlex Crewneck:

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Glenn: There we go. Man these smallmouth fight hard. Little split-shot reaper. Right there. If you see that very well. Nice. All right, just let them go.

Hey folks, Glenn May here with And today, I wanna talk about the Reaper. No, calm down, calm down. No, I'm not talking about the Grim Reaper, you can relax. I'm talking about a bait. Actually, it's a bait that was very popular several decades ago. And, it's kind of fallen out of popularity. And I think that's a mistake, because it is an absolute bass catcher. So, today, I wanna talk about, a little bit about the bait and talk about how to rig it. I wanna talk about the different types of equipment to use with it. And then I'm gonna show you how to fish it. So, let's dive right into it.

What is the Reaper? What is it that I'm talking about anyway? Well, it's this little plastic bait right here. Look at that. Okay. Neat little plastic bait. Can you see that? That is so cool. Yeah. Really flimsy. Look at that.

So, what makes this so cool? Well, the Reaper...this is a hand-poured bait, that came out in about the mid-'80s or so. When it...that's when it began to get popularity. Back when the finesse craze really took off across the country. I'm from the West Coast, so, I was fishing this little bit before they've had gotten really popular. And, this is what we were all fishing behind a split shot rig. And, it caught a ton of fish.

The beauty with this bait, what it's for, is when conditions are really tough. When the bite is tough. Not when the fish are in neutral mode, kind of ambivalent, no. When a bite is tough. I'm talking about when there's a bad cold front that came through, when you're in post-front conditions. Or maybe, it's in the wintertime, when it's really cold. Or for whatever reason, the fish just aren't biting that day, and the whole ecosystem, the whole environment is just not moving around much. Not a whole lot of action that day. Birds are laying down on the shoreline, the cows are laying down, there's just not a lot of activity. That's when you break this out. Because this is gonna save the day. This is how you eke few bites when the fishing is real tough.

So, here's the deal. It's hand-poured. And that is critical. You can' injection mold bait like this, isn't gonna work. And, I'll tell you why. Because this movement here, the presentation, and well, I'll show you that in a minute. But it's very, very slow. So, you're relying on very subtle slight movements. So, this bait will move, and wiggle, and undulate, just a little bit, just enough to make it look alive. But, it's gotta be this flimsy hand-poured material in order for it to do it. Otherwise, it's just a stick of plastic that the fish are gonna ignore.

So, let's talk a little bit about how to rig this bait, and make it work for you. So, here's the deal. You're gonna fish it behind a split shot rig. Yeah, it can work as a drop shot. I've used it as a drop shot bait. And that does all right. But it's best used behind a split shot rig. And that's because you're dragging it on the bottom, very slowly and letting it lift and drop, lift and drop. And again, I'm gonna show you a little bit how to work that bait in a little bit.

The key is in rigging it. So, if you look at this bait, there's a definite flat side to it. That's the top here. See that? And, so, what you're gonna think here is, well, then I should...that's how it lays on the bottom, right? The flat side down. That would be a mistake. Because you see the bulk of the plastic is underneath the flat side here. So, that means the center of gravity is below the flat side.

So, if you take your hook and you rig it on the flat side, the weight of that hook is gonna try to offset the center of gravity of this bait, and it's gonna spin. And, that's presents two problems. Number one, it's gonna look unnatural. It's not gonna work the way you want it to, and you're not gonna get any bites. The second reason is that, you're using spinning gear with this, and you don't wanna induce more line twist than you have to. A lot of guys are frustrated with line twist and spinning reels, and a lot of it has to do, because the bait is twisting. And that's because you rigged it in a manner that would make it twist. So, you have to make sure that you put the hook, the flat side. Sorry, rig it so that the hook is where the flat side is up. Right?

So, it looks like this when it's rigged. So, we're using a 1/0 EWG hook. And you can see the flat side is up on this. Now, I use an EWG hook, the true finesse aficionados, they wanna use a straight shank hook. That's because back when this came out when we were fishing it, that's all that was available. EWG hooks weren't made then, they only came out, about back the mid-'90s, is when EWG kind of showed up in the market. So, alls we had was straight shank. So, the true finesse perfectionist, that guy is gonna wanna use a straight shank.

I don't like it because, this is a real soft plastic bait. A straight shank hook will easily come through the body of the bait. And, now, you're snagging on things. As you can see here an EWG, it lays kind of flat to that flat side of the bait. And, so, you're not're gonna get less hook snags, and things like that.

One of the things I do also, first of all, when you rig it, make sure it's absolutely positively straight on the bait, you got to make sure your hook goes absolutely dead center in the middle, it comes out absolutely dead center on the bottom. And that it's lined up perfectly straight on the hook. See that? See how perfectly straight that is? Absolutely, that's what you need to have. If you're off by a little bit, this is gonna twist. So, take the time to rig it properly.

And then lastly, what I do is I take some 30-pound monofilament line. Some of you guys may have seen this before  whereI do this. And I peg it right through the eye. I've already done this already. But, you prick it right through the eye of the hook, through the bait, and through the eye of the hook.

And, I've shown this guy, to you guys many times before. I think quite a few years ago on YouTube, I was the first person on YouTube to show you this little trick. I'm not the one who invented it, but, I think I made the first video ever to show it. Now, I see a lot of guys that are showing you how to do it on YouTube. And, that's great. I love to give you guys information that you wanna use, and share with your friends. That just tells me that I'm giving you some great information. So, I'm sure you've seen this peg thing before. If not, I've got a video, I'll link it down the bottom it shows you how to use the monofilament as a way to peg your bait on there.

Now, the reason why we do it is, that bait again is super soft. It's hand-poured material. So, it wants to... It's gonna tear. It's gonna tear easily. And, it may only last you one or two catches, and then it's torn. It's done. Well, if you put the monofilament through there and hold it in place, it's gonna last a bit longer. It's not gonna tear as much. So, you might get a few more catches out of it. The other reason is because it's so soft, sometimes on a hook set it'll ball up on the hook. It'll slide down the shank and ball up on that hook and it'll interfere with the hook set. So, pegging it that way, with that monofilament, it holds that bait in place, and prevents that from happening. So, it's real critical to do that. It's important because again, this is used when the bite is really off and you wanna put the odds in your favor, as much as possible. If you guys really...if you're a believer in using scent, now's the time to use it. This is a good time to put some scent on that bait, if that's what you like to do.

There we go.

Keri: Oh, you got one.

Glenn: That's a good one. That's a good one. Oh boy. There we go. There we go.

Keri: That's a fighter too.

Glenn: Yeah. He is. Smallmouth don't give up. There we go. Here we go.

Keri: That's a little better fish.

Glenn: A little bit.

Keri: He's been speared by something

Glenn: Probably a Cormorant. That's a decent fish.

Keri: Yeah.

Glenn: I'll take it.

Keri: I'm good.

Glenn: On a Reaper.

Keri: Okay. I'm gonna fish with it.

Glenn: Alright buddy. These guys love to fight. I'll let you go.

All right. Now, let's talk a little bit about the rigging itself, and then about the equipment. This is again on a split shot rig, what I use here is a cylindrical weight. Just like this you can see, and use a little rubber Peg It. That holds it in place.

I still call this a split shot rig because that's what we used way back when was a split shot. These cylindrical weights didn't come out till much later. I think some guys call this a Mojo rig. It's because there was a company named Mojo. It's a brand, and they were one of the more popular ones used, that made this cylindrical weight when it came out. But, it's a split shot rig, guys. Even though it's not technically a split shot, but it's a cylinder weight, and you put it up about 18 inches. Maybe two, this is probably 12, 24 inches above, in front of the bait.

All right? The reason you do that is, you want the fish to concentrate on the bait and not the weight. So, I wanna keep it separate. And a lot of times I'm fishing this in ultra-clear water. So, I wanna have that separation. I've had it as much as 3 feet or 4 feet away in water, that's like bathwater, just super clear, where you can read a stop sign, in 30 feet of water and it's sitting on the bottom of the lake. I've fished those kind of lakes. That's when you go on a move this way as far away from the bait as possible just to keep in the focus on the bait here. I've actually moved it up closer too maybe 6 inches or so, when you're in really muddy murky water, it doesn't matter as much.

But, the idea here is when you're fishing it, you're lifting up on the weight, and the bait comes out and follows it, and then you drop the weight, and this just slowly falls kinda down towards the bottom. So, a little bit more distance between it gives a little more time to fall. Okay, that's the idea.

There we go. There we go. Come here, calm down, got your face. I'm gonna get your face. There. There, that took a little work. These guys don't wanna be caught. I don't know why. Drop shot Reaper, we'll take it. Thank you, buddy.

Now, the kind of equipment I'm using, I'm using six-pound copolymer line. I'm not using fluorocarbon because, fluorocarbon is dense. It's got, not like it's stupid dense, but, it's heavy. And, it'll actually fall...the sink rate of it can be faster than the weight. It actually will help bring the bait down faster. I'll put it that way. Not that it falls faster. But, it weights it down a little bit more, and makes it sink a little bit faster. Copolymers not so much, it's not as dense. So, it's more of a neutral density kind of line. So, that's what I like to use with it.

If all you have is fluorocarbon, then use fluorocarbon. There's not a hard rule here. I'm just telling you what I like to use. I definitely don't like to use mono because it's buoyant and that actually interferes with it. It actually makes it lighter and it starts to fall like this. And that's not how you want it fall, you want the bait to fall naturally, like this.

Same thing with braid. Braid has some buoyancy to it as well. And, so, it's gonna interfere with the action of this bait. But also braid is, you know, again, you're fishing this for the most part in really clear water. And braid, just looks like rope, in the water. It's really obvious, this is a very slow presentation. You want the fish to...everything to look normal to them, and braid is easy for them to see when it's moving really slow. Then they're gonna pick it apart. So, I just, I don't use braid.

The other reason also, is I like to throw this around a lot of rocky cover, and braid frays easier than copolymer and fluorocarbon. Believe it or not, braid just doesn't do as good a job. So, there's a lot of reasons why but I can keep going but, copolymer's the best to use with the setup. My second option would be fluorocarbon.

Now, rigged with it. I'm using a spinning outfit, just a regular spinning rod. This is your typical finesse setup. It's a seven-foot, medium power rod, with a medium-light action rod tip. You know, a moderate rod with the medium-light, or sometimes a light action. But, if you can find a moderate light action or medium-light action, that's even better. Something that has a lot of give and flex to it.

Because, when you're fighting the fish, you wanna take some of the pressure off the hook. It's a real lightweight thin wire hook, and it doesn't take much to set the hook. So, you don't need a lot of backbone to set the hook. But, conversely, it's easy to rip it out of the fish's mouth. So, you don't want a super strong rod that puts a lot of pressure and strain on that hook as you can pull it right out of the fish's mouth. So, something that has got a lot of give, a lot of bend, a lot of flexibility to it. You can see it's got a little flex to it. So, that's what you want. It acts as a shock absorber.

Same thing with your reel, like a size, 2000 or 2500 size reel. The key with it here is not the gear ratio. It doesn't matter, you're fishing it slow. So, you don't need a fast gear ratio, what you want is a really nice smooth drag. So, a higher-end reel's what I like to use because it has a better drag to it. Again, when the fish makes a run, that drag is really smooth, it peels out that line without it jerking or pulling on the fish. It acts more like a parachute, to help slow him down, and turn him around, and get in your direction. You wanna ease that fish back to you. Because you're fishing a lot of open water, you don't have to worry about getting wrapped around anything, or getting the fish, you know, having the fish break off on something. You have that room to play it. So, having everything work in concert, your line, your reel, your rod, and your hook, can help you land more fish. Keep that fish pinned. That's the whole idea here.

All right, so, we've talked about the bait. We've talked about how to rig it. And we've talked about the equipment to use, what's left to do? Well, let me show you how to fish it.

There we go. There's a good smally, here. Just get him in. Come on. These guys just don't give up, easily. They do not give up. Come here. There we go.

That's what a Reaper can do for you. Nice smally. That works.

All right. So, let's do a bit of fishing here. First thing you wanna know is, when you cast out a split shot rig, you're not throwing it really hard. For two reasons. First of all, if you throw it really hard, the weight and the hook are gonna kind of spin around each other, and wrap around. It'll be tangled before you even hit the water. So, it's a nice easy lob cast.

And, the second reason that you're doing this is, you know, we're not worried about distance here. Okay. That's not the key thing about this bait, and this rig. So, don't worry about making really long cast, that's not the thing here. So, I mean, if you get a fish at the end of a very long cast with this setup, it's gonna be hard to get a good hookset on him. Right? So, that's one of the main reasons.

All right, so the cast is really just a nice lob cast, really light and easy. Just bring it back, hold it, you know, stop it for a second when you bring it over your head. So it lines up. So the bait isn't winging around. And, then, just nice, and easy. See? Simple easy, easy peasy, cast now. Immediately flip the bait over, and then watch your line. And you wanna watch it as it enters the water. And wait for it to stop.

Now, it did, it stopped. So, what I'm doing here is, I'm gonna actually grab the line, give a little bit of tension, and then reel up to it. Now, there's a couple of reasons I did that.

I wanna hold on to this line, because if you usually...if you reel up with the spinning gear with loose line, you may end up getting a loop in your reel here and you won't see it until your next cast. And then you get this big old bird's nest. You don't wanna do that. So, tighten up on it.

But the other thing also is when you're reeling, you know, watching your line, as it falls, you wanna keep an eye on it. You wanna watch it, and see if it does any sort of, you know, pop, a jump, if it starts to spin or spool off really fast. Any movement like that. Well, you didn't impart it. So, there's something on the other end that's got ahold of it, that's doing it. So, set the hook.

And speaking of setting the hook when you set the hook, it's a real light easy hookset. It's more about lifting up quickly. And, reeling at the same time, then it is a hard jerk. Like you're used to doing with say a Texas rig, or a jig, something with a thick heavy hook. You don't need that kind of a hookset with this. And like I said earlier in the video. If you're using these small thin wire hooks, a hard hookset like that and only thing it's gonna accomplish is to make a bigger hole in the fish's mouth, so that hook can come out. You're not gonna get a better hook set by yanking on it really hard, you're actually going to pin the fish better by using a light hookset.

So, here's how we fish. You cast it out. Like I said before, and I just...what I like to do is put my finger on the side here. That way it keeps the line a little bit tight, and I watch this as it falls. And, okay. It's hit the bottom because I know the line went slack.

This is where you guys on the bank can actually have an advantage, than the guys in the boat. Because you can control this a lot more. Here I'm dealing with a little bit of wind, a little bit of wakes, and so the boat's moving around. So, I'm having to compensate for it. Which is why I keep reeling.

But the idea here is, you just wanna lift up on the rod and let it drop, and follow it as it drops. That's your first type of retrieve you wanna do, and let it sit. As I said earlier in the video, that weight comes up, the bait follows, the weight drops, and now the bait slowly flutters down to the bottom. Just a nice little dying bait fish action, little nice morsel. And that's all you got to do. Is just little lift up slowly, and let it drop, and rinse, lather repeat. Okay? It's really simple.

There's not a whole lot more to it than that. You don't wanna impart a whole lot more action. And the pauses in between these lifts and retrieves, that's what you need to experiment with.

Sometimes you can do it fairly quickly. But again, because typically the bite's really slow when you do this, your pauses are 10, 15 seconds in between. Sometimes 30 seconds to a minute. You just need to experiment with that. The more the bite is off, the longer you're gonna need to wait between retrieves, or the movements. And wait for that fish to pick it up. Sometimes they'll just come and lift pick it up off the bottom.

So, every time you lift up on it, feel, give it a feel. Just pick up that tension and see if you can't feel anything. Okay, there's nothing there. Then I'll just reel down and I lift up on the weight. And then I let it go back down. I reel up on that slack, keeping contact with that bait, as it hits the bottom. And then, I'm waiting for the bait to flutter down, it gets to the bottom. I wait for x period of time. And then just reel up on that slack again and feel. I feel nothing. Lift back up, let it drop.

The bite on this is gonna be real subtle. Again, the bite's really off. So, these fish aren't gonna hammer it and take off with it. So, you're not gonna feel a big tug, tug, tug. What you'll feel is kind of a spongy weight feeling. Just, you know, it's hard to explain it. What I like to do is...way to explain is take a rubber band, and put it between your fingers and kinda stretch it. It's that spongy resistance kind of feel. A lot of times that's the fish. They just suck it up off the bottom, and they don't go anywhere. They just hold still and don't move. So, you just feel that little bit of a resistance. And that's a fish. Especially with the second retrieve that I'm gonna show you.

The second retrieve is really the one that I do the most of, because that's when this bait really shines under these tough conditions. You throw it out there, let it get to the bottom. And now what I'm doing is once it hits the bottom, if you're on the bank, you just point your rod tip towards the the bait and just slowly reel, just slowly reel and you're just crawling it on the bottom at a slow pace. And pause. Just pause for a little bit, wait a little bit. And then slowly reel it up again, nice and easy. Okay? That's all you're doing. It's just reel nice and slow, easy.

If you're on a boat, you can do the same thing. But, also, I like to go to the side, I'll just pull it to the side. And just reel up, reel up that slack. And then I'll just slowly bring it to the side again. And that's all there is to it. Nice, slow, slow.

Matter of fact, in the wintertime, what I'll do is, I'll just point the rod tip down. I'll give it some extra line and I'll use the boat, I'll use the trolling motor and just slowly cover a contour line, go over a hump, go over a ridge, something like that. You wanna cover those deeper areas where the fish might be holding nice, and slow, and easy. The problem is you have to compensate with the wind, too. So, sometimes the wind isn't gonna go in the direction that you wanna do it. Or that the wind is blowing too hard. And, so, you're bringing the presentation too fast.

This is why I say you guys on the shore, you actually have an advantage in fishing this, because you can control how slow you fish this. It's sometimes difficult to fish this rig slow from the boat. So, don't always think you're at a disadvantage when you're fishing on the shore, guys.

All right, so, that's really, that's the two really main ways to fish this rig. It's very simple. It seems straightforward, but it takes a lot of concentration because that bite is so subtle, and you're feeling for very little subtle, subtle things on the bottom that may indicate a strike.

So, be in tune with your reel, and your gear, and your rod, and feeling for everything. Don't fall asleep because it can be boring. Just concentrate on what you're doing. And you're gonna catch those fish that otherwise were reluctant to bite. I hope that helps. For more tips and tricks like this, visit