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By Capt Pete Rosko
It was the winter of 1995 when I received a phone call from the editor of the Honey Hole. I was the monthly "Trophy Bass Magazine of Texas." Over 25 years later, I still remember the more important fishing details, but sadly forget the editor's name.
The editor not only invited me to Texas to fish with him, but also did a full three-page story, with photos, of the 100-plus largemouth bass days while cold water vertical jigging. These were not small schooling bass — they were large bass stacked over critical break lines in 45- to 55-feet of water. The break lines were submerged river beds.
The metal jigs being fished were the Crippled Herring 3/4 oz. and 1 oz. in chrome. Since then, many similar experiences were shared with me from anglers across the United States and abroad. Basically, I had a very wide network of "volunteer" field testers helping me make any future metal jig projects better. Some of those projects evolved into the Sonic BaitFish.
There is a pronounced difference between the Crippled Herring, which I invented almost 40 years ago, and the Sonic BaitFish of today. The three primary contrasts are the finishes, the action, and the 1/10 oz. and 1/16 oz. sizes. Glow finishes are now incorporated, in addition to the Sonic BaitFish being the only metal jig with three attachment points that can be fished very effectively.
Now, let's return to that winter time lake in Texas back in 1995. Over the years, "high density" fluorescent and UV finishes have evolved into very productive finishes versus the basic finishes used in 1995. Secondly, there is a huge advantage to being able to fish a jig with three different attachment points!
On almost every outing, whether if fresh or saltwater, I find that a bite can be activated by changing the line attachment on the Sonic BaitFish and/or changing to a smaller SBF. Back then, if the bite went dead on a nose-attached Crippled Herring then it usually stayed dead, as there was no option of changing the vibration or flutter of that jig.
In cold water, the jig presentation needs to correspond to the slow, semi-hibernating activity of the fish. "Dead sticking" (no jigging involved) can be a huge advantage! Visualize a nose-attached metal jig, hanging still, in an unnatural vertical position versus a SBF attached to the back, slowly rotating in a natural horizontal position. Then you work that jig with an occasional twitch of the rod.
There's no guessing as to which lure will attract the most fish.
Slow drift-jigging is the most effective method to catch fish. That's because your boat is moving with the natural flow of the current. Secondly, the flash and vibration of a falling Sonic BaitFish is highly effective at triggering strikes in open water, winter time settings. It is the deadliest action in sportfishing to cause a fish to strike! To a predator fish, slow drift-jigging imitates an injured baitfish, which equates to an easy meal.
I always stress to find the fish before fishing. They are generally structure oriented, thus structural break lines are critical to your success. Look for submerged river beds, road beds, boat channels, tock piles, reefs and ledges as prime examples of vertical "stairway" break lines that predator fish travel, up and down, to both feed and find shelter. These are primary structures that attract predator fish in both fresh and saltwater, as well as through the ice.
Last, but not least, are the previously-mentioned "micro" 1/10 oz. and 1/16 oz. Sonic BaitFish sizes. Prior to their creation, a Crippled Herring 1/6 oz. was my smallest size. These two micro Sonic BaitFish expanded my shallow water fishing world beyond my imagination!
An example would be catching fish while vertical jigging in two feet of water with the 1/16 oz. size, which is no problem for catching crappie, bluegill and largemouth bass off private docks and marinas in the cold water of Lake Erie. The only time I might cast in the winter would be when fishing at warm water discharge plants that provide summer-like water temperatures and more active fish that would better-respond to a more active metal jig (horizontal presentation).
It's just the reverse for cold water, however. These fish are inactive in cold water and will not chase a horizontal presentation. However, fish will respond to a finesse vertical presentation. That basically means a small bait that is twitched up and down — and not jerked.
The 1/10 oz. and 1/16 oz. Sonic BaitFish are ideal for shallow water jigging due to its downward flutter of the jig, which attracts and triggers strikes. Twitching a heavier jig has little effect on its movement and may actually frighten fish. but, twitching a lightweight micro jig activates its fish-attracting flash and vibration.
Always remember, all of the injured baitfish action is built into the SBF. If you experience hook-to-line fouling, you are over-working the jig with your rod. My usual rig setup for fishing with the 1/10 oz. and 1/16 oz. Sonic BaitFish is a 5 1/2-foot medium-action spinning rod, spooled with 6-lb. braided main line and attached 2- to 3-feet of 6-lb. fluorocarbon leader with a snap at its end. The braided line increases the feel of your lure bumping against structure and the snap increases the lure action.
In closing, since I started this article by mentioning largemouth bass, I'd like to close it with another largemouth mention. An IGFA line record is held by a 17-lb. largemouth caught by Lou Crupi, a retired Los Angeles police detective. Lou caught that record bass similar to how the Texas Honey Hole editor was fishing for his bass, which was brought to my attention by Mack's Lure Sales Director Bob Loomis several years ago.
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