With every new dimension of bass fishing comes discussion. It's a healthy thing and one that leads to advancements in technique and tackle. At present, one of the big topics in big baits is rod selection.
Sooner than later, rod companies will recognize a demand for this new category. While some already have led the charge, most are in a typical wait-and-see mode. And, many anglers fall into this very same category.
Trust us, big-bait fishing will make you pay dearly for using the wrong rod. Unfortunately, so many people have so little experience in this discipline that misinformation multiplies faster than a jackrabbit on a date.
From the start, you must recognize that there are two very distinct styles of big bait-fishing: 1. Close-quarters combat, and 2. Open-water battle.
For instance, the up-close, in-your-face style is the type of fishing many easterners face in waters with ample cover and lower water clarities – places where shorter casts are generally the rule. This is also where a lot of prospective big-baiters wonder if their trusty flippin' sticks can do double duty.
In some cases, a flip stick can do the job, but only with smaller baits that, here in the BBZ, are on the smaller fringes of what could actually be considered true swimbaits. (We'll explain why later.)
On the other extreme – areas with limited cover and clear water – the prime directive is for long casts, and the longer the better. Again, if you're throwing sub-BBZ swimbaits, it's obvious that several different rod actions could suffice. But if you're gripping and ripping big tubes or swimbaits 6 inches and larger, you'll eventually pay the piper with a lesser stick.
Why? In both cases, the answer is the same: physics. In order to set the hook with bigger baits and fight larger fish, you need leverage. You need a fulcrum point at your hand, which should be on the reel.
If the handle isn't long enough to cradle along your arm, you'll find yourself pulling the rod back into your stomach, which limits the power available, or worse yet, you reach ahead of the reel to gain more leverage. Either way, it's not a balanced, efficient system.
The quick definition of a good big-bait rod is one that puts your hands together (with elbows out) in a fighting zone away from your body.
Longer handles also pay dividends when making the lob casts required with bigger baits. With the right rod, these casts are nearly effortless. With the wrong rod, even the most fit anglers will be whipped in a matter of hours.
Rod action is another huge part of the equation. Generally, the heavier the rod, the more parabolic the action should be. This parabolic action – a true bend from tip to butt –properly launches the bait and provides a degree of forgiveness, all of which prevents line failure and ensures proper hooksets.
Remember, the BBZ is an unforgiving environment. Too much stiffness in the tip can actually "burn" your line, and with big baits, it doesn't take long to turn 25-pound test into sewing thread. Conversely, if the rod is too parabolic, the result will be akin to casting a soft ball with a spaghetti noodle.
Now, if you can honestly say that you possess a flippin' stick with the aforementioned qualities of handle length, action, casting quality and power necessary for an all-round big-bait performer, all we can say is, "You've got a lousy flippin' stick."
A quality big-bait rod is a unique animal. Built right, it can perform well in both close-quarters fishing and open-water situations, not to mention handling a wide range of lure sizes – even the smaller stuff.
One area of concern is the modern angler's desire for extremely lightweight rods. In the BBZ, however, there's one big problem: Quite simply, the pressures exerted in big-bait fishing can overwhelm even the finest, thin-wall construction.
If you don't think you can explode one of these beauties, just wait until a 10-pounder hits your swimbait at the boat – a place where the strike can just as easily be measured in G-force as pound test.
Just as we were finishing this column, BassFan editor-in-chief Jon Storm sent along the following reader question. (Please note: We're not trying to sell rods here. But, the Lamiglas XC 807 Big Bait Special – designed by Bill Siemantel – at least provides a starting point from which to base your rod-buying decision.)
The letter read: "In both the Big Bass Zone articles and book, Bill mentions using the Lamiglas XC 807 Big Bait Special rod, which is rated for 3/4- to 3 1/2-ounce lures. I've also noticed that Bill mentions using a variety of baits from the relatively light 6-inch Lindy Tiger Tube (5/8-ounce jighead) to the heavy 8-inch Huddleston Deluxe swimbait (5 ounces). Is Bill able to use the XC 807 rod to cast larger baits (such as the 8-inch Huddleston), or does he use different rods to cover the range of bait sizes?" – Tim Bartle, Kent, Wash.
The BBZ is all about simplifying the process of catching bigger bass.
The BBZ is all about simplifying the process of catching bigger bass. The Lamiglas XC 807 is the only rod Bill uses for big-bait fishing. It's been on the market for 8 years with only slight modifications, and has proven itself through countless hours of on-the-water testing. It's what it is – a tool that enhances proper technique.
Yes, it can handle a wide range of lure sizes and weights because it was designed for this bass-fishing application. Where it starts showing its limitations is in the ultra category of big baits, i.e. 10 to 12 inches and beyond.
The XC 807 has also proven that it's not a one-man rod. Bill is 6'3" and 250 pounds. Mike Jones is 5'8" and 155 pounds. For both guys, the same technique rules apply while casting, retrieving, setting and fighting a fish. At first, the rod may seem a little cumbersome to smaller anglers, because the technique is even more foreign than the rod.
But what you'll discover (as is the case with any well-designed stick), rods like the XC 807 will help you acquire proper technique. It's all about muscle memory and not having to sacrifice proper technique because the tackle being used isn't up to the challenge.