Sometimes less is more. That’s often true when we’re talking about catching bass. It’s fine to bounce a crankbait off a rock or burn it through a school to fire them up. The bass probably sense that the baitfish feel threatened so they strike before it’s too late. There are times when that gets it done. But there are other times when a subtle approach works best.
My term for that subtle approach is neutral motion. The Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship at Sturgeon Bay was one of those other times, at least for me. Without it I would not have qualified for the 2016 Bassmaster Classic. I’d have gone to Lake Erie trying desperately for a win to get me in.
Neutral motion is a better term than “do nothing” or “dead sticking.” They’re not an accurate description of moving your bait slowly and naturally. Your bait isn’t doing nothing and it’s not playing dead. It’s looking natural and unhurried. That’s a very different concept.
I was able to create neutral motion with a combination of a jig head and a shortened plastic stickbait. There’s got to be a thousand products with which to do that. I used a VMC Dominator Half Moon Long Shank Jig and rigged it with a Berkley Havoc Ike’s 5-inch Flat Dawg.
The Dawg needed to be shortened so I bit an inch or so off it before I threaded it on the jig head flat side down. (I suppose I should say that I cut off part of it with scissors, but that wouldn’t be true. Time is precious during a tournament.)
My presentation was pretty simple. I’d cast it out, let it fall all the way to the bottom and then pull it up so that it could fall back down. I’d do this about halfway back to the boat, reel it in and then do the same thing all over again. There was no point in fishing it all the way back. The water was really clear. If one was there, she’d eat it right away.
My color choice was black. This is important. I’m a big believer in black when you’re fishing anything in neutral motion. You’ll recall I used black with my marabou jig in a previous column. Why black gets me more bites is something I don’t pretend to understand. What I do understand, though, is that over the years I’ve caught more bass with black when I make neutral motion presentations than with any other color.
If there’s a lesson in this for all of us, it’s that we should never get in a hurry and we should never try to outthink our fish. It’s about fishing the moment, always.
I was up against it, and I knew it. My natural inclination was to fish fast — cover water, catch bass and get to the Classic. I resisted that temptation because that’s not what was happening out there. Thank goodness I did.