Tied on a beer can lately? Don’t laugh. They’re for real, even though most North American bassmen believe these cheesy cylindrical baits are novelties—goofy gags to bestow upon a brother-in-law or fishin’ buddy. Fact is they’re huge among tournament diehards in Japan, and at least one hard-core U.S. basser is a big-time believer in their power.
Across the Pacific, beer can baits like the Big Bud are extremely popular. After years of being the “secret” bait of a savvy few, the lure has emerged from the shadows to win many Japanese bass tournaments.
When you think about it, it makes sense. Fished as a wakebait, the Big Bud and similar style baits power along at high speeds without diving, their beefy, buoyant bodies creating chaos while the rocket-shaped heads swing left to right. Under the right conditions, bass crush ’em.
Due their devotion to the can, the Japanese have been rewarded by a variety of options. In the U.S., Heddon makes only Coors and Coors Light models available in 1/2- and 5/8-ounce sizes—Heddon no longer licenses the Budweiser brand. But in Japan, Heddon sells the Big Bud in a rainbow of colors, plus special smaller sizes like the Baby Bud.
Japanese manufacturers are brewing their own bulbous wakebaits, too, at a frantic pace—some for fast retrieves, others for making waves, but they all have a wide, cylindrical body.
Ever Green, one of Japan’s top lure makers, hit a home run with the Rat-A-Tat. A square-bodied waker with a wire trailer-keeper (plastic worms are popular add-ons), the Rat-A-Tat looks like a traditional bait. But don’t let the looks fool you: It’s built to swim like a beer can. Extremely buoyant, it never dives, and the squared-off lip forces it to make bass-calling waves.
Other baits, like Deps’ Buzzjet (one of Japan’s hottest sellers in ’04) and Shimano’s Triple Impact offer more options. Japanese anglers are also experimenting with big muskie baits from America, like the Believer, using them as wakebaits in a similar fashion as beer cans.
“They’re no joke,” says NAFC member Scott Suggs, veteran of BASS and BFL trails, along with various other mid-South tourneys. Suggs, who hails from Bryant, Arkansas, and calls mighty Ouachita his home lake, has been fine-tuning his beer can approach for four years. In that time, he’s perfected a top-secret plan for customizing stock Coors Lures and catching numbers of bass from pre- through postspawn.
“There are few secrets left, and this is one of ’em,” he says. “Only my wife and three fishing buddies have seen my custom cans.” Suggs has done so well using his baits and techniques, he was seriously reluctant to let the secret out. But with beer can fever bubbling over in Japan, and North American Fisherman set to divulge the Asian angle, he agreed to share some insight with fellow Club members.
“I prefer the bigger of the two Coors Lure options—the 5/8-ounce model—because it’s more buoyant,” he begins. “I repaint it shad color and swap the standard hooks for Mustad Ultrapoint trebles. Because the bait is so wide, I bend the barbs outward for better hookups.”
Some lures run true from the box, but others need tweaking, he says. “I add enough weight to the bottom center of the lure so it runs true at high speeds,” he notes, adding cryptically, “But you’ll have to figure out exactly how; I’m keeping that part of the secret.”
Suggs also removes the blade. “You can put it higher on the back and get the bait to run truer, but it still drags, which tightens the wobble. I want the widest wobble possible, so I lose the blade.”
Japanese anglers also tinker, often removing the split ring between screw eye and blade, and using the screw eye alone to position it. To do this is, cut off the existing screw eye flush with the body, re-attach the blade to a new screw eye (you might have to use a pliers to widen the eye gap enough to slide on the blade), and reinstall the new screw slightly above the spot the old one had been. Add a dab of glue to prevent leakage.
A key here is putting the screw eye back on in a vertical position, so the blade swings side to side. Blades can be positioned higher on the stern for wider, louder swings.
Some anglers add a metal plate or second screw on the tail to act as a “bell ringer.” Others add a second, tiny blade, or bump up the size of the original blade. Another popular modification involves the lip; Japanese anglers often bend, trim or drill holes in the lip for faster retrieves without diving.
While Japanese anglers use beer cans in a variety of situations, including nightfishing, Suggs prefers clear-water lakes with a shad forage base. “The best time is from late prespawn, when the bass begin coming to the bank, all the way through mid-July, even into August,” he notes. “The key is shad size—beer can baits are awesome when bass are keying on large shad. When young-of-the-year shad reach edible size in late summer, the beer can bite dies until the following prespawn.”
When Suggs finds a likely spot, he keeps his boat over deeper water and fires long casts with a heavy-power rod, 20-pound mono and 6.2:1 Shimano baitcaster. When the bait lands, the retrieve is straight and automatic. “Just reel steady and fast,” he says. “Burning a beer can draws reaction strikes.”
Action can be fast, so Suggs keeps an arsenal of rigged rods ready. “If I get on a pod of hot fish, I’ll hook one, horse it in, pick up another rod and cast again,” he says. “I won’t unhook any of the bass until I have four or five in the boat.”
Beer can wakebaiting is bound to be the next powerhouse presentation in the U.S. Try it, soon, and be the first one on your lake to harness the power of the can.