There are countless soft plastic baits on the market theses days. This vast expanse of choices for the fisherman can be both beneficial and confusing. How does one decide what to buy…what color, what size, what brand? Let me share my basic system for bait selection and progression each season.
I pretty much fish year around but I start to get serious about my bass fishing on my home lake in Tennessee when water temperatures reach the mid forties. My bait choices for this early season cold water is quite simple…I meticulously toss around the jig and pig. I am partial to pork trailers early and progress to soft plastic trailers later in the year when water temperatures climb into the sixties. I will begin the year probing mainlake points, secondary points, and some of the steeper creek channel banks.
As the weeks pass by and the days get longer, the springtime sunshine slowly warms the lake surface temps triggering the bass to slowly start their migration towards the shallow spawning areas. I make my gentle switch over to soft plastic baits at around 62 degree surface temperatures. Keep in mind, this is an afternoon temperature measuremant. It is quite common to see early morning temps in the middle to high 50’s and then see mid 60’s by early afternoon in the backs of bays. This past spring I began to pick fish regularly out of the shallow bushes on jigs and soft plastics in 58 to 62 degree water. When I make the switch to the soft plastic baits each spring I go to my “go to” bait…the Zoom 6 inch lizard. There are several good brands of lizards on the market but I have become particularly fond of Zoom. The design provides great action from the legs and tail, the texture provides a soft bite for the fish and great hook penetration, and I really like the color choices.
Several years ago I was turned on to the lizards by my brother David and my father Lee. Their spring trips to Kentucky Lake yielded daily big stringers of bucketmouths taken on the lizards from flooded bushes and mustard blooms. They would say that the bass hated the lizards because they ate the fishs’ eggs, therefore when the bass would strike the lizards they would really hit it hard. The more I began to throw the lizard the more sense it made. This spring I experienced the same style of fishing for a spell but then saw the aggressive strikes grow soft as poor conditions threw a wrench in the spring spawn schedule. It seemed the fish were gently gumming the back half of the bait, moving away a foot or so…probably away from a bed…, then dropping the bait. Powerful hooksets yielded nothing more than a torn up lizard and a back ache. I began to combat this situation sometimes with success, other times without, by “biting down” the lizard…or removing the head of the bait creating a smaller profile and increasing the chance of the fish getting some of the hook in his mouth even on the softer bites. No matter what the conditions though…I believe I get more action on the lizards than any other bait this time of year. I can sincerely say that I can credit 99% of my tournament winnings this year as well as a summertime win last year on the Zoom Lizards.
Although I use the lizard as my primary springtime spawn season bait, I also use it very successfully throughout the year fished on a heavy Texas rig or Carolina rig on ledges and drops, as well as lightly weighted over and in shallow to mid depth grass beds.
As far as colors go…I keep it very simple. My color selection year around with any bait is primarily based upon water color and the bass’ food sources. I use darker colors in darker water and lighter colors in clearer water. My lizard box is mainly filled with black, black with blue tail, black with chartruese tail, and watermelon seed. I also keep a good supply of 9 inch green pumpkin lizards for times I wish to change things up a bit or to upgrade a limit. I recently did some research on lizards living in my region. The variations in colors were countless but all had similar darker features. My research also confirmed that many lizards are aquatic and routinely feed on fish eggs and fry. I am a big believer that in most cases the strike by bass on a lizard is a reaction based strike and if the fish are aggressive or feeding and you put it in the strike zone they will eat it. I have seen times when it seems a particular color was crucial to getting bit but I don’t believe this is commonplace.
My techniques for rigging the lizard is simple as well. When flipping or pitching shallow I go with a pegged 3/16 to 5/16 ounce weight…maybe a 1/2 ounce to punch through heavy vegetation. I usually go with a larger hook shallow and around cover. My primary choices being a 4 or 5 ought heavy guage Gamakatsu. When fishing deeper water or Carolina rigging I prefer to drop down to a number 3 or even 2, dependent upon line size.
As the summer months near and water temperatures climb to the mid 70’s and higher I start to make the transition over to worms. I keep my worm selection as simple as my lizards with my primary choices being the Zoom ribbon tail in a variety of sizes, Zoom trick worms, and the Mann’s Jelly worms. But don’t ever be afraid to change things up on the groggy summer fish and show them a lizard. This is a year around producing bait and an absolute blast to fish. So head on down to the bait shop and pick up a pack and give it a try. Thanks as usual to UltimateBass.com and a big high “5” to Zoom and their products. God Bless and see you at the lake.