Berkley Tacklebox: Slow Baits Equal Big Florida Bass

Wish you had a dollar for every time a cold front or a thunderstorm in your area caused your favorite lake's Florida-strain largemouth bass to develop lockjaw? By now we've realized that it happens because Florida-strain largemouth are more affected by weather changes and drops in water temperature than Northern-strain largemouth are — even in summer. But in late spring/early summer, before the water temperature has stabilized, they can seem especially temperamental.

 Since the bait hit the market a few years ago, we've all been learning the finer points of fishing with Berkley® Gulp!®. We've learned about how we should fish it slow and allow the scent technology to work — to fill the area with its scent to attract big, hungry bass like a blood trail draws in ravenous carnivores. But once the Florida-strain bass shut down due to weather, anglers that want to catch them are going to have to slow way down — almost to a crawl — and rely on Gulp! even more.

 There's some genetic differences between Florida- and Northern-strain largemouth bass that makes the Florida-strain less catchable. When I say that they are less catchable, what I mean is that there is scientific proof that shows it takes more man-hours of fishing to catch a Florida bass (on average) than it does a Northern. But, since Floridas (again, on average) get bigger, faster than Northerns, many people love to fish for big Florida-strain bass. Northern bass will be more likely to bite reaction-type baits for more of the year than a Florida will. Floridas are less likely to gamble their energy on trying to secure a meal. This means that we have to slow way down to catch them on a most days, though there are still times when they can also be caught on reaction baits, topwaters and other fast-moving baits.

 Fishing slow is a task that is perfectly suited for Gulp!. The way Gulp! disperses scent through the water goes a long way to getting a Florida to bite — even when the weather has it otherwise shut down.

 When the cold front comes through, normally we see high skies, north winds, declines in air temperature, things like that. Once this happens and the water temperature starts to dip, they will instinctively head for a place where they can have a roof over their head. Whether it's burying themselves in heavy vegetation, under a boat dock or some lilipads or hiding out in the root system of a tree stump, Floridas want a place that provides some kind of cover when the water conditions change. Absent any cover in the water, Floridas will often retreat to deeper water.

 My favorite technique for this time is using a drop shot with either a Gulp! Wacky Crawler or Gulp! Shaky Worm. Green Pumpkin and Watermelon Red Glitter are always good all-around colors, but right now I am catching them almost everywhere I go on a Watermelon Candy Gulp! Shaky Worm. My drop shot set up for this situation consists of the new 8-pound Berkley Trilene® 100% Fluorocarbon line (this new line is an amazing product) and a ¼-ounce tungsten sinker about 8-12 inches below the hook. In open water, I will nose hook the baits, but in and around cover I prefer to Texas rig the baits to protect the hook with an Abu Garcia® Cardinal® 804 spinning reel and a 7-foot Fenwick® Techna AV® medium-fast rod. The drop shot gives me the ability to place the bait near the bottom and get a lot of motion out of the bait without moving it very far. By now moving it around, I can give the allusion of an easy meal that is just laying there — dying.

 When we started using the drop shot, I think a lot of us thought we were supposed to move the bait up and down in deep water. Now, I cast the drop shot a lot near cover. I don't really drag it around like a Carolina rig, I let it hit bottom and I shake the line then I move it a little ways, but I move it slow. I want to cover some water with the bait, but I do it by shaking the line — not just dragging it around.

 When cover is in really shallow water, I'll switch from the drop shot and go to a weightless, wacky rigged Gulp! Sinking Minnow or Wacky Crawler. I might use a light, weighted hook in the middle so I can make long casts. This is also a very subtle presentation because the worm sinks with quivering action with little noise and little splash. Most of the time I will use the same set up for this as I do for a drop shot, but in heavy cover, I use 20-pound Spiderwire® Stealth™ with either 14- or 17-pound fluorocarbon leader. The stronger line casts further so you don't have to get as close and spook the fish, plus you're not as likely to lose fish around the cover.

 Fishing slow is not what everyone has in mind when they go bass fishing. It can be frustrating. And sometimes "slow" means something different to everyone. In fishing, you're always making decisions on how fast to fish. It's a decision that has to be made on the water and based on your intuition and results (or lack thereof). It's all part of developing a successful pattern. The more fish you catch the more dialed in you will become with the parameters of the pattern.

 So what about those dollars now? When the Florida-strain bass shut down are you going to a movie and wait for the return of ideal conditions, or to the tackle store and stock up on Gulp!?




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