UPCOMING EVENT: Bass Fishing League - 2016 - Lake Okeechobee

How to wake up bass

How to Wake Up bass

(Editor's note: This article originally appeared in the 2013 April issue of Bass Fishing magazine. To read more compelling articles from Bass Fishing magazine each month, become an FLW subscriber member. If you'd like to sign up for a digital subscription to access articles online, click here).

Deps buzzjetJust as the best bass pros are multidimensional, sometimes the best lures are too. Take shallow crankbaits for example. Not only can they dive and deflect off cover; many can also be made to wake the surface. Wakebaiting is a technique that lies somewhere between cranking and topwater fishing, but whatever the definition, it excels when other crankbait patterns flicker in effectiveness.

While floating stick baits such as the Cotton Cordell Red Fin and Bomber Long A have long been associated with wakebaiting, it's the shallow square-bill style wakebait that actually has more applications in a broader range of waters.

Shallow crankbaits might seem awkwardly suited for this duty. Blunt-nosed and wide-bodied, their basic design contradicts the sleek, minnow-mimicking profile of stick baits. Yet a growing number of pros have become avid fans of wakebaiting, including two Forrest Wood Cup champions, Jacob Wheeler and Keystone Light pro Brent Ehrler. We asked them to explain why the fat-bodied wakers often get the nod over other springtime favorites.

Wakebaiting the spawn

"In springtime, shallow fish react better to something a little more subtle," Wheeler observes. "That's when bushes, weeds, laydowns and other forms of cover are often flooded, too. Fish are up shallow, roaming around, on beds and guarding fry. They tend to react better to subtle presentations rather than those that create a lot of commotion."

Wakebaits played a critical role in Wheeler's fast start in his 2012 rookie campaign. At the Walmart FLW Tour event on Table Rock Lake in late March, he relied on the technique as bass flocked to the shallows to spawn.

"They were incredibly hard to catch because the water was dropping and they were getting a lot of pressure," recalls Wheeler. "The fish had seen so many [Yamamoto] Senkos, lizards and crawdads that you had to come up with something different to catch them. That's when I figured out that they would eat a Rapala DT Fat 1 on top.

Once I had located a bed, I could back off of it and cast in there to catch them."

Wheeler slowly cranked a DT Fat 1 over the beds so that it wobbled just under the surface, creating a bulge-like wake. The presentation accounted for his two largest fish on the first day and nearly his entire catch on day two. He finished 28th.

The young pro believes that the DT Fat 1 is perfectly suited for wakebaiting for a few reasons. Its buoyant, balsa wood construction assures tracking immediately under the surface film of the water, creating a bulging, V-shaped wake. A bulbous profile allows the crankbait to rotate up on its side at slower speeds compared to models crafted into alternative shapes. Rotation flashes the two-tone color pattern to create a more visually attractive presentation.

Wakebaiting the spawn - the players

Jackall Cherry O Footer 56Jackall Cherry 0 Footer 56 (2 1/4 inches, 3/8 ounce) and Aragon SSR (2 1/2 inches, 3/8 ounce) - The Aragon is a jointed super-shallow runner, while the Cherry is a single-bodied lure. $14.99 (jackall-lures.com)

Rapala DT Fat 1Rapala DT Fat 1 (2 3/4 inches, 5/8 ounce) - The DT Fat 1 is Wheeler's go-to wakebait. The series features a natural rolling action, no internal rattle and balsa construction. $8.99 (rapala.com)

Norman Square Bill WakeNorman Square Bill Wake (2 1/2 inches, 3/8 ounce) - Introduced in the 1970s, the WK2 is one of the original crankbait-style wakebaits. $4 (normanlures.com)

Warm-water applications

Early in his career, Ehrler, a California native, also waked shallow crankbaits. He found success with it when chasing postspawn and summer bass on tidal fisheries such as the California Delta, and for many of the same reasons that wakebaits excel in shallow, weedy reservoirs and natural inland lakes.

"I quickly learned that wakebaits can be deadly in high-tide periods when a gap develops between the water surface and the top of the weeds," he explains. "In those situations, I like to identify pockets and paths within the grass beds and along outside edges where bass position to ambush bait. It seems to be most effective in warmer water - temperatures above 60 degrees - when other topwater lures come into play, too. Basically, it's a great alternative to a buzzbait."

Ehrler's favorite wakebait is the Lucky Craft Fat CB SSR (Super Shallow Runner), which he enhances by adding a trailer. He assembles the trailer by attaching an Owner Centering Pin Spring (CPS) to the rear split ring above the treble hook and screwing on a finesse worm or lizard.

"The trailer really gives it a cool look, similar to a jointed, floating swimbait," he says. "The action is a lot like the [Mike Shaw] MS Slammer swimbait, which is two chunks of wood with a rubber tail on the end. When waked under the surface, the tail kicks, flops and turns."

A 4- or 5-inch Yamamoto Kut Tail Worm and a 4- to 6-inch soft-plastic lizard are Ehrler's trailers of choice. On big-bass waters, such as the California Delta, Ehrler is partial to lures with beefier profiles.

When the water warms - the players

Storm SubWartStorm SubWart (No. 4 - 1 1/2 inch, 3/16 ounce and No. 5 - 2 inches, 5/16 ounce) - This workmanlike crankbait is a shallow-water, waking version of the Storm Original Wiggle Wart. $5.99 (stormlures.com)

Strike King Pro-Model Xtra Shallow Series 1XSStrike King Pro-Model Xtra Shallow Series 1XS (2 inches, 3/8 ounce) - Available with free-floating rattles, the Xtra Shallow features a medium wobble. $4.99 (strikeking.com)

Luck Luck "E" Strike RC2 Series 4 (2 3/4 inches, 5/8 ounce) - Because this model doesn't have rattles, it's a good choice for clear, shallow water when a silent, subtle approach is likely to be more effective. Twenty-four color patterns are available. $6.95 (luck-e-strike.us)

Evergreen Combat TC-60Evergreen Combat Crank TC-60 (2 1/4 inches, 5/8 ounce) - Evergreen International, a leading Japanese tackle company, manufactures this West Coast favorite. It's distributed in the U.S. through Baitdomain. $22.99 (evergreenusa-bd.com)

Lucky Craft Fat CB SSRLucky Craft Fat CB SSR (3 1/4 inches, 5/8 ounce) and LC WK (1.5WK - 2 inches, 1/2 ounce; 2.5WK - 2 3/4 inches, 5/8 ounce; and 3.5WK - 3 inches, 3/4 ounce) - The Fat CB SSR is Ehrler's favorite wakebait. The LC WK model is a jointed-body version of the popular LC series with a feathered rear treble. $15.99 to $16.99 (luckycraft.com)

Rigging and retrieves

Wheeler and Ehrler prefer to toss their wakebaits on traditional shallow-water cranking gear: 7-foot, moderate-action crankbait rods; heavy, 20-pound-test monofilament line; and 6:1 geared reels.

"Heavier monofilaments resist crankbait dive [to help keep the lure at the surface], while providing a little extra stretch in case you react too quickly on a hookset," says Wheeler.

Keystone Light pro Brent Ehrler suggests a steady retrieve when fishing a wakebait to avoid having the lure Both pros recommend that wakebait anglers adopt a steady, slow- to medium-speed retrieve. Stop-and-go retrieves are to be avoided, as erratic actions can entrap air along the bill, a form of cavitation that can cause the lure to immediately foul.

According to Ehrler, anglers should also be cognizant of their rod tip position throughout the retrieve, to assure that the lure rides just under the surface.

"The longer the cast, the higher you should keep your rod tip," Ehrler explains. "That prevents the lure from diving too much. As it approaches the boat, you slowly lower the tip so that it doesn't cause the bait to pop out of the water. It's not like traditional crankbait or topwater retrieves where rod tip position is not as crucial."

Wakebaits for pressured situations

Whether anglers consider a shallow crankbait to be a true wakebait or not, its effectiveness under the right conditions is undeniable. It creates a surface disturbance like no other lure, and its hookup ratio is outstanding. With fishing pressure mounting on lakes across the country, it's become more important that anglers consider alternative techniques such as waking shallow crankbaits.

"A wakebait is underutilized in the bass fishing world," Wheeler says. "When you can go out and throw something that is a tad bit different in a pressured area, you'd be surprised at the fish you can catch. And that is when a wakebait shines, in my opinion. It gets bites that other baits can't, just because it's more subtle, more natural, in the water."

Speed of retrieve

Jackall Aragon SSRNot all wakebaits wake the same. Some snake lazily along, while many wobble side-to-side with pronounced rolling, wobbling movements. Some push a large wake that seems to float on the surface a great distance, while others create a sharper mini-wake that disappears more quickly.

Speed of retrieve also affects the action. Many wakebaits can't be made to stay on the surface at high speeds. Others barely dive even if you burn them, yet not all have the side-to-side movements that push a wake at slow, creeping speeds.

All this should be considered when choosing a wakebait. Sometimes a slow-moving wakebait that has a slow "fall over" action as it moves can tempt bass in chilly water or when conditions are tough. In that case, a wakebait that flashes its sides even at slow speeds is a good choice.

Other times a wakebait burned overhead prompts a reaction strike. You'll need to choose a lure that can handle the speed without losing its action or going deeper than you want it to.

Finally, any wakebait that pushes a wide V-shaped wake and thumps nicely at any speed is a good one to have on hand, since it's a more versatile option than one that only works at one end of the speed range.

Waking alternatives

While Keystone Light pro Brent Ehrler likens most shallow-cranking wakebaits to a topwater lure, such is not the case when deciding on alternative presentations for when a wakebait bite subsequently dies.

"When I'm throwing a topwater, it's usually in open, clear water," he says. "But, it's different with wakebaiting. I'm usually throwing around cover, where traditional topwater alternatives like jerkbaits can't be used. If I notice that I am getting a lot of follows on the wakebait [but they aren't eating it], I'll go with something that dives a foot or 2 subsurface, like the Lucky Craft LC 1.5."

What's your angle? - Tips for fishing a wakebait

Start the rod tip high at the beginning of the retrieve. Gradually lower it. This keeps the wakebait right at the surface.

Anatomy of a crankin' wakebait

Rapala DT Fat 1A buoyant, bulbous-shaped body facilitates a natural rolling motion and creates fish-attracting turbulence just beneath the surface of the water. Some models also feature a jointed body.

Silent or Rattling: Waking crankbaits are commonly offered in both rattling and silent versions.

Color: High-contrast, two-toned paint schemes allow bass to easily home in on this crankbait/pseudo topwater.

Bill: Aligned at an abrupt angle to the body, a small downturned bill imparts action without allowing the lure to dive, and provides excellent obstacle deflection.

Pivot Point: A frontward pivot point, established near the front treble hook, produces a pronounced tail kick.

Tags: paul-strege  magazine-features  features 


FLW Podcast 128 - Mark Rose



1000 Islands Day 3 Midday Update



1000 Islands Midday Update Day 2

Day two of the Costa FLW Series Northern Division event presented by Mercury at 1000 Islands got started on a slightly different note this morning when FLW’s tournament directors declared Lake Ontario off limits due to hazardous conditions. The change threw a few of the top pros off their primary plans, but regardless the 137-boat field will be cut down to the top 10 after today, so adjustments need to be made in order to qualify to fish the weekend. READ MORE »


FLW Podcast 126 - ICAST



2017 Walmart FLW Tour Schedule

In what has become an annual tradition at FLW, the 2017 Walmart FLW Tour schedule was announced at a press conference and industry gathering held Thursday on the show floor at ICAST in Orlando, Fla. READ MORE »


Si Se Puede ... Yes We Can

Mexico’s Lake Zimapan is different in many ways from the lakes to the north such as Florida’s Lake Okeechobee and California’s Clear Lake, but one element it has in common with those famous fisheries is big bass. READ MORE »


5 Rookie Lessons Learned

People have asked me what my first year on the Walmart FLW Tour was like. Well, it was like running headfirst into a hurricane for a few months. I came out the other side a little battered, bruised and smelling like fish. READ MORE »


FLW Podcast 125 - Scott Martin



Review: Lew’s Custom Speed Stick Lite

Recently I had the opportunity to try one model in particular – the 7-foot, 4-inch Magnum Pitchin’ rod. After fishing with it several times, I’ve concluded that it performs as advertised, is sensitive and lightweight, and is well worth the money. READ MORE »


Reunited, and it Feels so Good

This year I really had a reunion with finesse fishing. Most of my better tournaments came from fishing some type of finesse presentation. Finesse tactics seemed to always give me a certain confidence about the day. While finesse tactics are nothing new to the game of bass fishing, this year I regained the confidence and joy of catching bass on smaller offerings. READ MORE »


2016 ICAST Preview

The doors to ICAST don’t open until next week, when everyone gets out on the showroom floor in Orlando, Fla., but there are already plenty of snippets of information available. FLW’s media crew will be there in full force to bring you coverage of the hottest new products, as well as the annual New Product Showcase awards. For now, take a gander at some of the early birds. READ MORE »


FLW Canada Kicks Off at Tri-Lakes

Among these Canadian all-stars was the eventual winning team of Chris Vandermeer of Peterborough and Jeff Slute of Millbrook. Capitalizing on a strong day one shallow-water smallmouth pattern, the duo took advantage of the slick-calm conditions using a silver-hued topwater popping plug to agitate the lake’s bronzebacks into attack. READ MORE »


FLW Tour Pro Cooksey Recovering After Accident

Walmart FLW Tour sophomore Dalton Cooksey of New Concord, Ky., is recovering at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee following a single-car accident that took place Wednesday afternoon. READ MORE »


FLW Podcast 124 - Jeremy Lawyer



Stetson Blaylock’s Recipe for a Wacky Rig

From March until the end of the fishing season I’m going to have a wacky rig on deck. It’s a really effective way to fish anytime the fishing is tough, or if the fish are up cruising banks. Anytime fish are about 5 feet deep or less, I can catch them on the wacky rig. READ MORE »


Morgan Claims third FLW Tour Angler of the Year Title

MINNEAPOLIS – Livingston Lures pro Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tennessee, added to his incredible fishing resume by winning his third Walmart FLW Tour Angler of the Year title Saturday at the FLW Tour's final 2016 regular-season event on Lake Champlain.... READ MORE »


Three Things by DD: Kentucky Lake

Kentucky Lake did not go the way I intended. I was pumped and ready to rock out a top-20 finish. I had great expectations of myself, but nothing seemed to come together. Practice was dicey, but I thought for sure I could put something together to make the cut. That was until day one came, and the whole vibe of my day instantly went from eager to agitated. READ MORE »


How to Catch Smallmouths with Hair Jigs

The “right” hair jig for smallmouths is a small 1/16- to 1/8-ounce marabou jig with a round or mushroom-shaped head. The jig is similar to marabou jigs used by crappie fishermen, but bass models will often have a larger, stronger hook and possibly a longer or thicker skirt. Naturally, anglers have their favorites, and there are subtle differences in jigs that make some better than others. READ MORE »


Two Exciting Events to Look Forward To

We are in the last stretch of the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour. Awaiting us is the Lake Champlain tournament in just a few days. A couple of things will be settled there: the pro field for the Forrest Wood Cup and the Angler of the Year. READ MORE »


Tagging Along with Sprague in Kentucky

Through the first four events of the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour season, Jeff Sprague finished inside the top 20 every time and challenged for the win at Beaver Lake. After stop No. 4 on Pickwick, Sprague took over the lead in the Angler of the Year race. This is the story of his first tournament as the AOY leader – stop No. 5 on Kentucky Lake. Currently, Sprague is preparing for the finale on Lake Champlain. He’s in second place in the AOY standings. READ MORE »