For Part 1 of this series, click here.
Pat Cullen of Valdosta, Ga., has been quietly amassing one of the most impressive catches of double-digit bass over the last four decades. The majority of those trophies have fallen for buzzbaits on hot summer nights. After years of silence, he's ready to pass the torch to the next generation of trophy hunters.
"The thrill of having a huge bass crash your buzzbait is unbelievable, and almost everyone in our great country can have this experience close to home," Cullen shared.
Cullen chases trophy bass in ponds and lakes less than 200 acres in size, and always expects to catch a lake's biggest bass at night. The best time of year is during the heat of summer, and he prefers moonless nights around the new moon or on cloudy, drizzly nights.
"I don't go expecting to catch a dozen bass. I am looking for that one monster hit, and a buzzbait will usually trigger that bite," he said.
He starts the night by tying on one of his custom-designed buzzbaits and checking his drag. He wants the drag to be tight enough so that it will slip only when a huge bass makes a strong run. At this setting, a 5-pounder can easily be pulled to the boat without it slipping. Vicious Ultimate Monofilament in 17-pound test gets the nod for his buzzbaiting. He believes that this size line has the perfect balance of strength and castability. Monofilament is his choice because he wants some stretch to absorb the tremendous shock a big strike can generate.
Cullen uses one of four different custom-made black buzzbaits. Each of the four creates a different sound. The Gurgler and the Slowpoke are 4-blade baits designed to be retrieved slowly and create chugging, gurgling sounds. The Squealer and the Wobbler are designed to be retrieved faster and make higher-pitched squeaking sounds. Going into the evening, he never knows which sound will entice strikes, so he switches every now and then until he dials in what they want that night. His most productive bait this summer has been the Slowpoke. Regardless of which bait he uses, Cullen always adds a trailer hook. His choice is a 2/0 Eagle Claw #249W hook (with the wire guard pulled out) secured with a piece of rubber band above the hook. He will hone the point to ensure that it's needle-sharp.
"That super-sharp trailer hook swings freely behind the buzzbait and often catches a short-striker in the side of the mouth," he said.
Cullen's casting pattern is extremely methodical. Most of the time, there is no wind during hot summer nights, so boat control is no issue. He is almost invisible to the fish while sitting in his Gheenoe and casting with just a snap of his wrist. He adds to his stealthy approach by dressing in dark clothes and wearing a facemask. As he works an area, he'll ease forward, and after his boat stops drifting will make a cast to the 12 o'clock position, then 1, then 2, then 3. After that, he'll switch to the left side of the boat and casts to the 9, 10, and 11 o'clock positions. If he doesn't get a strike, he'll either switch buzzbaits and repeat the pattern or move the boat forward and start all over again. This way he ensures he has saturated the area with casts.
On the rare night when everything seems dead and there is no surface activity, he'll wake them up with an Arbogast Hula Popper. He'll cast the large version (in black, of course) to a likely area and then give it one or two fierce pops before quickly reeling it in. He does not expect to catch a fish on the lure, but uses it to elicit the territorial instincts of mammoth bass. He believes that the sound convinces a trophy in the area that another bass is having a meal. He then returns to casting a buzzbait in that same area.
This spring Cullen filmed a DVD that details his trophy bass fishing techniques, which have produced more than 1,100 bass heavier than 10 pounds. For more information about Cullen, his DVD, or his line of buzzbaits, check out his Web site at www.patcullentrophybass.com.
Check back for reports and photos from Cullen's night fishing adventures.