Its coming, you can feel the excitement already; the adrenaline is rushing just thinking about it. Yep, fall is coming and that means Rattle Trap Season!!!! I can almost feel the strike of that 5 pounder as it blasts threw the last remaining clump of hydrilla on the edge of that creek channel and hammers a Rattle Trap bursting out of the top of that same clump.
You can cover a large area of water very quickly with a Rattle Trap and when the conditions are right, put a lot of bass in the fishing boat in a short period of time. When I first began fishing Rattle Traps I, more often than not, aimlessly cast it out and wound it back. From what I could see that is all that needed to be done. I seen everyone else doing it and that is all it appeared they were doing. One big difference, they would catch bass and I wouldnt.
There was one thing in common with every article I read and every fisherman I talked to, you have to tick the grass. Well what does that mean? Every time I would tick the grass I would end up with a clump of grass tangled in my hooks. Will a bass hit a ball of grass flying over their heads? Not at all, I know from miles of dragging grass and never getting a bite.
So, I read further and I dug deeper, and finally I had a friend take me out and show me the trick. We pulled up on a large flat, nothing fancy. It was grass covered with a few stumps mixed in. He said this looks perfect. We both picked up a Rattle Trap and let them rip. He said to cast it out and give a 1 2 count and start reeling. So I did and on the very first cast, you guessed it, I caught a bunch of grass. As I was untangling my usual mess I felt him set the hook and he landed a nice chunky two pounder. Hmmm, that was quick, maybe the bass has to hit it before you get to the end of the 2 count and end up in the grass. So I flung my Rattle Trap back out into the grass field and counted 1 2 nothing so I started winding and low and behold I caught another clump of grass, at this rate I am going to have a limit in no time. I untangle my mess, Im getting pretty good at it so I was done in no time, and I watch my partner. He didnt hook up on that cast or the next or even the next. But he did set the hook about 20 times, not real strong hook sets just quick jerks. I was curious so I asked, Are you getting that many hits? He just laughed and replied, No, but thats the secret.
The Secret. When you cast your Rattle Trap out and start your retrieve, you want it to run into the grass but instead of getting frustrated and winding it in to clean it. Give it a quick snap and it will pull free. Continue your retrieve just fast enough that your Rattle Trap will contact the grass repeatedly and each time it does give your rod a quick snap and it will jump free. Repeat this process all the way back to the boat.
The majority of the grass covering a flat will have about the same height, thats where the fall count and retrieve speed come into play. You want to retrieve your lure so that it will just contact the top of the grass. To fast or not letting it fall enough will keep your lure to high above the top of the grass. If you let it sink to far or your retrieve speed is to slow you will bury up to much and probably wont be able to rip or jerk your lure free. Notice I said that the majority of the grass will be the same height, some will be taller and some will be shorter. Dont get caught up in the difference, just use it to your advantage. A good pair of polarized sunglasses will help here. Always make sure that if you see a hole in the grass that you retrieve your lure right over the top of it, and if you can pause your retrieve a split second when your lure is over the hole. Now if you see a clump of grass that is taller than the rest make sure you cast to both sides of it, and if that doesnt produce a strike, run your lure into the side of it. Not threw the middle because you will surely get bound up. But if you run your Rattle Trap into the side or edge of it you can easily rip it free.
Most of your strikes will occur just after you rip your lure free of the grass. As you rip your lure free it jumps or burst out of the grass, much like fleeing baitfish or a crawdad that just realized it was sharing the grass with a predator. Now after your lure comes free it will naturally pause for a split second as your rod and reel take up the excess line. This pause is what drives bass wild, so be ready to set the hook. After your lure comes free it is important to get your rod back into position. This does two things, by dropping your rod back into position it gives your bait that strike enticing pause and puts your rod lower so that you have room to set the hook. Expect strikes to occur during this pause and be ready for them.
Your equipment can help out dramatically when it comes to fishing Rattle Traps in the grass. I like a rod that is 6-6 to 6-9 with a very fast action tip this will make it easier to quickly rip the lure free from the grass. Also bass caught on Rattle Traps tend to be very active fighters and difficult to land, the nature of a Rattle Trap makes it easy for a bass to throw the hooks (a heavy bait for its size and its compact nature make it easy to rip free from the bass’ mouth when that bass is thrashing its head side to side during acrobatic maneuvers), a longer rod will give you better control over your bass and help you prevent it from jumping. To do this keep your rod tip pointed at the water, as the bass gets closer to the boat it may be necessary to actually put the top ¼ or your rod in the water. A caution here: it is a delicate balance to regain your rod position once the bass is at the boat so take your time and let that bass expend most of its energy away from the boat. If you got a good hook set and you keep it from jumping you have all the time in the world let that bass ware its self out away from the boat. That way when you do get it up to the boat you can lift your rod out of the water and play the fish up to the side of the boat to lip it. If that fish is still actively fighting you when it gets to the boat it will be very difficult to lift your rod and still control the fish at the same time. More Rattle Trap fish are lost at the boat than any other time during the fight.
You should use a high-speed reel 5.5:1 or higher and it is a must that the drag is smooth and works very well. Again the nature of a Rattle Trap, treble hooks! Treble hooks typically grab the skin in the mouth of a fish (unlike a worm hook or jig hook that punches threw the mouth to the outside) and during a surge they can pull free An effective smooth working drag is your best defense against this. The high speed will help you regain line after you rip your bait free from the grass during your retrieve, putting you back in a hook setting posture quicker.
This fall grab you a couple Rattle Traps in a variety of colors and hit the water. With some patients and some practice you will catch good quality fish from those submerged grass beds.