Wake Up Some Bass
By Justin Hoffman
Wake baits are taking the bass movement by storm, and for good reason. These tantalizing cranks give new meaning to the term "topwatering," and provide a niche factor for garnering strikes when other baits fail to make the grade. Come and uncover the wake craze - its one bait worth doing a background check on.
The Lowdown on the Wake
True wake baits are relatively new on the fishing scene, but prototypes have been around for decades. In the past, anglers would slowly crawl a Rapala, Bomber Long A, or Rippling Red Fin across the surface, barely allowing the bait to dip below the water line. This technique worked well - and still does to this day - but the refinements and tweaking put forth into the new wave of wake baits are definitely second to none.
Typical wake baits resemble a shad-based form - stocky, short, and compact. The overall weight of these baits is quite heavy, and most average ¾ of an ounce. Plastic lips are shallow yet wide, and rattles are extremely loud.
When all of these components are put together, the results are a lure that swells the surface and pushes out a broad wake; all while giving off an aggressive side-to-side wobble. Throw in the fish-calling thump of the rattles, and you've got yourself a bonafide bass bait.
Why They Work?
A wake bait presents itself to a bass as an injured baitfish, or one that has been separated from its schooling pack. Its steady and rhythmic action conjures up a sense of curiosity in a fish, and one that ultimately turns into a strong feeding response. But most of all, they resemble an easy and attainable meal to a smallmouth or largie, and that's something they don't stumble upon so often when hunting in the wild.
When To Wake
The possibilities are endless when it comes to particular spots to toss a wake bait. Here are a few that have proven themselves.
Weed Flats - Shallow flats choked with subsurface vegetation are compelling spots to chuck a wake. The near weedless approach of this bait lends itself well for these areas, and largies lurking in clumps, indentations, or simply cruising will be more than willing to show themselves.
Wood - Toss these lures over submerged logs or through stump fields, and hang on tight. Wake baits do a great job of luring fish up and away from cover, and excel where many baits fail. Running your bait into these structure points can also turn the tide on following fish.
Deep Water - For those that like to target deep or suspended smallies, a wake bait can be your best friend. If fish are busting shad on top, or if the water is crystal-clear, smallmouth will charge up as much as 20-feet in order to swipe these cranks right off the top.
Rip Rap or Shoals - Early morning or evening can be conducive for getting smallies to go on top. Work wake baits along productive rock areas when fish are present, and cover all spots thoroughly. They also make for an excellent search bait.
Wake baits work in most conditions, but if wind and wave action is up, its best to switch to a different lure. (Heavy wave action negates the allure and action of a wake bait entirely.)
A calm surface is best when facing overcast skies, while a light ripple on the water seems to produce better results when the sun is up above.
Try to match the hatch when deciding on a colour. If perch or shad are the preferred prey, then stick with those hues. Reflective patterns will work better with stained or off-coloured water, while a non-reflective or finesse sheen will produce better in clear water conditions.
How To Wake
Working a wake bait is about as simple as it gets in fishing. Like in any topwater regimen, let you bait settle and the ripples dissipate after the initial cast. While keeping your rod tip high (11 o'clock position) begin to slowly reel your bait in. You want the lure to remain on the surface, and for it to produce the bulge and wake it is known for. If you can consistently see a 'V' come across the surface, then you're doing everything right. A steady and methodical retrieve is best.
If a fish misses your bait, keep your composure and continue to reel. More times than not, they'll come back and whack it again.
A medium/heavy baitcasting stick, with decent stiffness in the upper half, works best for throwing these hefty baits. My rod of choice is a Kistler "Magnesium" 6'9" All Purpose Special Medium-Heavy. I use 20lb test clear mono for the shock absorption it provides, but braid is also a viable and trustworthy option. Stick with what you like best.
Wake baits can bring a new dimension to your bass fishing. They're fun and easy to use, but best of all they are guaranteed to catch fish. Try one out today.
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