Speak softly and throw a big square bill

I was at ICAST when I got my first look at the new Strike King KVD 8.0. It's a big square bill and a mouthful for most bass. It reminded me of a lesson I learned from a South Carolina fisheries biologist in the 1970s. He told me that bass have no problem with bigger prey, often preferring something up to one-third their own length.

So the KVD 8.0 is no problem at all — even for mere keeper bass. But that's not what it's designed to catch.

Strike King pro James Niggemeyer is a big fan of the big bait, noting its versatility in a category (square bills) that isn't really known for versatility.

"It's a big bait," he says. "It almost creeps into swimbait size, and it'll dive down to 8 or even 10 feet on a long cast — though I wouldn't hesitate to throw it in 2 feet of water. What I really like about it though is that it shows the bass something different. They're not used to seeing a square bill of this size, and it draws bigger bites than you'll usually get with a conventional size square bill."

"Big" is something of an understatement here. At 5 inches long and weighing in at 1.5 ounces, the KVD 8.0 is a beast, and Niggemeyer beefs up his gear to fish it.

"I like to throw the 8.0 on a 7-foot, 4-inch St. Croix Mojo Bass Crankster rod (Model MGBC74MM) with an Ardent Elite casting reel (6.3:1) spooled with 16-pound-test Gamma fluorocarbon. That gives me all the muscle I need, but still lets the bait do its thing."

Niggemeyer's favorite times to fish the KVD 8.0 are in the prespawn and fall (when the bait has grown up and bass are expecting to feed on larger prey), but admits he'll tie one on whenever he's after big bass in cover where a square bill makes sense.

"The bait comes through cover really well — especially wood and rock — and it's designed to 'hunt'."

"Hunting" is the tendency of a lure like a crankbait or vibrating jig to suddenly veer off-course during the retrieve before self-correcting. That kind of erratic movement often triggers strikes from bass and is highly sought after by top bass anglers.

"The KVD 8.0 comes in 10 colors, and my favorites emulate a bluegill or gizzard shad," Niggemeyer says. "Unlike a lot of square bills, this bait has no rattles. It doesn't need them  — bass can feel it coming!"