Lure Retrievers: How to Save Money

Nearly every bass boat I've ever climbed aboard has had some kind of lure retriever laying in the back of a locker or under a console. They're usually covered in dust and it seems that every guy has a different name for them. Whether you own a hound dog, bait knocker, plug knocker, pocket knocker, an extendable pole, or just a plain old lure retriever, its time to learn how to use it.

We all own retrievers but I almost never see guys use them. What is it that compels us to break off jigs, crankbaits, texas rigs, even swimbaits, without so much as a second thought? I think the answer lies in a lack of education.

A lure retriever is one of those contraptions that really ought to come with an owner's manual. Between the pretty pictures and your choice of 8 languages we could all start saving money on baits! Until that happens, this video is going to have to suffice.

Matt Shows off a Jewel Baits Hound Dog, an $8 contraption that has single-handedly saved nearly $1000 dollars in swimbaits in the past two years alone.  

We've broken the video down in to sections and will show how/when to use the traditional bait knocker (with or without chains), the extendable pole style, and the pocket knocker style retrievers.

Once you've seen the proper technique it becomes very simple to get your baits out of snags. At the very least, start carrying the pocket knockers with you when you fish. It takes an extra 10 seconds to slide one down the line and it gets the vast majority of your baits out of snags with just a shake of the rod tip. Its not a silver bullet but these techniques save us thousands of dollars every year. If you're not putting a retriever to work for you, you're throwing money down the drain.

Top 5 Topwater Walking Baits

In 1939 the first plastic "Zara Spook" hit the market. After more than 80 years it has undergone quite a few changes but it is still the most prevalent walking bait on the market. Until recently, there were not a lot of competitors in this category but seemingly overnight the flood gates have opened.  With significant sections of wall space in every tackle shop covered in walking-style topwaters its difficult to know where to start.

Even we had a difficult time narrowing it down to just 5 baits. Frankly, we fudged a little in the end anyway but who can blame us? You may be surprised by the list we came up with. There were some baits omitted that definitely would have made the cut if their availability were different but you can't make the list if no one can get the baits!

In no particular order our list of top 5 baits are as follows:

Top 5 Walking Baits

The Super Spook: Can you blame us? Its the bench mark! They are in virtually every tackle box (including ours) and have earned their place. I lost count of how many big bass I've caught on the spook!

The Rover: The Rover is a fairly new addition to the list but it has earned its place. On multiple occasions I have been able to "fine tune" my pattern and catch bigger fish by switching to a rover. Here's a tip... get the "tuned" version by Scott Martin, you won't be sorry.

The Vixen: While sporting the same body style as a rover, the high-pitch sound emitted is completely different. The recent prices on EBAY, if nothing else, show the power this bait holds over bass (and fishermen). Now that they are widely available again this bait should be added to your arsenal.

The Gunfish: With its unique cupped face and slender body the gunfish has a unique spitting action that turns followers into biters. I sometimes wish they had more than two hooks on the smaller models but the fish eat it, it cannot be denied.

The popper: (I told you we fudged a little but to narrow it down were talking about the Yellow Magic, Rico, and Splash It) How does a popper make a list of talking walking baits? Easy! Try it and you'll find out! They walk, they move water, and they get eaten just like they're larger relatives. If your fish are finicky, especially in shallow water, walk a popper. Its an action they rarely see and they will ERUPT on it!

Wakebaits: Different Styles and Retrieves to fool Finicky Bass

Clack, clack, clack, clack, KABOOM! You set the hook, the line stretches, the hooks dig in, and the surface of the lake erupts with an explosion of water, bass, and treble hooks. The battle is on and you're praying your knots, hooks, and line hold up to the fight. Moments later you're holding a huge largemouth, the large topwater still hanging from her mouth.

If you've ever experienced the way a bass draws out of cover, tracks, and erupts on a wakebait, you already have the sickness. Those bites are what makes us bass anglers get up at 3 AM, drink gas station coffee, eat pastries before sunrise, and launch our boats before any sane person would even consider shedding their sheets.

The trouble with wakebaits is simple, they're expensive! So what do you do? Do you buy them all, spend years fishing them, sell the ones you don't, take huge financial losses, all in hopes of finding the perfect combination of baits? Oh wait... I already did that for you!

A few of our Favorite Wakebaits

After all the years, the $$$, the dissapointments, and the surprises, I've weaned my collection of wakebaits down to just a few models. Even simpler than that, I have eliminated all but two "styles". From my time on the water I've found that if I can find a bait with a single joint, coupled with a diving lip and a double-jointed bait without a diving lip, I can cover nearly every situation that calls for a wakebait.

Better still, there are baits that fit both these categories that are both widely available, and fairly inexpensive. They are the MS Slammer (7" or 9") and the Spro BBZ-1 Floater (8"). I'm not saying they're the best or the prettiest but both of these baits catch fish in a huge variety of conditions and won't break the bank along the way.

If you're thinking of getting in to wakebaits or even considering pairing down the arsenal you already own, give these baits a try. You'll be surprised how well they work!

Soft Body Frogs: Everything You Need to Know

"Soft-body Frogs" is such a huge category but is often overshadowed by Hollow-Bodied Frogs. Let's start with why you need them and then I'll give a more detailed definition of what they are.

When you think of soft-body frogs think "soft buzzbait". These are the 4x4, go anywhere, do everything, come back unscathed, topwater bait. You can throw them through tullies, over slop, on timber, in grass, and they will paddle their way back to the boat. When the cover gets nasty, when you get tired of picking grass off hooks, out of blades, or dealing with snags, its time for the soft-body frog.

So what are they? First off, its a plastic bait that is solid-bodied. Second, it has one or more "kicking" feet that help the bait rise to the surface and create action as it is steadily retrieved on the surface. Third, it has no additional appendages or it becomes a "creature bait". Lastly, it has no hook. It will need to be texas-rigged with some sort of  after-market hook.

Most soft plastic brands now produce a soft-bodied frog. So what makes one better than another? It comes down to two variables: Sound and Speed.

From Left to Right: Strike King Rage Tail Toad, Rage Tail Shad, Stanley Ribbit, Zoom Horny Toad, Sizmic Toad

From Left to Right: Strike King Rage Tail Toad, Rage Tail Shad, Stanley Ribbit, Zoom Horny Toad, Sizmic Toad

Each frog has a unique sound and action. Its important to explore different "sounding" baits to find what your fish want. As a rule of thumb the baits with thicker feet (Rage Tail for example) will create a louder, more violent sound while those with thin feet (Horny Toad for example) tend to be much more subtle.

Additionally, the thicker the feet on a bait the more quickly they must be retrieved to create the desired sound. If the bait it making a subtle sound it can generally be retrieved much more slowly than a loud bait and still make the proper sound. This is so often overlooked and is CRITICAL to why some baits get bit more than others. We're so keyed on sound and action we don't even notice that one bait has to go nearly twice as fast as the next. No wonder the bass aren't eating all the baits, all the time!

You'll need to explore a few models to find what works best on your waters but a great place to start is the Rage Tail Toad, Zoom Horny Toad, and Stanley Ribbit. These 3 baits will cover the gamut of sound and speed so you can get a feel for what your bass prefer and you won't break the bank trying to dial in the pattern.

How to Choose the Right Buzzbait

With summer in full swing we're continuing the topwater theme. This week's topic is buzzbaits. While many anglers use buzzbaits, few have the confidence to know without a doubt they're throwing the best color, style, etc... for the given conditions. Weight, metal blades, plastic blades, clackers, dual blades, and length all play in to what makes a buzzbait work. Every brand seems to have some variation that they believe works better than all the others.

Instead of telling you which one you should buy we threw a variety of buzzbaits and ran them in front of the camera. We've brought the results to you so the next time you decide to pick up a buzzbait you'll know exactly what its going to look and sound like before it hits the water.

Of course, I have my favorites and I give those tips away as well but the goal of this video is to leave you confident, knowing that when you make a purchase, you're getting the right baits for where you're fishing.

Now you know what my favorite buzzbaits are, what are some of yours? Have you found that one style is more productive than the others?

Frog Modifications to Land More Bass

The water is warm, the grass is growing, and the bass are shallow, the time has come. If you aren't throwing a frog by now you're missing opportunities for some heart-pounding explosions that you'll never forget! The frog is a key presentation during the summer months that every angler should at least have a familiarity with. Whether you're popping a frog in the shade of docks, walking it along a rocky shoreline, or dragging it on a cheese mat, its a fun way to lure BIG bass out of the depths.

The frog has a reputation for giant bass. Unfortunately it also has a reputation for missed fish and broken hearts. This video is going to cover some of the simple changes you can make to your frogs that will eliminate the heartache and put those big fish in the boat.

This shows the length comparison between the stock leg and a leg that has been cut down to eliminate short strikes and missed bites

The key to consistent success comes down to two simple changes. In my opinion, every frog should have the legs trimmed and the hook position altered before the bait is ever thrown in the water. There are dozens of other changes that you hear about from time to time but these two are easy and have a huge impact on your success.

When trimming the legs I cut the rubber with scissors until there is approximately 1.5 to 2 inches of material left. This increases the odds that the bass will target the main body of the bait rather than clamping down on just the legs. An added benefit of the trimmed legs is that its also easier to walk a frog once the legs have been cut shorter.

Here you can see a properly modified frog. Both the short legs and increased hook gap are visible

Here you can see a properly modified frog. Both the short legs and increased hook gap are visible

When modifying the hooks I bend them both out and up, away from the body. By doing this I am able to create a larger hook gap. When bass eat the bait with a modified hook they no longer need to fully crush the body of the frog to expose the hook. Doing this makes it much easier to hook the bass, even when an angler has a softer hookset. 

Depending on brand, bending the hooks can take a great deal of force. I generally have to bend the hooks farther than I want, as the steel will spring back part way as soon as the pressure is removed.  Use a stout pair of pliers and exercise caution.  its very easy to slip and end up on the wrong end of a strong hook. If you take your time, you shouldn't have any issues.

We hope you'll take these tips and apply them to your fishing. Once you do, come back and share your experiences. We'd love to hear about the bass you're putting in the boat!