Texan Tommy Martin, a 29-year veteran of the BASS wars, credits versatility for his staying power. He has mastered a formidable arsenal of fishing techniques and stays abreast of the latest innovations. He is also quick to improvise.
When Zoom introduced its widely copied Super Fluke, Martin put the soft jerkbait right to work. He knew the lure's darting, gliding action would appeal to bass anytime they were looking up to feed. Martin usually rigs the Super Fluke without a weight.
"That bait looks more natural when it sinks slowly," says Martin. "You have to have more patience to fish it like that, but it's more productive. Sometimes I'll add weight, but only as a last resort."
A last resort was in order four years ago, when Martin fished a major tournament on Alabama's Lake Martin. He had found largemouth and spots holding on stumps 8 to 10 feet deep in the backs of clear coves. When he retrieved an unweighted Super Fluke over the stumps, the bass charged up and boiled beneath the bait, without taking it.
Martin needed to get the bait deeper. He accomplished this by pushing a lead nail into the Super Fluke's tail, behind the hook. As Martin slowly twitched the Fluke along, the additional weight pulled the bait 5 to 8 feet deep. The bass responded more aggressively to the weighted jerkbait, and Martin was soon culling fish.
"I've never been successful swimming a Fluke with a weight in front of it," says Martin. "The lead nail has a sharp point to penetrate the plastic and little ribs to hold it in place. It's the same weight I use with a wacky worm."
Lunker City's Insert Weights fall into this category. Designed for the original Slug-Go, they come in 3/64- and 3/32-ounce sizes. Trim the weights to size with line clippers. Though Martin implants the weights lengthwise, some anglers insert them crosswise and trim the excess. The latter procedure results in less lure distortion.
Whether he fishes a Fluke with or without a weight, Martin rigs it on a wide gap 4/0 Mustad Ultra Point Big-Mouth Tube Hook. He opts for 14-pound-test Bass Pro Shops XPS fluorocarbon line. It sinks and allows the bait to get deep faster than a monofilament line. The 5-inch soft jerkbait has enough weight to cast well with Martin's 6-foot, 6-inch, medium-heavy Loomis baitcasting rod. When Martin fishes smaller lures, he switches to spinning tackle and 10-pound line to achieve sufficient casting distance.
"I fish the albino-shad color most of the time," says Martin. "That's pearl with a purple tint. I also like watermelon and green pumpkin, especially when I let the bait sink deeper. Those green hues do especially well on smallmouth bass."
Frank Scalish, the 2002 CITGO Bassmaster Rookie Angler of the Year, occasionally pegs a 1/16-ounce bullet sinker to the head of a Super Fluke. This combination produced a Top 20 finish for him at the CITGO Bassmaster Tour event presented by Busch on Lake Okeechobee last January.
"The bass were holding on sparse grass 4 to 8 feet deep," says Scalish. "The sinker pulled the bait deeper and helped me overcome windy conditions."
At Okeechobee, Scalish matched a watermelon soft jerkbait with a 4/0 hook and 20-pound Super Silver Thread line. When the bait latched on to a strand of subsurface grass, Scalish let it rest several seconds to make it look like a feeding golden shiner.
Kansas pro Brent Chapman gets soft jerkbaits deeper by sticking a Storm SuspenStrip on the hook. He lays the strip parallel to the shank and then wraps it tightly.
"Once the SuspenStrip is on there, it doesn't come off," says Chapman. "It doesn't alter the balance or action of the bait. I use this trick when I want to get Storm's Rattle WildEye Slip Tail Minnow down to deeper bass."
Pitch and flip a jerkbait.
Over the past several months, Tommy Martin has been catching good numbers of bass by flipping and pitching his favorite lure rigged with a 1/8-ounce bullet sinker. He began experimenting with this combination during Tour events on Florida's Harris Chain and Lake Okeechobee.
"One day I was catching a few bass on a Super Fluke, but I was having trouble getting it down into hyacinths and peppergrass," says Martin. "A flippin' rod and a 1/8-ounce sinker was the answer."
Martin claims the bait's heavy plastic makes it an easy bait to flip and pitch accurately with the light sinker. He doesn't peg the sinker, because he believes it impairs the hook set.
"The Super Fluke has a streamlined body," says Martin. "It slips easily in and out of cover. I work the Fluke the same way I'd fish a lizard, a worm, or any other soft plastic bait in cover."
Carolina Rigged JERKBAIT
Martin ranks the soft jerkbait as a superb bait for Carolina rigging. He matches it with a 3/4-ounce sinker, a 3-foot leader, and the same 4/0 Mustad hook he employs with casting presentations.
"Sometimes I catch bigger bass with this bait than I do with a lizard," says Martin. "Anytime bass are hitting a Carolina rig, I alternate among a Zoom's Super Fluke, Lizard, Centipede and Baby Brush Hog."
If Martin knows a particular area holds bass, he fishes all four baits before leaving. Bass often strike one of these lures and not the others. Martin scores best with a Carolina rig from prespawn through the postspawn.
"When Carolina rigging, I drag the Fluke along the same way I do a lizard or some other bait," says Martin. "If I'm casting to spawning bass, I slow down."
Try these lures when bass are on a soft jerkbait bite
Bass Assassin Shad Assassin, 386-294-1049, www.bassassassin.com
Berkley Power Jerk, 800-BERKLEY, www.berkley-fishing.com
Gambler Flapp'n Shad, 954-969-1772, www.gambler-bang.com
Gene Larew Sinking Slugger, 918-272-7337, www.genelarew.com
Lunker City Fin-S Fish, 203-237-3474, www.lunkercity.com
Mad Man Mad Shad, 806-331-0030, www.madmanlures.com
Terminator SnapBack Super Jerkbait, 918-488-8585, www.terminatorlures.com
Pradco Yum Houdini Shad, 479-782-8971, www.lurenet.com
Strike King 3X Zulu, 901-853-1455, www.strikeking.com