Paul Duclos calls it his "Big Mac" theory. "When you're hungry", he asks, "would you get up from your easy chair and walk across the room to eat a single peanut"? "Or would you wait for someone to bring you a Big Mac before you get up"? His thought is that a big bass may act the same way. It might not move 5 feet for a 4.5" finesse worm, crank bait or another standard offering. But if she is thinking about chowing down, a nice rainbow trout that passes a couple feet away and is swimming like it's injured, might just have the appeal of a cheese burger!
I had the pleasure of being introduced to Paul when he visited the NorCal Trophy Hunters Bass club last spring. I knew he had this "trout" fishing down but didn't realize to what extent. When he talked to our club his enthusiasm was contagious. I made up my mind that evening to get myself rigged up for feeding big bass. Much to my dismay success didn't come quickly. I spent hours upon hours fishing the big trout imitations without any success. The one thing that kept me interested was the "followers" I had with the baits. I couldn't believe the size of the fish I was calling up to investigate these giant baits. But they weren't eating them. Finally I caught a 3.5-pound spotted bass. Okay, so it wasn't the monster I was looking for but I thought, "hey, I can do this". My next encounter produced a bass about six pounds that shook the bait and escaped, and another that I never saw but couldn't turn. This fish broke me off. I called Paul Duclos and picked his brain. I explained that I was starting to feel like I was getting close but still wasn't quite there. He encouraged me to continue and once again his enthusiasm was the boost I needed.
You just can't get information about these type methods from your run-of-the-mill bass fishing magazine or television show. There aren't many folks pursuing this type of fishing and it doesn't get the notoriety of tournament angling. I scoured the back issues of magazines looking for tidbits of information. I bought every book even vaguely related to trophy fishing. I developed a network of contacts to get information from. Folks like Paul Duclos, Ken Huddleston from Castaic Baits, and Robbie Biccum who represents BassTrix swim baits. I surfed the Internet looking for fellow big bass hunters and trading information with them. I also followed trout fishing reports to find out where the trout were being taken and at what depths. My tedious efforts were about to pay off. I finally hooked up a beauty at our club outing on a local lake. Not a monster by any stretch of the imagination but a 5-pound smallmouth, my biggest ever. Now I was excited. The following weekend I scored with largemouths weighing 8.3 and 6.7 pounds. This was getting good. The next couple months produced several other nice fish from 4.25 to 6.5 pounds. Then I had a banner day. I fished one Saturday morning from 7:00 am until 11:30 am and fooled largemouths of 9.4, 8.6 and 6.1-pounds. Add those to the other two smallmouths I caught worming that morning and you have a 29 pound limit. Awesome! A great outing by anyone's standards. Several weeks later I hooked up what was to be my heaviest spotted bass, a huge 5.8-pound, big-bellied beauty!
These all came from a lake where most folks struggle to catch a limit of bass that will weigh in excess of 12 pounds. The key here is targeting bigger bass and sacrificing numbers of easily caught smaller fish.
This method of fishing is not for the easily bored. Sometimes three or four trips will be unproductive. If you need to have something tugging on your line to keep your interest you'd be better off fishing conventional methods. Another downside to this type of angling is the baits aren't cheap. Losing a $30.00 lure isn't much fun and, unfortunately for me, it happens all too often. But when you are in the right place at the right time it can add up to a memorable day's fishing.
Tackle considerations for fishing these baits that weigh in at 2 to 3 ounces or more are not your normal fare. At a minimum a 7-1/2-foot, heavy action, flippin' stick with a large capacity reel is necessary. Larger rods, up to nine feet are common. 20 to 30 pound test line is advised for hunting these brutes. There are quite a few good trout imitating baits to chose from. BassTrix, Optimum, AA's, and Castaic Soft Baits are examples. My favorite being Castaic Soft Bait Company's Rainbow Trout. I fish this on leadcore with a 20-pound mono leader about 20 to 25 foot in length. I add Pro-Cure's Trout Butter, as a scent, to further trick the large, wary bass.
I look for areas that have large rock and are directly adjacent to deep water. The deeper the better. Long tapering points on the main body of the lake, submerged humps, and steep walls are also prime locations. The best results have come while working the baits with a stop and go motion, not unlike a jerk-bait.
When using a swim-bait expect followers and possibly a strike at the boat. If you get a fish following the bait you have three choices: continue your retrieve, stop and let it sink, or try to pull it away from the fish as fast as you can. You'll need to experiment with the different actions to determine what will trigger the strike response on a given day.
This style of angling may not be for everyone but there are a handful of us that enjoy this small slice of the sport of bass fishing. While you may not want to dedicate all your angling efforts to strictly targeting big fish, it might be something to add to your repertoire of tactics. When the big girls are hungry, why not feed them a meal? Next time you drive by the "Golden Arches" maybe you'll remember and head down to your local tackle shop to pick up a "Big Mac" for your bass.