We're back after a little mid-summer break with trips to ICAST in Las Vegas and the Bassmaster Classic in Pittsburgh. With Big Bass Zone (the book) just out, it will be interesting to see how BBZ mentality plays around the bass-fishing world. Of course, those of you who have been with us from the start on BassFan.com know the mindbending in store for everyone else.
Before we get to our topic, a few comments.
First, the BBZ would like to pass along our heartfelt sympathy to the family and friends of the late Buck Perry. If you don't know of Perry's contribution to bass fishing, then you need to find a copy of "Spoonplugging" and read it.
Yes, it's full of promotion for Perry's spoonplugging system and written in a folksy style, but that doesn't change the fact that his teachings were the 20th-century baseline for structure fishermen. To us, Buck Perry was a giant of this sport. At the dawn of modern bass fishing, Perry challenged anglers to learn. The BBZ is dedicated to those same principles. Mr. Perry, you will be missed.
Second, with the Classic and Top Gun just concluded - and the U.S. Open not far away - we got to thinking about bass survival. In tough, top-level events like these, a dead-fish penalty is disastrous. Moreover, the BBZ is all about caring for the fish, especially since we're trying to help anglers catch – and release – the alpha predators.
Aside from proper aeration and livewell additives, there is one more thing you can do to save the life of a bass. Every angler has pulled a fish over the side with blood streaming from its gills. In most cases, a nicked gill is probably a death sentence. Try this: Find the source of the blood and apply fishing glue to the cut. If you've ever used it on a sliced finger, you know it works and it does an equally good job on gills.
Moving on to the topic at hand: A very recent question in the feedback section prompted the following discussion. Kevin Atwell of Silverhill, Ala. wrote: "I have read and re-read the book – it is fantastic! It will become as dog-eared as Giant Bass by Bill Murphy. I keep it on the nightstand and re-read things every chance I get. One thing I would like is more info on weighting optimum-style swimbaits, or should I just use external jigheads?"
Unfortunately, we are still in the swimbait dark ages since most lure manufacturers do not list the weights used in their internal weight systems. As a result, you must determine the ROF (rate of fall) by counting down the lure over a known depth. ROF is based on the number of feet a lure descends during a 10-count.
Therefore, a lure with an ROF of 5 will drop 5 feet during a count of 10. You'll notice we didn't say 10 seconds, because your method of counting may be slightly different from someone else's count. The ROF numbers should be written on each bait with a permanent marker.
Remember, designers design with the mainstream public in mind. This is why experimenting with different lures to match your style of fishing means everything. The easiest option for customizing swimbaits is to opt for external jigs. Yes, the lure will descend in a more head-down attitude, but that is the price you have to pay right now for optimizing the weight situation.
You can insert weights closer to the tail, but be forewarned: Adding additional weight may negatively impact the lure's performance, turning your swimbait into nothing more than a lead jig with a tail.
For the most diligent BBZ guy, the other option is to find a handpour specialist (or learn the trade yourself) and build swimbaits with internal weights. It can be a dicey proposition, because the weight must be centered perfectly to allow a lure to run straight and true.
The farther a weight is placed back from the line tie, the more horizontal the descent will become. This is excellent for creating a bait that performs well at slow speeds. The problem here is that at faster paces, it may tend to roll over. The caveat is knowing the effective speed range of every lure and understanding how it affects directional changes, course changes and flaring.
Just knowing the speed range and playing the game within those limitations will put you way ahead of most every other swimbait fisherman out there.
So, our answer to Kevin's question is this: Unless you have the willingness and capability of building your own internal-weight swimbaits, you better make room in your tacklebox for both types – internal and external weighted lures. Both have obvious advantages and limitations. With a little tinkering, you will be able to adjust each type to your style of fishing.
But, no matter how you approach the situation, the overriding theme is YOU MUST KNOW AND UNDERSTAND THE RATE OF FALL FOR EACH LURE IN YOUR BOX.
We often get asked this question: "What's the best swimbait out there?"
Kevin Atwell has read the BBZ book and knows this isn't the right thing to ask. Until you understand where to throw a bait, the subtleties of what makes one lure "better" than another is meaningless. What's best on an Arizona canyon-type lake may be far different from the best bait at Guntersville.
This is why Kevin's question was so on target. He was asking about weighting systems because he knows about the importance of top-middle-bottom, directional changes, casting angles and boat position. He's already started the refinement stage of getting his big-bass mindset to a point where he can honestly say he knows which brand of lure is better in specific situations.
Until then, he knows what needs to be done: Learn how to place a lure in key spot-on-spot areas, find the fish's commitment zone and assess the results.
Gee, wasn't it Buck Perry who stressed the importance of depth + speed? The BBZ is taking this concept to a whole new level.