Mark Menendez – Last Minute Scramble

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12/5/2011 – Editor’s Note – The best laid plans of mice and men always seem to have a way of falling apart. Some call it bad luck, Murphy’s Law or whatever, but whatever the case; sometimes things just don’t go as we plan. There are times that we have to re-group and find a way to scrape together something to get us by.

Elite Series pro Mark Menendez calls those kinds of moments in a bass tournament the “last minute scramble.” Those are the moments when you need a fish, any keeper fish to finish out the day, make a cut, or qualify for the championship. Those are the days when one pound can be the difference between making it and letting everyone see your taillights heading over the dam as you leave penniless.

Menendez details how he responds when he needs that one little fish that can make so much difference to a bass angler. His self-penned description is below.

In a competitive angler’s life, it is all about qualifying! It does not matter if it is the Elite Series or a Bass Club Classic. It is important to make it to the desired accomplishment. One cute little 12” bass could be the difference in making the next step. Here is the scenario; the angler has sixty minutes left of fishing time before running to back to the check in boat. A quick look in the live well reconfirms that there are only four bass in the box. It is time for the “Last Minute Scramble”!

MarkMenendezScrambleSmallKeeperWith a limited window, it is about make the most casts in the upcoming hour. Power fishing will allow the angler the opportunity to make the most casts. We are looking for a legal 12” fish; now is the time to put down the Flipping Stick with 25-pound line; the Series 6XD goes back in the rod box, and forget about a Texas rigged worm. Most of us would have to dig into the bottom of the rod box to find an ignored 6-7’ spinning outfit with eight-pound line on it.

Where does the fisherman look for that small bass? Keeping in mind this year class of fish will most likely be the most prevalent size bass in the body of water. Yearling bass tend to inhabit the bank cover most of the year. For this time of the year, remember that wind is your friend. A windy edge gives the predator ample feeding opportunities. Any irregular features along an edge will up the percentage for a strike. Understand the principle? Find an area that opens up the chance for a strike.

Cranking a Small Plug
A small crank bait is a sure fire choice to get the bite needed. Most small crankbaits will run shallower than five feet deep, and the Strike King Mini 3 crankbait is a perfect little bite for a bass. It has a strong vibration when cranked and deflects well off of the bottom. It is always the angler’s job to insure the crankbait in use must maintain contact with the bottom or cover.

This “mini” deflection will generate the desired strike from our keeper. Always monitor the hook points as they may wear from deflections. Anglers need to remember the small hooks on these baits. Hook sets need to be gentle sweep of the rod in order to land the “qualifier” bass. Sexy Shad and Sexy Sunfish colors will match the hatch for these yearling bass.

MarkMenendezScrambleCrankSpinThe Blade
Spinnerbaits are another excellent choice for covering water. The Mini King Spinnerbait is a micro version of the safety pin style of spinnerbait. A ½ oz. spinnerbait may be too large for our primary goal. The small blade will allow for a weedless presentation around cover.

Most serous bass anglers have long forgotten an in-line spinner. The in-line spinner mimics minnows just by size and shape of the lure. A white body with a silver blade will be perceived by the 12” bass as a late afternoon snack.

However, the in-line spinner has one distinct problem; they tend to create line twist while retrieved. Always add a split ring to the front and rear of a bearing swivel. Then add the swivel to the front of the lure to remedy the problem; don’t be surprised if this little bait attracts a good fish as well.

The Silent Snack
Soft plastic bait can be used as well. A Rage Tail Crappie Grub curly can be retrieved with speed to look like an escaping bait fish. Anglers can reach in to their crappie box and find a 1/16oz -1/8oz jig head with an Aberdeen hook. These little jig heads are very common and have a sharp hook.

MarkMenendezScrambleCrappieGrubMaking a cast towards a target, the angler needs to keep the rod tip near the 12 o’clock position. Winding the grub past the cover, the strike may be visual. The eight-pound-test line will hold most keeper size bass from the cove. Tennessee Shad, Pearl Blue with silver flake, and White are all top color choices. Anglers may also utilize a “boot tail” style of grub to provide a swimbait-like appearance. This technique can be deadly on schooling bass.

Many serious bass anglers may never admit to utilizing these basic fishing techniques. If a complete inspection of some of the top bass anglers tackle was allowed, then we would find many of the “Mickey Mouse” baits in view.
Just remember, it does not matter how you get to the big dance; only that you were allowed on the dance floor. The choice is yours!