When Bassmaster Elite Series angler Tommy Biffle is among the leaders of a Bassmaster event, count on him being at the top because of a jig or soft plastic bait dressed with rattles.
If you see Texan James Niggemeyer flipping a soft plastic bait into heavy cover or stained water, it's a safe bet he's got a rattle buried in the body of the lure. Or when California native Fred Roumbanis fishes a wacky worm, he has rattles in both ends. So what's the big deal about noise?
Bass pros believe the subtle rattling sound appeals to the curiosity of bass. "Ask any skin diver and he'll tell you that tapping a couple of rocks together attracts bass every time," said Biffle. "They are curious by nature and will come to investigate." Niggemeyer agreed.
For him, however, it's a big confidence booster when fishing water in which bass don't see the bait clearly. "I think it gets me a few more bites, and that added confidence makes me fish harder," he explained. "The subtle rattling sound may be just enough to get the fish's attention."
Pro Peter Thliveros, however, said water clarity isn't a concern. He said rattling hard baits catch them in clear water, so why not incorporate noise into soft baits in clear water? "It might be a more subtle presentation, but I think adding some sound gives the lure another dimension," he said.
"The more of the bass' senses you can appeal to, the better chance you have of getting it to bite." Rattles come in various sizes and shapes and for multiple uses.
There are the cylindrical shapes for pushing into soft-bodied baits, round capsules for hollow bodies and beads for placement between the sinker and hook on Texas rigs. Here are some of the ways Elite Series pros incorporate them:
Texas rigged creatures/worms: Getting the slender glass rattles into a solid body bait can be tricky. At Biffle's request, Gene Larew Lure Co. simplified by incorporating a hollow chamber specifically for rattles when it created his Biffle Bug creature bait.
For lures without a rattle "pocket," the angler must force the pointed rattle length-wise into the body so that both ends are buried and it doesn't interfere with the hook point.
Thliveros said if a bait is so short you can't place it in the lure below the hook, then bury it into the bait near the line eye, yet away from the point. "If using a big worm, I'll put it in the area of the egg sack," he noted. Thliveros also recommends coring a hole in the plastic before inserting the rattle.
Another key is to make the core smaller so the rattle fits snugly. He also likes to slit the plastic at both ends of the rattle to amplify the noise, making sure to keep the slits small so the rattle can't escape. "Rigging rattles properly can be time consuming, which is why I pre-rig baits the night before," Thliveros said.
Wacky rigs: Roumbanis buries glass rattles in ends of a wacky rigged worm, and he shakes the worm gently as it falls.
"Now, if I'm wacky rigging a soft stickbait, I'll put one rattle in the head of the worm," he added. "I'm convinced a little sound makes a big difference anytime you're fishing."
Tubes: When Arkansas' Scott Rook finished second in the 2001 Bassmaster Classic, he got far more bites in practice with a rattle in his tube bait than he did without one. "I got significantly more, and I believe that was the key to me finishing as high as I did," said Rook, who was shaking the tube under grass clumps.
He stuffed a pill-shaped Zoom Tube Rattle into the cavity between the head and the Texas rigged hook. "It fits pretty tight so it stays in there pretty good," he added. Elite Series pro James Niggemeyer said tubes don't have to rattle a lot to attract bass bites in heavy cover. "Just enough to get the bass to notice it," he said.
To accomplish that, he uses generic, round-shaped rattles that insert easily into the head of the tube. "They're about the size of a Bayer Aspirin, and they fit nicely into the 3 1/2-inch Strike King tube I like to use," he said. "When you shake the rattle next to your ear, you may not hear much, but once you put it in the tube, it's magnified." Like Rook, he rigs the offset-hook weedless.
The bend of the hook coming through the bottom of the bait keeps the rattle from falling out. "And best of all, it doesn't impede the hook set," he noted.