Brian Paterson and Cam Haggard, two talented fishermen in their 20s,
are exciting to watch. Both can read a bank, and neither is scared to
change tactics. I would hate to fish against them.
watched them working a bank on Kansas' Smithville Lake, located 20
miles north of Kansas City. They seldom missed a cast as they worked
every foot of the bank.
As if rehearsed, they both laid down
their baitcasting rigs and picked up spinning tackle for open areas
between bushes and logs. Aggressive bass hiding around cover
immediately attacked their smaller lures like hot-running torpedoes.
The bass were not large, but some were worth points at the weigh-in.
and Haggard, from the Kansas City area, fish in the highly competitive
Heartland Bass Fishing Association, a regional group based in Kansas
City. Both finish consistently in the money and plan to be competitive
someday on the CITGO BASSMASTER Tournament Trail. In fact, it is their
dream. But not everyone agrees with their tactics.
occasionally criticized by certain competitors for their choice of
equipment. That is, they are knocked for their "sissy" fishing. They
laugh all the way to the top of their club's ratings.
unexplainable reason, a percentage of tournament fishermen have
determined that spinning tackle is a sissified way to catch bass. But
this is not a new theory. Grandfathers of light tackle tournament
fishing in the first B.A.S.S. tournaments met this same mentality.
Moore of Branson, Mo., set a record for catching bass while using
Garcia Mitchell 309 and 409 spinning reels in the 1970s. Most in those
days used Ambassadeur 5000 baitcasting reels on cue-stick rods or the
equivalent. Moore heard the term, "sissy tackle," "buggy whip rods" and
"angel hair line" more than once, but usually secondhand.
started a streak in 1974 on the St. Johns River," Moore recalls. "I
never got skunked my first four years of fishing B.A.S.S., including
four BASS Masters Classics and three fly-rod tournaments Ray Scott
conducted. That's 108 straight fishing days without drawing a blank. I
credit 90 percent of that success to fishing light tackle."
found that catching "point fish" served him better than hunting for
larger bass. He did manage to catch a few big bass — and, of course, he
lost a few - but he qualified for the Classic most years. Many who
laughed at his light tackle techniques had to stay home. He simply got
twice as many strikes.
"A lot of guys still call lighter tackle
'sissy' fishing," Moore says. "But those who don't use some form of
ultralight equipment are missing a lot of fish.
"If you don't
have the confidence to fish it in a tournament, you should at least
fish light tackle during pre-fishing days to help determine bass
patterns. After all, it is well-known that you will get more strikes on
lighter tackle and smaller lures than you would on heavier tackle and
Because of a spinning rod's greater flexibility
and the reduced line drag of spinning reels, Moore's lightweight rigs
can cast a 1/8-ounce lure in heavy wind much farther than a baitcast
Today, most top-ranked tournament fishermen understand
the value of light spinning tackle. Bobby Murray qualified for eight
consecutive Classics and won two using lighter tackle. He can't
understand why anyone would call it "sissy" fishing.
"I caught my
biggest string ever out of Toledo Bend on 8-pound line," Murray says.
"I had seven bass over 6 pounds and one over 9 pounds.
have to pick the right places. Light line is likely to break if a fish
gets into the middle of a brushpile. Spinning equipment is best around
large rocks or bridge pilings where baitfish live."
learned that some lures work better with lighter lines. Some require
heavy tackle, while other lures function better on 6- or 8-pound test.
His success in catching big bass on lighter tackle depends on open
If catching a limit of bass is important, then light tackle is your best bet.
He long ago discovered that the best chance of catching a big bass is
to keep his line away from brush or rocks that will cut the line. This
is easily done by using your trolling motor to gently push the boat
over depth when a bass runs in that direction. Because of this, Murray
loves to fish around open areas like bridges.
you ever noticed how many people fish around bridges from boats or from
the shoreline?" Murray asks. "That's because algae grows on the hard
surfaces of bridges, and baitfish come in to feed on the algae. Bass
and other species follow the baitfish."
He uses small
crankbaits (especially the Deep Wee-R) and grubs and tubes on light
line in these areas. He fishes the surface with Tiny Torpedoes and
other small lures. Moore enjoys similar success on minnow lures like
Rebels and Rapalas in these same open areas.
"If catching a
limit is important, then light tackle is your best bet," Murray says.
"There is little problem in catching daily limits by casting and
swimming little curl-tailed grubs. Bass stay around that hard surface
throughout the year."
Murray fishes light tackle throughout the
year — even during cold weather. He catches 60 percent of his spring
bass on a worm and spinning tackle. He uses it almost 100 percent of
the time in cold weather, explaining that spinning tackle enables him
to achieve a better presentation in deep, clear water.
Murray and Moore use dropping techniques with tube jigs because the
line can be controlled easier to detect light bites that barely move
the line. Light taps are missed on the heavier lines, especially in hot
or extremely cold weather. Other professional bass fishermen frequently
use light spinning tackle around boat docks.
"I use spinning
tackle around boat docks in clear water," says Charlie Campbell, a
veteran BASSMASTER competitor. "You can easily skip a lure under any
dock with spinning tackle. I avoid light line in murky water, but I
will use 6- to 8-pound test in clear conditions. Light line will let a
lure drop faster than will heavier versions, and sometimes you need a
Setting the hook with light line can be a
challenge, Campbell notes. However, his hook-setting success went up
dramatically after former Classic champion and fellow Missouri angler
Guido Hibdon taught him the sweep-and-reel technique. Setting too hard
can break light line easily, so Hibdon taught himself to sweep the rod
over his shoulder or head. The tactic emphasizes speed over power. And,
of course, sharp hooks are extremely important for this technique.
Experts in fishing with light line are particular about their tackle, since the technique leaves little room for error.
prefer Shimano's 2500 Stella reels," Murray says. "That model reel,
matched to a G. Loomis rod, is perfect for 8-pound-test line. My
ability to cast with this equipment would surprise many baitcasting
Finesse fishing for big bass requires quality gear and an assortment of lures.
reels with good drag systems are extremely important to any bass
fisherman. Moore has an interesting way to set his drag tension: He
ties his line to a tree and walks away about 10 paces, then he sets the
hook hard. If the line breaks, he loosens the drag, continually
adjusting the drag until it slips just below what would be the breaking
point of the line.
I spent several months testing equipment for
this article and found numerous quality reels. I put all the reels
through the worst possible conditions and gave each many hours of
casting and reeling — sometimes in dirty or sandy conditions.
experimented with several spinning drag systems on big bass and carp.
My favorites were Shimano's 2000FA Sedona and Abu Garcia's Suveran
S2000M center drag reel. In addition, Shakespeare's Intrepid 60SS reel
performed well against some rough conditions. All held heavy fish over
10 pounds on 6- to 8-pound-test line. But not everybody is happy with
today's spinning reels.
Murray, Moore and Campbell all use 6-
to 6 1/2-foot GLX Loomis rods in a medium to medium light action with
fast tapers. The key is having a semisoft tip but enough "backbone" to
set the hook on fish 40 or 50 feet deep.
After experimenting with
various line sizes, including some as small as 2-pound test, Moore
eventually settled on 6- to 10-pound line, depending on water and cover
conditions. He typically uses 8-pound test in deeper or murky water,
but used a clear 6-pound test for shallow, clear water.
might also note that some of today's baitcasting reels will handle
light line — generally not smaller than 8-pound test," Moore says. "But
make no mistake that most of the nation's top professional bass
fishermen are as proficient with light spinning tackle as they are with
baitcasting equipment. To win big, you have to be flexible."
field tested Stren's Easy Cast line, with excellent results. I had few
backlashes or tangles, and the 8- and 10-pound tests held good-sized
fish. Magna Thin had a few problems with tangles, but the smaller
diameter line is excellent for clear water conditions.
XL and Sensithin also are easy to cast and flexible enough to avoid
tangles. Some professional bass fishermen recommend Sensithin line for
skipping under docks.
Additionally, Pure Fishing has introduced
its new line, Sensation, made with a complex polymer alloy. This is
said to be the strongest of the Trilenes, flexible and easy to cast,
ideal for spinning tackle.
There is too much to say and too
little space to cover everything there is to know about lures for
spinfishing. The key is finding a lure style you can present and
If you like fishing with plugs, for
example, 1/8- to 1/4-ounce balsa minnows and downsized smaller
crankbaits work especially well. Try the Bomber Model A, Mann's Baby-1,
Norman's Little N, Count Down Rapalas, Rat-L-Traps and most small
topwaters like the Rebel Teeny Pop-R or the Pop-R. Jitterbugs and Hula
Poppers in small sizes can be productive in the right conditions.
spinners are productive when bass are chasing shad. I prefer Mepps, but
Roostertails and other versions will work. Try the larger sizes.
plastics work well with spinning tackle, especially when a stiffer rod
is employed. Charlie Campbell prefers the Gitzit and similar tube
lures, and he suggests the Eakins Jig for clear water techniques.
you use, finesse fishing will never make baitcasting tackle obsolete.
Each has its time and place. But the complete bass fisherman knows that
using spinning tackle under certain conditions offers a better chance
to take home a paycheck.
And don't worry about being teased because you're using "sissy" gear.
Davis won B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year for the third time this year
(2001), and I guarantee he uses a spinning rod at least half the time,"
Murray notes. "I was never teased about using spinning tackle in
tournaments because I was usually near the head of the line to receive
a check, and those who would tease me were in the back."
Gallery of some bass caught on Ultralights.
Northeast Bass Fishing For Trophy Bass