Land of the giants: Early summer studs

Temperatures are rising, and bass are transitioning into their summer patterns. Looking for a cool tip on scoring a hot bite? Pull up a chair and listen to what these Bassmaster Elite Series anglers have to say. 

Steve Kennedy — shallow river

A man of tradition, Kennedy’s going old school in his summer giant pursuit. His choice: a 1/2-ounce yellow/black Hildebrandt Snagless Sally in-line spinner — a bait that proves more efficient than a more common shallow-cover option.

“I try to avoid a typical spinnerbait because when a big fish hits it, he gets the blades and all, and I seem to miss too many bites on it,” Kennedy said. “This is something my dad picked up down at the St. Johns River 50 years ago, and in shallow, muddy water, it catches big ones.”

Favoring a size 4 1/2 blade for head-turning thump, Kennedy generally removes the weedguards for even better hookups and adds a green/white pork frog trailer. He’s stashed away several jars of the swine skin, but if you’re having trouble finding these trailers, Kennedy points to a NetBait Paca Craw as a suitable option.

Acknowledging that the bladed jig era has largely overshadowed this throwback bait, Kennedy says a little retro has a way of standing out in the sea of sameness. Moreover, his vintage bait presents a more enticing profile.

“This is a similar presentation as the [bladed jig], but I haven’t found one that’s as big as the Snagless Sally,” Kennedy said. “Maybe it’s the length, I don’t know what it is, but this bait just gets bigger bites and I can catch ’em.

“This bait’s designed for fishing in grass, pads, that type of stuff [with weedguard intact], and it’s really popular in tidal fisheries, but I like it anytime you have moving water with big rocks and stumps, which position the fish so you can target them. It’s hard to throw a big bait like that all day long. It’s not like you’re going to catch 10 on it in one spot — you’re hunting for big fish.”

BAIT: In-line spinner

WHY: Better hookup ratio than traditional spinnerbaits

WHERE: Areas of moving water featuring big rocks and stumps