By ANDY CRAWFORD
|Photo by TODD MASSON
|Sometimes bedding bass will bite anything,
but when the bite gets tough Yum can turn things around.
Spawning beds scattered the bottom of the backwater pond, buck
bass nervously guarding some and big females locked on others.
The water in the Tenn-Tom Waterway had been fairly soupy, but
this far from the main channel it was crystal clear — unlike anything
I had ever seen in Louisiana.
As Top Brass Tackle’s Artie Cosby eased the boat to the back
of the the pond, I grabbed my big bag of plastic lizards and began
threading one on my hook.
Cosby, however, had different plans. He told me to put my lizards
away, and tossed me another lure.
It was one with which any South Louisiana angler would be familiar
— a black/chartreuse H&H Swamp Frog.
I chuckled, thinking Cosby was trying to pull a fast one on
me, but the angler quickly explained that he was serious.
“It’s perfect,” he said. “Big fish can grab the tails of those
lizards, but these frogs are so short that when the fish grabs
it, they’re hooked.”
Of course, the bait wasn’t rigged like Louisiana anglers rig
it. No, Cosby wasn’t using Swamp Frogs to pull fish out of grass
Instead, he put a small, brass Weenie Weight (which his company
markets) so the lure would sink to the bottom.
“You want just enough weight to get the bait to the bottom,”
The frog was then quietly dropped into spawning beds until the
fish went nuts and grabbed it.
A couple of fish that went over 7 pounds proved the efficacy
of the setup.
So did an 8-pound, 4-ounce bass that now adorns my wall.
That trip back in 1997 proved that there was more to spawn-fishing
than plastic lizards, so why does everyone think “lizards” when
fish lock onto beds?
Tradition dictates that these are the lures to use — and lizards
can be effective. Most anglers figure that a lure that has as
much mystique as the springtime lizard has to be the best lure
But there are times and situations when other baits are needed,
so we compiled this list of lures to include in your springtime
This is a lure that has really turned on during the past few
seasons, but it’s most thought of as summertime equipment.
Arkansas’ Scott Rook used these over-sized crappie baits to
pull enough bass out of the Bayou Black area to finish second
during the BASS Masters Classic in New Orleans last summer.
But veteran professional angler and spawn-fishing fanatic Shaw
Grigsby said tube jigs are what he catches most of his big bedding
“That’s just always been my go-to bait,” Grigsby said.
He said the lure is extremely versatile, resembling a shad or
a crawfish, depending upon how it’s used. Swimming the plastic
bait makes it look like a baitfish, while hopping it along the
bottom gives it the look of a crawfish.
The latter approach is what spawn anglers like Grigsby use when
the bass are protecting spawning beds.
“It’s one of those baits they don’t like coming around their
beds,” Grigsby said.
|Strike King Wild Thang
The model he uses is a 4 1/2-inch Strike King Denny Brauer Flip-n-Tube,
although the newly released Strike King Craw Tube is probably
going to find a place in his tackle box. “It a tube with pincers.
That’s going to be even better (than traditional tubes),” Grigsby
Kentucky pro Mark Menendez said he also likes tubes, such as
the 4 1/2-inch Riverside Vibra King Tube.
Menendez said the important thing to remember when fishing this
and other plastic baits is that spawn fish don’t care about color
— the fish are trying to get rid of a threat.
“Color is not that important to me. That bait simply becomes
an intruder to the fish,” Menendez said. “It’s all aggression;
it’s all protection of the nest.”
So he simply chooses a color that contrasts with the water so
he can see the lure. That way he can see when the bait disappears
into the maw of a spawner.
Grigsby said this genre of plastic lures is what he favors when
he’s forced to fish stained or muddy water.
His favored creature bait is the Strike King Wild Thang.
“It’s just a big, bulky thing,” Grigsby said.
Of course, there are other creature baits like ReAction Gator
Dogs and Zoom Brush Hogs that will also serve the purpose.
When using these types of lures, Grigsby’s not actually sight
fishing because of the reduced visibility of the water column.
“You flip in the places you know they’re going to bed,” Grigsby
said. “You want to be around some type of cover. If you have a
bush, they’re going to go right to the base of it.”
This is one of the deadliest spawning-bass rigs Menendez has
“It’s devastating,” he said. “You can get a fish to bite with
a lure that’s on the bottom, but it may take 30 minutes. You do
this (drop shot) and you won’t stay five minutes.”
A drop-shot rig is composed of a hook attached to the main line
above the weight, almost like a reverse Carolina rig.
For use on spawning beds, Menendez likes to put the hook 6 to
8 inches above the weight so it dangles tantalizingly just above
That’s why it’s so effective.
“The bass can’t stand to have anything suspending above them,”
This professional angler uses a 3 1/2-inch Riverside Vibra King
Tube or a 2 1/2-inch Riverside Wooly Hawgtail.
This bait can put bedded bass in the boat when dropping a lizard
in the nest produces no reaction.
Louisiana Sportsman Editor Todd Masson and I discovered that
on a spring trip to Lake Concordia.
|Photo by TOM EVANS
|Just because the traditional baits
aren’t producing bites doesn’t mean the day is a wash. Try
switching to other baits that spawners don’t see very often.
While he hopped first a lizard and then a plastic worm all over
the beds, the fish simply ignored the lures.
However, twitching a Rogue up to the beds, and then tapping
the fish with it, produced bites.
We still had to work fish hard, but we got bites.
Menendez, however, said the best way to work the lures is as
surface twitch baits.
“Twitch it, let it sit, twitch it, let it sit, and let it pop
to the surface between twitches,” he explained.
This bait is especially suited for this technique because it
will twitch seductively while sitting in one spot.
Menendez said the bass go ballistic watching the lure flash
around above their heads.
Rogues continue to be useful after the spawn, but he goes back
to a “twitch, twitch, jerk” retrieve.
This Excalibur bait is “basically a big Pop R,” and works basically
for the same reason as does a Rogue.
But Menendez utilizes it to get to spawning fish that are hiding
“It’s a cover bait,” he said.
What Menendez likes to do is use his 6-foot Ugly Stik to make
short but extremely accurate casts to send the lure under tree
limbs, into brush or under over-hanging banks.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is that this bait will walk
the dog, just like a Spook,” he said. “That bait will actually
work side to side and won’t come back to the boat much.”
In other words, it will flash side to side almost in one spot.
The lure also has a loud, single rattle that adds more noise
to the retrieve.
“It makes so much racket over the nest that fish can’t stand
it,” Menendez said.
He said fish will often rise behind the lure, flaring fins before
“When you move it again, that fish will come back and nail it,”
With this lure, the angler does think color can matter. He likes
to use the bullfrog pattern, which is “school-bus yellow with
a green back.”
“It looks like a sunfish, which is a natural enemy,” Menendez
This is a little-used lure for spawning bass, but Menendez said
it can be very effective, particularly in grassy situations that
make using Rogues or Pop’N Images impossible.
“It has the sexiest motion in the water,” he said of the 7-inch
Riverside Jitter Worm.
The key, Menendez has found, is to let the bait sink until it
is just out of his sight. He then twitches it back up in the water
column and lets it sink again.
When the lure gets over a nest, the fish devour it.
As with tubes or creature baits, Menendez doesn’t believe color
really matters to the fish. So he chooses a nice, bright color
that allows him to see the trick worm.
Lipped crankbaits certainly aren’t on the top of most anglers’
list of spring lures, but they can be effective when fished around
cypress trees where bass make their beds.
|Excalibur Pop’N Image
Lutcher angler Eric Williamson said Blind River anglers have
great success during the spawn by casting into the shallows of
the sloughs and canals where fish spawn.
The trick is to put the bait near the bank and retrieve it until
it bumps a root.
“Reel it so that it bumps the tree and stop,” Williamson said.
“After a quick pause, you start reeling it again.”
The strike usually comes during the pause, and the lure is slowly
rising through the water column above the hidden spawning bed.
Williamson said he and others use shallow-running (2- to 4-foot)
lures, like those produced by Strike King, Mann’s or Bandit.
The only caveat is that you have to be ready to go through a
few baits — banging plastic-lipped crankbaits into trees will
result in some broken lures.
OK, so this isn’t a lure, but Menendez said the attractant scent
can make a difference when fish are locked up after a front and
refuse to bite regular lures.
He discovered this pretty much by accident while fishing with
his then-girlfriend, who was reading a book in the back of the
“I couldn’t get the fish to move,” Menendez said.
Without looking up from her book, she recommended he squirt
some YUM on the lure.
“I finally sprayed some on, and the fish came to life. I caught
that fish on the second cast,” Menendez said.
The rest of the day was spent testing the theory, with YUM-scented
lures far outpacing unscented lures.