Pro Tip – Tips for Bigger Bites with Mark Menendez

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by Mark Menendez

MenendezClassicExperienceEnteringArena

Mark Menendez Entering the Arena at the Bassmaster classic – photo by Dan O’Sullivan

Consistent tournament anglers have a couple of things in common.  They are good decision makers and catch a larger grade of bass.  These two items go hand in hand.  Lure choices can attract larger fish as well.  In real estate, it is all about location, the same is true with a big bass.

Home Range
Big bass are notorious for having a home range in reservoirs.  They set up shop in a particular location and stay.  This residence needs to have ample ambush points, food, depth, and water quality to hold the jumbo bass.  Anglers will need to parlay seasonal patterns into the quest for find big bass holding areas.

A big bass may be a six pounder in northern waters.  It may also be anything over ten pounds in southern areas with extended growing seasons.  These older and wiser fish exhibit the same characteristics in different geographic locations.

Creek channels become fish interstates for migrations.  They will follow a channel to the shallows to spawn in the spring and reverse that path as summertime heat warms the embayments.  A big bass begins to look for that perfect home range, and almost every home range has a commonality.

Any flat area with deep water access is a prime location.  Bass are more efficient predators on the flat.  Yet, they want the comfort and security of deep water. Deep is a relative term.  The specific flat for this discussion may fall from five to ten feet.  It is the structure element that the bass require to exist in a home range. The additional prime cover to these areas makes a home for larger bass.

Profile….BIG
Big bass are energy managers.  They want to get the biggest meal possible with a minimum of expended energy.  This translates to slower presentations with larger baits.

Swim baits can mimic large food sources.  Gizzard Shad are big targets for bass. In cooler water situations, gizzard shad are negatively impacted by temperatures under 45 degrees.  This makes them easy prey for a big fish. Slowly retrieved 6” Strike King Shadalicious swim baits can yield big dividends.

Mark Menendez' Big Bass Tools

Mark Menendez’ Big Bass Tools – a Strike King Hack Attack Jig, a Tour Grade Buzzbait and a Shadalicious Swimbait

In order to take full advantage, anglers need to take note on the Lowrance unit at the depth level these shad are suspending.  Presentations at that depth level will tempt the shad feeding bass.

In-line style swim baits reach a profile of up to twelve inches.  Replicas of sunfish, trout, and or hitch are realistic swimbait offerings.  Swim baits are generally much more productive in clearer waters.  Bass are visually stimulated by the sight of an easy “full course” meal, so water visibility of at least 24 inches is recommended. Bass can see three to five times farther under water than human looking down upon the water.  With 24inches (two feet) of visibility, the bass can see the offering six to ten feet away.  Clear water produces presentations that can easily trigger a big bass over 50 feet away.

A game of “Cat and Mouse “can be played with bass around heavy cover.  A bass that is deeply buried in cover may be in a non-active mood.  Repeated casts with a giant profiled offering may perk that fish’s interest.  Multiple casts can pull that bass out of the cover or to the ambush point.  The next cast can result in a strike from that same fish that was in the non-responsive feeding position and mood.

Shell Fish Anyone?
Given a forage choice, a bass will usually take a stab at a crawfish.  A crawfish packs protein as a meal, they are a favorite bass snack.

Jigs have the characteristics of an all-terrain vehicle.  These crawfish imitators are great big bass lures as they can penetrate cover.  Heavy cover is a prevalent theme to big bass behavior.  The Strike King Hack Attack Jig is designed for the penetration and exit of cover.  The jig boosts a heavy black nickel Gamakatsu hook that has an extra bite for higher hooking percentage.  Its line tie is at a 30 degree angle that reduces snags in and out cover.

A trailer is a key part of a jig presentation as it controls the fall of the jig as well as the action and appearance.  A fast fall will result in a reaction strike from the fish. A KVD Chunk is a slim bodied trailer that has little resistance in the water.  Its bulk and shape resemble the pinchers of the crawfish as it drops in front of a cover bound bass.  This is a great clean water tactic. In dirty water, a Rage Craw adds bulk and vibration. The “Rage” flange produces a vibration much like the sound emitted by a spinnerbait blade. This will help the bass to pinpoint the offering in dark colored water using sight as well as its lateral line.

Mark Menendez with a Lake Fork Biggun

Mark Menendez with a Lake Fork Biggun

Topwater Offerings
Big bass are notorious for being topwater hunters.  Large surface presentations can lure vicious strikes.  A Tour Grade Buzzbait is a great choice for covering vast amounts of water.  A slow presentation of “plop, plop, plop” on the surface excites big fish.  A slow steady retrieve is a great way to entice a buzzbait strike. The safety pin design of this lure insures its weedless capability.

Slight modifications to a buzzbait can slow the offering down even more.  Anglers can open the frame by bending the blade portion of the bait up just a few degrees, this creates more drag in the water.

A secondary tweak of the blade can be made by flattening out the cup on each side of the blade will also slow the bait.  The addition of a flat trailer adds to the profile of this topwater.  A Space Monkey or six inch Rage Lizard makes a bigger target for the hungry bass.  A trailer hook is always a prudent idea to collect short and missed strikes from the bass.

Big fish eat big things. The addition of casting larger offerings may cut down on total strikes on a given fishing day.  But, it can lead to a large average in the livewell at quitting time!

Mark Menendez is an Elite Series angler. You may follow him on Facebook and Twitter.