Stickbaits Entice Reluctant Bass into Biting
By Ben Team
Plastic stickbaits are one of those lures that often entice even the most reluctant bass into biting. They flutter and shimmy as they fall through the water, which makes them look like an injured or dying baitfish – a meal that few bass can resist.
While these simple-looking baits are not effective in every set of circumstances, they are reliable enough to command space in your tackle box on virtually every trip.
A 6 ½ to 7 ½ foot, medium power, fast action rod is a good starting point for plastic stickbaits, but be sure to adjust the rod to suit your stature and personal preferences. Spinning combos are probably the more popular option, but you can use baitcasting combos if you prefer. Spinning reels allow you to use 6- or 8-pound fluorocarbon line, which helps when fooling the fish requires a bit of finesse, but baitcasting reels loaded with 25-pound braid will help you haul lunkers out of the weeds. Spinning gear makes it easier to launch these lightweight baits, but many find it easier to skip-cast under docks with a baitcasting setup.
Stickbaits come in nearly every color in the known universe, and most manufacturers produce several different sizes and styles. If you’re new to fishing stickbaits, keep it simple: go with a couple of bags of 5-inch lures in either pumpkinseed, watermelon, shad or chartreuse.
As you become more familiar with the lures and what appeals to your local fish, you can refine your choices. Grab a set of wide-gap, offset hooks in the size indicated on the bag (usually 3/0 to 5/0) and get to fishing.
You can rig plastic stickbaits Texas-style, as you would a plastic worm (do not add a bullet weight), when you must cover a lot of ground. However, stickbaits really come to life when you rig them wacky-style, by inserting the hook through the middle of the lure. Although you can make this your default presentation, it works best when you are fishing vertical structure. When rigging wacky-style, it may be helpful to downsize the hook slightly and use models with wire weed guards to help eliminate snags.
You may catch a bass or two by just firing a plastic stickbait randomly into your local pond, but you will never catch big numbers unless you target cover. Grass lines, steep drops and boat docks are some of the best types of cover to target, but flats and banks may also produce fish. However, unlike a Texas-rigged worm, which you can often pitch into the densest cover imaginable, stickbaits – which are likely to snag if tossed into a tangle of branches — work best right beside cover.
After rigging the lure, cast or pitch it near promising cover and let it float slowly to the bottom. When it hits the bottom, give it a quick little shake and then let it rest. After a 30-second pause, lift your rod tip, reel in several feet of slack and repeat the process. Be ready on the initial drop, as that is when the bulk of the strikes occur. You have to fish stickbaits slowly to maximize their strengths, so remember to be patient.
The bite generally comes in one of two ways. Aggressively feeding bass often hit plastic stickbaits hard, which creates the proverbial “twang” or “tap” on the fishing line. On the other hand, some fish suck up the lure so gently that you do not feel the twang of the strike; instead, you simply see the line start moving off to the side (or toward you, or away from you). When either occurs, set the hook hard and fast with a quick upward jerk.
While plastic stickbaits are usually effective in a variety of conditions, it is important to remember that they are not a spinnerbait or lipless crankbait, which cause a commotion as they move through the water. Bass are not likely to sense the stickbaits with their lateral line unless it is falling right beside them, so you need them to see the lure. Just remember to liven up your presentation some if the water is particularly stained, by dipping the tail in some chartreuse paint or switching to flashier colored stickbaits. However, if the water becomes visibly muddy, you may as well pack up the stickbaits, because the bass cannot see them through the brown soup.