Being the Bait

Being the Bait

Swimbaits and baitfish conditions with Todd Woods

Professional Bass Angler Todd Woods of Los Angeles California is not a stranger to the winner’s circle. Recent significant victories include the 2019 Won Bass Arizona Open on Lake Havasu and the 2016 FLW Costa event at Clear Lake California. Two distinctly different fishing venues.

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Bait Fish and Bait Birds

Whenever bait fish are on the top of a bass’s menu, Woods has a proven swimbait approach that handles both diverse locations and ever-changing conditions. Schooling bait fish, a shad spawn, or anytime the bass are keyed in on bait fish, that’s when Woods casts a Basstrix Paddle Tail Tube Swimbait. Woods also points out that anytime bait birds, like grebes, are working an area it’s an excellent sign to test the Basstrix bite.

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Swimbaits

Woods explains that he fishes this lure anywhere he goes. “There is always bait somewhere,” says Woods. Basstrix has a wide range of swimbait sizes and patterns. The Basstrix line of swimbaits allows Woods to adjust length and colors that match well with a lake’s live bait fish and the day’s conditions.

The 4-inch center, 6-inch top, and 7-inch bottom are the Basstrix Paddle Tail Tube Swimbaits sizes most used by Woods.

The 4-inch center, 6-inch top, and 7-inch bottom are the Basstrix Paddle Tail Tube Swimbaits sizes most used by Woods.

“Depending on how I want to fish the lure, I rig the Basstrix swimbait with either a Blade-Runner Hollow Swimbait Insert or a Blade-Runner Spin Trix underspin.”

Hitch at Clear Lake, Gizzard Shad, Pre-spawn periods, or anytime the bass are on big bait fish; Woods uses the 7-inch Basstrix shown above with a 1 oz. 6/0 Hollow Swimbait Insert.

Hitch at Clear Lake, Gizzard Shad, Pre-spawn periods, or anytime the bass are on big bait fish; Woods uses the 7-inch Basstrix shown above with a 1 oz. 6/0 Hollow Swimbait Insert.

For deeper presentations that are meant to contact the bottom, Woods uses a Blade-Runner Hollow Swimbait Insert. This insert is available in a variety of sizes to suit a range of depths and swimbait sizes. It’s available in six weights from 3/16 oz. to 1 oz. Each weight also comes in various hook sizes.

A 6-inch Basstrix Paddle Tail Tube Swimbait with a Blade-Runner Hollow Swimbait Insert in position.

A 6-inch Basstrix Paddle Tail Tube Swimbait with a Blade-Runner Hollow Swimbait Insert in position.

The lead weight harness of the Blade-Runner Hollow Swimbait Insert features a wire bait keeper and a loop wire for attaching a belly hook if desired. To place the insert within the swimbait use a sharp razor blade to make a one-inch slice along the spine of the bait where the hook would emerge.  Slide the insert’s line-tie inside and push the line tie through the top center of the lure’s nose. Align the swimbait with the weighted hook system and the bait is ready.

The insert alignment is paramount. Otherwise, the lure will not swim correctly. The Blade-Runner Tackle website has additional instructions for using the Hollow Swimbait Insert. http://www.bladerunnertackle.com/hollow-swim-bait-inserts.html

The 6-inch Basstrix with a gold 3/8 oz. Blade Runner Spin Trix top, 3/8 oz. white head silver blade Spin Trix center, and a 4-inch Basstrix Swimbait bottom.

The 6-inch Basstrix with a gold 3/8 oz. Blade Runner Spin Trix top, 3/8 oz. white head silver blade Spin Trix center, and a 4-inch Basstrix Swimbait bottom.

When fishing higher in the water column, the Blade-Runner Spin Trix underspin head is Woods’ swimbait hook of choice, water clarity determines blade color; gold in stained water and silver for clear conditions.  

Action     

When bait fish school there will always be individuals within the school that are not behaving like the majority. Woods believes the bait fish that separates itself either by position, action or both, are targets for predatory bass. Slow-rolling the bottom, deflecting off cover and structure elements, ripping like a jerkbait, and working his swimbait like a jig are a few of the methods Woods uses to make his deception become the target.    

A-Rigs

Woods also employs an A-Rig when fishing bait fish situations. Woods uses a Dark Horse Baits A-Rig. Many A-Rigs on the market have fragile wire arms. That’s not the case with Dark Horse products, explains Woods. “I like the wire on Dark Horse Baits; it holds up to adjustments, flexing, hard-core fishing, and big fish strikes.” Dark Horse has various A-Rig configurations that comply with individual state fishing requirements.

The Dark Horse A-Rig five arm model, two active and three dummy positions, shown with the Blade-Runner Casting Rig Hooks and Bass Pro Shops Speed Shad Swimbait.

The Dark Horse A-Rig five arm model, two active and three dummy positions, shown with the Blade-Runner Casting Rig Hooks and Bass Pro Shops Speed Shad Swimbait.

Woods uses different sized Blade-Runner Casting Rig Hooks for the baits with hooks on his A-Rig set-up. Lighter sized hooks accommodate shallower running A-Rig presentations. The more massive heads provide a deeper running A-Rig. Switching hook size allows Woods to easily fish different portions of the water column and match-up with different sized swimbaits.

For both hooked and dummy baits the Bass Pro Shops Tournament Series Speed Shad is Woods A-Rig bait. Woods explains the Speed Shad is as effective as other popular choices but has better durability. Woods uses different sizes and colors to allow Speed Shads with hooks to stand out from the dummy baits.

In clear water Woods prefers an unpainted Casting Rig Hook, stating it’s more of a natural look. In dirtier stained waters a painted Casting Rig Hook is selected. Woods finished in 2nd place at the 2014 Won Bass US Open on Lake Mead Nevada. At this prestigious high-level event, the A-Rig was a prime lure for Woods. Woods would swim the A-Rig directly below bass that were working bait fish on the water’s surface.

Woods lands a five-pound bass anchoring his day-three winning bag at the inaugural 2019 Won Bass Arizona Open held on Lake Havasu. The author was Wood’s AAA draw partner/net-man on the final day of competition.

Woods lands a five-pound bass anchoring his day-three winning bag at the inaugural 2019 Won Bass Arizona Open held on Lake Havasu. The author was Wood’s AAA draw partner/net-man on the final day of competition.

Equipment

For the Basstrix swimbait and A-Rig fishing, Woods uses an Enigma Fishing medium-heavy rod, and an Ardent ApeX Elite 6.3:1 baitcasting reel. Woods spools his reel with 16-pound Yo-Zuri TopKnot fluorocarbon line for the Basstrix swimbaits and 20-pound Yo-Zuri TopKnot fluorocarbon with his A-Rigs.     

The Retrieve

When listening to great seminar speakers, they’ll often point out an Ah Ha Moment during their talks. If you remember anything at all, remember this one, it’s a biggie the speakers would say. Woods’ advice about the retrieve is one of those Big Things!

Woods explains that he can demonstrate outstanding lures, detail the best terminal tackle to pair baits with, and which techniques and conditions to use them for, but there is an aspect that is more important than an angler’s tools. Wood’s points out that the details anglers should be seeking are usually overlooked. “The specifics of the retrieve are critical to success.” It is the difference between just reeling in a lure versus imparting a specific action that triggers the biggest bass in the system to strike.

Everywhere you fish, whether it’s someplace new or it’s your home lake, the conditions are always different. Where the winning fish are, and what is going to trigger them to bite is continually changing. “It will never be enough just to cast the same lure that the winner is using.”

It might be how you rip a lure when you contact grass; maybe it’s detecting the bite the moment you punch through the top of a vegetation mat, or perhaps it’s the difference in how your bait swims based on line type and diameter. It’s the subtle nuances within an angler’s retrieve that give a lure not just life, but more importantly the right life. That’s what anglers should be looking for, and that’s what produces successful angling. “The retrieve is the most important aspect of any lure you discover.”

The Winning Feeling

The Winning Feeling

Todd Woods partners with the following outstanding companies; Basstrix, Lure Lock, Yo-Zuri, Enigma Fishing, Ardent Outdoors, Costa, and Blade-Runner Tackle.

You can follow Todd Woods and his angling adventures on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/todd.woods1 and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/toddwoodsfishing/?hl=en

You can purchase most of the products mentioned in this article at Tackle Warehouse https://www.tacklewarehouse.com/

Title photo and bait-box photo by Jessica Haydahl Richardson https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdeGNu9QzkK3mL640_AWOww

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