Lure Selection For Targeting Trophy Fish
If your goal is to catch trophy fish, lure selection can often have the biggest influence on your success. The old adage, "big baits catch big fish" is a big part of the puzzle, and we're here to break it down.
To understand why big baits work so well for big fish, one must understand the behaviors of most big bass. These fish did not get big by being dumb, and exerting unnecessary energy is pretty dumb for big bass. These fish often feed less often than smaller or medium sized adult bass. When they do eat, they make sure it is a big meal that will sustain them for longer. Large adult bass will routinely eat gizzard shad, bluegill, crappie, suckers, perch, and a variety of other fish over 8" long. Below are some of the best baits that imitate what these trophies are keying in on.
1) Hard Swimbaits
Hard swimbaits are the most popular choice for trophy hunting anglers. There are two main categories to these lures - multi jointed swimbaits, and single jointed swimbaits named 'glide baits'.
Multi jointed swimbaits, like the Bull Shad Swimbaits Slow Sinking Bull Shad, are straightforward baits that are generally designed to retrieved quickly near the surface on a steady retrieve. These baits have a large profile, hyper realistic swim in the water, and move quickly to imitate a fleeing baitfish. The idea is that these quick moving baits present an easy meal near the surface that opportunistic fish will take advantage of. Because of the how you fish these baits, they're best used in the warm water months from the post-spawn to the fall.
Single jointed glide baits, like the Googan Squad Rival, are a more advanced and intentional approach. These glide baits have a vastly different action in the water, and are best retrieved slowly while using your reel handle to twitch the bait. A well made glide bait will have a lazy, wide S-curve as it makes its way back to the boat, and will cut hard in a direction change when the angler twitches the bait with turns of the reel. This slow moving trail mimics an injured fish, thus an easy meal. This lazy action will often draw bass' attention from far away, as they are curious animals.
Once they are on the hunt, the quick direction changes these baits exhibit often triggers strikes. Some of these glide baits can even turn 180 degrees to turn around and face the following bass head on. Often times this is a big trigger to seal the deal! Glide baits can be fished throughout the year with success, but they really shine around the spawn or in the fall when large bass are hyper focused on eating large forage to prepare for winter. For a more detailed overview of glide baits like the Googan Squad Rival, watch here!
2) Soft Swimbaits
Soft swimbaits are another very popular choice for trophy hunters, and present the easiest option for anglers that are new to swimbaits. These swimbaits can be prerigged, like the Bacca Burrito Swimbait, or come together with a screw lock hook, like the Bass Mafia Daingerous Swimbait. There is a third category called line-thru swimbaits, but we'll skip those as they are less popular of a choice.
Both soft swimbait options sink fairly quickly, and are often meant to be fished deeper than hard swimbaits. They are retrieved at a slow and steady pace to let the back tail kick hard and entice bites. The big difference between a prerigged swimbait and a swimbait with a screw lock hook is that the latter will be snag free. Prerigged swimbaits are often a great choice when you are looking to target fish staged 5-15 feet deep, while those with a screw lock hook are a great choice whenever you are fishing around shallow cover such as grass, or wood. It is popular for anglers to fish swimbaits with a screw lock hook that has a light weight, allowing them to effectively fish big baits in shallow, heavy cover.
3) Umbrella Rigs
Umbrella rigs, like the Yumbrella 3 Wire Rig, have exploded in popularity over the last 15 years for their ability to mimic a school of baitfish. Originally adapted from Striped Bass fisherman, an umbrella rig is a multi armed rig that allows anglers to place 3, 5, even up to 15 swimbaits on one castable rig to mimic schools of shad. These umbrella rigs are particularly effective in cooler water months when balls of bait are schooled up tight.
These rigs are highly customizable, as you can adjust the jig head size or swimbait body size on each arm to manipulate how deep the rig will run on a slow retrieve. You can also opt to use dummy heads on some of the wires, which are jig heads and swimbaits without a hook. This is especially important for anglers fishing in states that restrict the amount of hooks you can use per rig, like Minnesota which only allows 1. Make sure to check your local regulations to stay legal!
A learning curve for anglers getting into targeting trophy fish is realizing their current gear probably doesn't cut it for all the big baits they want to throw. There is nothing worse than using a lure a little too heavy for the rod you have, just to have the rod quickly break on you. Many of the lures for targeting trophy fish are 1-4oz in weight, and you need specialized gear to effectively fish them. The Googan Squad Gold Series Muscle XL Casting Rod was specifically designed to have the muscle to cast these big baits with ease, especially when paired with a 300 sized baitcaster like the Shimano Tranx 300 Casting Reel. With all the beefy gear, you need beefed up line as well! Always opt for 20-25lb Fluorocarbon or Monofilament line like the Googan Squad Series.
Last but not least....dont forget that digital scale to accurately document the memory!
Updated May 2nd, 2023 at 2:02 PM CT