Plan B: Wake baits

We’ve all seen it, all of us. You walk a walking’ stick back towards your boat. Then, all of a sudden, the water explodes — 6 inches off to the side of your bait. You’ve found the right spot. You’ve found active bass. No matter, you aren’t catching them.

To be fair, this happens with other topwater plugs besides walking sticks, but it seems to be the most common with them. That’s why I mentioned them specifically.

None of us really knows why that happens. It might be that the bass misses it although I think that’s unlikely. It might be that the bass veers off at the last second because it senses that the bait isn’t real. Or, it might be that the bass it just irritated and wants to scare our lure away. Regardless, it’s frustrating.

But there is a way to get them to bite when they’re doing that, and it isn’t complicated. Throw a wake bait. It’ll give you the best of two worlds. It’s on top, or pretty close to it, and it looks real. The bass has to commit to it or get left behind.

Not just any wake bait will do the job, however. A good wake bait is a true wake bait. It’s not the same as a shallow running crankbait. If it runs deeper than a foot, put it back in your tackle box. You can look at a lure and tell what it’ll do in the water. If the bill is straight up and down, or close to it, it’s what you want. If the bill is angled, even a little bit, it’s not what you want for this application.

When I’m fishing clear water I like wake baits that do not have rattles in them, and I crank really fast. Don’t give the bass a chance to look things over. On the other hand, when the water has a little color to it I think a rattle helps. I slow things down, too. The idea is to help them find their prey.

When those two basic retrieves don’t provoke a strike I crank fast — 10 or 12 turns of my reel handle — and then pause things for a second. I want to create a stop and go retrieve with a steady cadence to it.

A long rod is the trick with this technique. It’ll help you keep the lure shallow, especially when it’s out at the far end of your cast. My line choices are standard. In clear water I want fluorocarbon in as light a test-weight as I can get away with. When the water’s stained I fish with braid. When I’m not sure I go with fluorocarbon.    

Any wake bait I fish with from now to the end of fall will look like the prevailing forage. That means size and shape as well as color. Because of that I’m going to leave the choice of baits up to you. I fish Rapala lures.

Late summer and fall is the perfect time for Plan B. Say no to meaningless excitement.

Mike Iaconelli's column appears weekly on You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter or visit his website,