Angler stocking stuffers

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Solid first cull of the day for Jamie Hartman.
Bassmaster Marshal

If you’re looking for stocking stuffers for your favorite fisherman, you might want to consider a selection of seasonal baits. If it were my stocking, here’s what I’d want to see.

1. Finesse Jig: Something I always want to have in my arsenal is a 3/8- or 1/2-ounce Riot Baits Minima Jig with Riot Baits Tantrum trailer. In tougher conditions like a post-frontal day, I may go with something that has less action. 

I’m usually fishing this bait around deep, rocky areas like bluff walls and stair-stepping ledges. This time of year you want to fish slowly — feel every rock as you crawl it down.

2. Jerkbait: With cold water, you have to keep this bait on your deck. I like the Luckycraft Pointers and most of the time, I’m throwing baits made for shallow to mid-water column presentations. I’ll match my colors to the water clarity, but shad patterns are usually a good bet.

I’ll also target bluff walls with jerkbaits, but I also do well by targeting deep points. As the day progresses and warms up, they’ll pull up on those points, but it’s mostly that deeper water stuff.

As far as cadence, you just have to vary it to determine what the fish want, but you’re definitely going to want a long pause — sometimes, painstakingly long. Your cadence may change throughout the day, but when your guides are freezing up in the morning, you definitely want to start out slow.

You can see the bite change as the day warms and the fish become more active. You’ll see the line jump and how much your line starts to move off as their aggression increases. 

I usually start off with a one twitch and pause, or I’ll drag the bait and pause. Sometimes, a drag is better than a twitch. It just eliminates a lot of movement and they seem to react to it better.

Hooks are another point worth addressing. Sometimes, I may want to upsize my hooks for better holding power, but I don’t want to alter how the bait suspends. To avoid this, I’ll go with thinner wire Owner trebles.

3. Alabama Rig: We can’t throw these on the Bassmaster Elite Series, but for winter fun fishing, it’s tough to exclude this one. I mean, a guy can have a whole lot of fun with this rig.

I mostly use the YUM Flash Mob Jr. and when I’m adding the heads on a 5-wire A-rig, I’ll run three 1/8-ounce heads with two 1/4-ounce heads on the bottom. This makes the rig track perfectly every time; it won’t roll during the retrieve.

The Riot Baits T3 Tattle Tail Swimbait is absolutely perfect for an A-rig. I typically use shad colored baits, but I’ll vary the sizes. I’ll run the 3.25-inch baits on the outside positions and then rig a 3.75 in the center. Usually, the fish will target that center bait.

One thing to remember is that this is a slow presentation bait. If you’re around cover, you’ll be making a lot of short casts. Getting your bait into the strike zone right away, engaging your reel and starting your slow retrieve is important; whereas making a long cast, you’re going to hang up more often. 

The key for me, is paralleling banks and adjusting my casts to the scenario. If it’s a shallower bank, I’ll make shorter casts with a slow retrieve. If it’s a steep bank, I’ll make long casts with a slow retrieve. 

Here’s a closing tip: You don’t want to twitch an A-rig, but occasionally killing the bait, letting it fall and then restarting the retrieve can trigger bites.