skip or drag a Texas-rigged stickbait across a weed mat or a patch of pennywort. A great tactic for thrilling reaction strikes, skipping keeps the bait in motion to imitate snakes, frogs, lizards and anything else a bass may want to ambush. With no contour points like a lizard or creature bait, a stick is less likely to grab a patch of tangled weeds.
Be sure to hit those gaps in coverage that allow natural attack points and don’t hesitate to kill the bait over one of these “windows.” Lurking bass know these points as feeding zones, so anything that falls into the shadows below usually meets with aggressive response. Great thing about a Texas- rigged stick bait is that you can instantly switch from a skipping/dragging presentation to flipping or pitching if you want to target a particular gap in the cover. (If a fish misses a topside pass, swing your bait right into the opening for the likely follow-up strike.)
Now, in some cases, digging down into the salad is a good way to tempt your quarry. When this is the objective, fit that Texas-rigged stickbait with a 1/16- to ¼-ounce, bullet weight and watch how easily it comes through the vegetation. Look for many of your strikes to occur right when the worm pops out of the weeds.
Simple as it gets, wacky rigs place a hook at the middle of a stickbait so both ends wiggle enticingly. Anglers can alter their presentations with frequent rod twitches for erratic wiggling or a mostly flat rod posture for a subtle fall in which water displacement keeps the bait squirming. This slow-sinking presentation is ideal for suspended fish; but it’s also a great option for bass holding under docks or around bridge pilings.
“The key to the wacky rig is the two tails that move,” said 2003 Bassmaster Classic winner, Mike Iaconelli. “On the tip-up, as you go from 3 o’clock to 12 and as you tip that bait up, you have the tails that wiggle each way. On the fall, you have the bait shimmering and wiggling.”
Wacky hook choices vary, but sometimes, the bass will determine what’s best. T.J. Stallings is an avid bass angler who handles the marketing for TTI- Blakemore – makers of Daiichi Bleeding Bait Hooks. About eight years ago, he developed a Catch and
Release Hook that makes wacky rigging easier on the fish. Essentially a circle hook for wacky baits, this model helps prevent deep hooking. Around heavier vegetation, hooks with weed guards like Gamakatsu’s Finesse Wide Gap Weedless hooks will keep the salad from marring your presentation and impeding hook sets. Whatever your hook choice, O rings will save you money by preserving bait life.
When deep water necessitates a faster sink rate, or if wind and/or current threaten to sweep your bait off target, you’ll appreciate what’s essentially a center-weighted wacky presentation. Comprising a tungsten or a lead ball on the shank of a finesse wide-gap hook right under the eye, the flick shake maintains that essential horizontal fall, unlike nail weights or peg weights, which pull one end of the worm downward and eliminate the double wiggle.
“The key to a wacky rig is that the pivot point is in the middle of the bait,” Iaconelli said. “That’s where you got that spring action. With the flick shake, you have that pivot point in the middle, but on the fall, you have a weight that’s pulling that bait down. With a traditional wacky rig, you only had that action on the tip-up. Now you have it on the tip-up and on the fall, (the weighted hook) is going to pull it down.”
FINESSE FOR THE BIG FINISH
Highly pressured fish and those that turn lethargic under changing weather or slow current, may respond to the subtle look of a more easily-captured prey. A stickbait’s profile fits this scenario well and if the fish are really having a bad hair day, drop down to a 3-inch version of Senkos, Tiki Sticks or Dingers.
On a dropshot, smaller stickbaits can be deadly for deep smallmouth, while full-size baits rigged wacky style often appeal to the bigger green fish. And for those patient bottom presentations, don’t hesitate to rig a 5- or 6-inch stick bait on a ¼- to ½-ounce shaky head and let the bait do the dance.
For such a simple piece of plastic, the soft stickbait brings a lot to the table. However you chose to fish your slender plastic, “stick” with it until you dial in what the fish want.