What is a follower? The term follower is widely associated with a predator fish that is tracking your swimbait retrieve. It can be a single fish or sometimes multiple fish. To be more precise the behavior of a follower is that of a fish that is interested in your presentation but hasn't committed to attacking the deception. It is simply swimming behind, below or beside your lure but doing little more than that.
Often anglers new to swimbaiting express frustration with followers. Near the end of the retrieve the lure comes close to you, by this time you have run out of water/space and the tracking bass swims away leaving an angler very disappointed.
This can leave you feeling that you have come so close to the goal but we all know that you can't take a follower to the scales. Of course we want to catch swimbait fish rather than look at followers. If you are producing followers you can take comfort in that you are fishing in the right areas.
Followers happen more than we may realize and it's not just with swimbaits. Bass follow your drop shot rigs too, they follow everything, followers shouldn't only be associated with swimbait techniques. You just don't see it like you can with relatively slow swimbait retrieves that are up high in the water column.
Have you ever fished a drop shot set up and at the end of a retrieve, when the worm is directly under the boat you reel up fast to make another cast? And as your lure suddenly changes course and bolts towards the surface, have you ever had a bass attack the drop shot worm? That bass was tracking/following your retrieve for who knows how long and the course and speed change triggered a strike. That is a big clue in how one might handle a swimbait follower.
Big swimbaits have the greatest drawing power. They have the ability, from a long distance, to command the attention of large predator fish. It stands to reason that at times swimbaits might not produce a strike but will draw fish out enticing them to move toward your offering. Could they be learning, could it be a recon?
Okay, you have a follower tracking, at that point it doesn't matter why. What matters is there is a bass interested in your bait. Followers can be very difficult to convert. Generally if you can see them then they most likely can see you and usually looking at each other is a deal breaker.
Most of my swimbait catches are fish I don't see. I can convert a follower but it is not always easy. If you are retrieving your swimbait slow and have followers, my move is to rip and speed up the bait, 'catch me if you can', cat and mouse. In my experience, stopping the bait or slowing down even more generally is not successful.
Crouching is a follower technique. If you visually pick up a follower and the fish doesn't see you, you can give yourself more time to sell the deal by lowering your profile . If you are a fish in the water and your sight is directed in a particular direction an anglers profile really stands out so crouching may give you more time.
The converse to crouching is being still, movement may give your presence away too. Sometimes it's good to crouch, sometimes you need to be still. Keep putting yourself in these situations and you will learn how to read a bass's body language and what works best for each situation.
If a follower tracks your retrieve all the way to the boat you can fool a bass by figure-eighting your lure. Just like musky fishing the bass may think the boat has trapped the bait and though rare it will work for an aggressive fish. You are at the end of the line anyway so if you don't finish with a figure-eight you haven't used all of your follower options.
Producing followers shouldn't be viewed as a negative situation. Followers can provide great feedback that you can use to your advantage. Examine where you are pulling the fish from and how they were positioned. Take note of how you approached the cast. Then ask yourself, with regards to the funnel, how you can best position yourself for the best cast.
If you find that you are continually just producing followers and the bass are not committing to your retrieve you are most likely fishing your swimbaits wide of the mark. Instead of leading them into open water reverse everything. Swimming away from an ambush zone, the funnel, will never be as successful as swimming into one. When you do this you make the fish think your lure is doing what the predator is looking for.
When you don't hook up but do learn from a follower , you have to be patient. It is not in your best interest to make another immediate cast. You are better off gathering the information and leaving to come back after a length of time. This gives fish time to reposition and forget about your presence.
Whether they strike or not I view followers as a positive factor and not a missed opportunity. They are an indication that my approach may need some fine tuning. It may also be a timing issue and even when you do everything correctly sometimes it's just not going to happen. They may not eat but followers can provide important details that you can use to your advantage later. With a change in sun angles wind or clouds the follower may become a striker.
Some days nothing matters, everything you do works. Some days everything matters and you have to be perfect. Imagine if you were always perfect whether it mattered or not! Apart from the drop shot followers and bass body language comments all of this is BBZ 101 from the book The Big Bass Zone.
It is a great read for the novice as well as the experienced swimbait angler. It has the ability to leap your learning curve. That is exactly what it has done for me. I have accomplished everything I placed in this article in just a few short years by using BBZ techniques. For more detailed information on this topic and many other big fish techniques you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy.
Funnel - The funnel is a BBZ term describing locations which provide predator fish with a feeding advantage. Much like a military ambush zone that uses the terrain to gain the upper hand, prey becomes compromised when it enters a funnel. Based on the predators position the prey's movement and escape routes are limited and their response to being trapped in the funnel is predictable.
A funnel can be comprised of many items, both structure and cover elements. These elements include the water's surface, the shore line, the lake bottom, a bluff wall, a boulder, a bush, a dock piling or even your boat. There are too many to name them all. Funnels which feature a combination of both structure and cover elements can be superior. These locations are often referred to as the spot on spot.