Where the pursuit of bass is concerned, there's almost an unending supply of baits and tactics available to today's angler. From topwater plugs to deep diving crankbaits, it seems there's no portion of the water column that can't be scoured with some type of lure. Still, a surprising number of anglers overlook the top 4 inches of the water.
If a bait runs 3 to 4 inches beneath the surface, it is often considered a topwater bait — something that can be twitched, paused or popped across the water's surface. Elite Series pro Fred Roumbanis agrees, but only to an extent.
"If you're on a good topwater bite and a cold front comes through, a wake bait can be a killer back-up plan in those same areas," Roumbanis points out. "Wake bait fishing is one of those things that's kind of a cross between a fast moving bait that would run under the surface and a topwater bait."
Most crankbait manufacturers offer a surface skimming design that fits the wake bait category. These fat, buoyant plugs feature a down-turned lip that causes them to wobble on the surface or, on a faster retrieve, swim a few inches underwater.
For Roumbanis, a wake bait isn't merely a compliment to his topwater mojo, it's the premier forerunner to some explosive bass fishing. "It's something that I like to use before a really good topwater bite takes off but I'll fish it until the water gets up to around 72 degrees," he allows. "Once the water temps get up that high, I'm putting up the wake bait and pulling out a frog or something like that."
Roumbanis holds that, as in spring, there's likely no better bait to throw in the fall than a wide wobbling wake bait. "That's when I do most of my damage with a wake bait," he says. "When the bait fish start migrating into the backs of pockets, the wake bait triggers an aggressive feeding response.
"During the fall, you can throw it around schooling fish first thing in the morning, and pretty much get bit on it all day long," he reveals. "It's a real universal bait because of the types of conditions you can fish it and the kind of cover you can bring it through."
As for the "go-to" wake bait types, Roumbanis points out that the very best bait will be the one that's effortless to use. "The bait should be designed to do everything on its own," he explains. "The perfect wake bait is one that will allow for steady wobble on a superslow retrieve. You want it to be able to trail that V-shaped wake no matter how slowly you're turning the reel handle." For Roumbanis, his favorite wake bait is Roumba, which he designed for the Japanese tackle manufacturer, Ima.
Beyond the simple wake trail that is achieved with a properly tuned wake bait, Roumbanis points out that there are several different ways to use the retrieval speed to trigger a bite. "I throw a lot of frogs, so one of the things I like to do is to actually work the bait like a frog," he explains.
"If you're working it like a frog, it will dart downwards and actually trigger a reaction bite. It works really well on deeper lakes where fish are suspending in trees."
Roumbanis explains that the wake bait shouldn't be confined to only clear water impoundments, as it's truly a bait that will work anywhere under the right conditions. "Because of the wide wobble in wake baits, they deflect grass away from the hooks," he says. "I've also found that they work really well on lakes where I'm fishing around stumps or lily pads. I can wake it right underneath a lily pad and that is a dangerously good way to catch them."
When it comes to line, Roumbanis points out that his preference is a toss-up between copolymer and braid. The deciding factor is the kind of water he's fishing. "If I'm fishing open water, I'm almost always going to be throwing a copolymer because it floats," he explains. "If I'm fishing around cover, I'm usually going to be using braided line."
While a wake bait may not be his first choice, Roumbanis points out that he will always have one close at hand. "It may not be my No. 1 choice in a tournament, but it's a bait that definitely has its place in my toolbox," he points out. "I will always use it as a search bait, and it's an awesome follow-up bait because it gives the bass a different look."
(Provided by Z3 Media)