Massive schools of baitfish swarming a lake drive bass into a feeding frenzy and bass anglers into a fit of frustration sometimes. Imitating fleeing baitfish is much tougher than it sounds, and when the real thing is readily available, it’s tough to get them to bite your imitation.
Finding baitfish is an easy task throughout the fall, but catching bass keying on this forage becomes frustrating when you can see bass busting through the baitfish schools but your repeated casts to the surface activity fails to trigger any strikes. The tournament pros face this dilemma every autumn and have devised special retrieves that make their lures imitate fleeing baitfish trying to escape a bass in a high-speed chase.
Here are four escaping baitfish retrieves to trigger reaction strikes from bass throughout the fall.
1. High Speed Chugging
Keeping your rod at the nine o’clock position, jerk your rod and simultaneously reel in line to make a topwater chugger pop and skip across the surface. The faster and more erratic you can make the lure act while still moving a lot of water and making it spit, the more strikes you will trigger. You should use a baitcast reel with at least a 6.1:1 gear ratio for quickly cranking in slack line and keeping the lure popping.
2. Darting a Jig
When you need to induce a strike from inactive bass hanging around docks, turn your jig into a fleeing baitfish by dropping the lure to the corner of a dock and quickly reeling it away from the target.
On the jig’s initial fall, let it drop into the shady area of the dock and then make the jig dart by quickly turning your reel handle four or five times. Then let the jig fall again to imitate a baitfish diving down into cover.
3. Deflecting Crankbaits
During their escape attempts, baitfish tend to accidentally bump into objects which leads to their demise. So imitate these bumbling baitfish by running a square bill crankbait at high speed and deflecting it off of stumps, laydowns or dock posts.
4. Burning Spinnerbaits
Any time you find bass suspending below baitfish in deep clear water, try burning a 1/2- or 3/4-ounce spinnerbait with tandem willowleaf blades across the surface. Maintaining the right speed is essential for this escaping baitfish retrieve.
Retrieve the spinnerbait as fast as you can without having the blades break the water surface. If you can keep the blade bait just below the surface where it creates a bulging wake, bass will rise from the deep and annihilate the lure.
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