The pre-spawn is upon us and bass anglers are heading to their favorite waters in droves trying to catch the lunker of a lifetime. This time of year bass are hungry and need a protein packed meal to fatten up for the impending spawn, making catching bass on beaver style baits easy. However, the water is still chilly so big bass aren’t willing to move too fast to chase a meal. This means invading their territory and taking the fight to them! One of my favorite tactics to target these hungry and semi-lethargic pre-spawn bass is a beaver-style bait. This often overlooked and under-utilized bait is ideal for violating a bass’ domain and enticing hungry pre-spawn bass.
The first thing I noticed when I first began fishing beaver style baits was, like a jig, beaver style baits catch larger fish on average. Big fish are lazy and don’t want to expend energy chasing prey. They are opportunistic and tend to prefer something dropped right in front of their nose. This bait does that perfectly. I have caught many 4-5 pound bass on a beaver bait. Last spring I caught an 8-pounder by pitching a V&M Split Tail Beaver into a brush pile. Needless to say, I always have one tied on!
Beaver style baits are extremely effective because they mimic the three favorite prey of the bass–crawfish, bluegill and shad. Their profile is the shape of bait fish, while the beaver tail and pinchers give the bait a crawfish look. This provides a 3-in-1 technique in a single bait that increases your odds of matching the forage bass are feeding on that particular day.
Another great characteristic of beaver style baits is their tail. The beaver tail gives the bait a unique darting action as it enters the water that helps to trigger reaction strikes. Ninety percent of my strikes come as the bait is entering the water. If I don’t get a bite as the bait is falling to the bottom, I’ll either drag it back slowly or give it hops of the bottom to imitate the swimming action of a crawfish. During the pre-spawn, I’ll drag the bait slowly across the bottom. As the water warms, hopping it draws more strikes. Remember, nothing in the water is moving fast this time of year and working the bait too fast will look unnatural to the bass. The bait is versatile and can be used around many different types of cover.
My favorite targets to use beaver baits is around woody cover like laydowns, brush piles, stumps and cypress trees. I also like to pitch them into tall bladed grass like tules. They are very effective for punching through heavy vegetation like hyacinths due to their slender profile. These baits attract big bass so make sure the bait is rigged correctly and use the right gear. If not, you risk losing the fish of a lifetime.
Most of the time beaver baits are fished around cover, so a stiff rod and strong line is a must. I use a 7-foot medium-heavy rod and 17-20 pound test fluorocarbon line. The fluorocarbon line allows detection of those subtle bites. Of course if you are punching the thick stuff, go with braid and a 7’-3” or larger heavy action rod. A 7:1.1 gear ratio reel is preferred to get the bass out of the cover quickly.
One of the most important items in the beaver bait setup is the hook. It’s imperative to use a straight shank flipping hook with a bait keeper at the top like the Mustad Grip Pin Edge Flipping Hook. If using a standard hook without the keeper at the top, the bait will ball up at the bottom on the hook set and thus miss a lot of fish. Trust me; I learned this the hard way when I first started using beaver baits. With a straight shank flipping hook, I very rarely lose fish.
My preferred setup is a 1/4 or 5/16 ounce Elite Tungsten flipping weight, a 4/0 size hook, and a standard 4-inch V & M Split Tail Beaver. This bait is softer than other beaver bait brands and allows for better penetration and hook ups. It’s soft, but durable at the same time so you can catch several fish on one bait. The Split Tail Beaver is also salt impregnated and infused with pork fat, so once the fish bite, they hang on longer. The 1/4 and 5/16 weights seem to be the best all-around sizes for flipping/pitching situations; However, when punching I’ll upgrade to a 1-2 ounce weight depending on the thickness of the vegetation.
I like to keep it simple when it comes to color selection. In most situations I use green pumpkin. I’ll go with black and blue if the water is stained or dark, and watermelon red in clearer water. I always dip the tail with chartreuse dye to make the bait look more realistic. The pinchers on a crawfish are a different hue from the rest of the body and the tail on a bluegill is a lighter or chartreuse color.
If you’re not using this versatile big fish catching bait, you are missing out. Beaver baits can be used in a variety of situations and are effective almost all year. They are exceptionally effective during the pre-spawn when bass are looking for an easy meal. Tie one on and give it a try this year, you will be glad you did. Good luck!
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