January begins show season around the Southeast, whether it be boat shows, tackle shows or outdoor trade shows. I have worked a lot of these shows in the past, and quite often, I go to ones I’m not working, because I’m ready to fill in holes in my tackle box, and a show is an easy place to do that.
Deer season is over, and while we’ve got good fishing year-round in much of the Carolinas, a lot of guys wait for the weather to warm up before they really get ready to fish. So they spend January and February getting their gear and tackle together. The shows are a good time to get things you need, and if you’ve got a few hundred dollars in your pocket, you can go to a show and easily get everything you need in a day’s time.
You can buy everything you see, or what you need. Here are five baits that any bass fishermen — tournament pro or weekend fisherman — needs to have in their tackle box. These are versatile baits that can be fished year-round, and they’ll catch plenty of fish — and some good ones.
You can load my 21-foot Phoenix bass boat with a couple of thousand pounds of soft-plastic baits to where it will only run 65 miles an hour, but you really don’t need to. You need a few soft-plastic baits, and my No. 1 pick for the most-versatile on the market is a Senko. You can Texas-rig a Senko with a weight; you can fish it Texas-rigged and weightless; you can fish it rigged wacky style; and you can fish it on a Carolina rig. It will catch fish everywhere in the country.
I am going to want to carry Senkos in four colors: green pumpkin, watermelon/red, black/blue and white. I use the white when I’m fishing it the surface, like a floating worm. I fish the black/blue in dirty water. the watermelon/red and green pumpkin any other time.
Brown Mop Jig
This is my favorite big-fish bait, especially in the spring. It will catch you a big fish.
I want to carry several Mop Jigs at all times, in three sizes: 1/4-, 3/8- and 1/2-ounce. I’ll use the different sizes in different depths and water clarities, depending on whether I need a slow or fast fall, a big or small silhouette. Brown is my favorite color. You should match it with a trailer that’s your favorite brown, soft-plastic crawfish imitation.
Rapala DT-6, DT-10
You can throw these baits from February through June anywhere in the country. They are my go-to bait when I need a search bait.
Again, I want to have these baits in three different colors: pearl-gray shad, crawfish and bluegill. I’ll fish crawfish early in the spring, then bluegill, and after June, I’ll fish pearl-gray shad These are really good baits.
Everybody makes these vibrating jigs now; the first ones were Chatterbaits. I’ll throw a 3/8-ounce model, usually in black/blue.
These are such good, versatile baits, you can throw them in stained, dirty or clear water and around vegetation. They are search baits for me, just like crankbaits. I’ll pick them up anytime I’m on a new body of water or on a body of water I haven’t been on in a while, when I need to find fish. Just add your favorite black/blue trailer.
When I first started throwing a jerkbait like a Shadow Rap, I only threw it in cold-water situations, but I’ve learned since that it’s a bait that I can throw all year. It’s great for schooling fish, great for early spring fish, great for postspawn fish. You just match your retrieve to the conditions. When it’s real cold, you might get it down and then pause it three to five seconds between jerks. If it’s warm, you only need to pause it maybe a second between jerks.
I like to fish the chrome/blue and herring colors. Both will catch a lot of largemouth and spotted bass across the Southeast.
So take some time to attend a show when you find one close to home. Make yourself a list like the one I’ve provided if you’re just getting started and want to put the right stuff in your tackle box, of take a few notes from what I’ve presented if you’ve got some holes in your tackle box that need filling. You’ll save money and come out on the good end when it comes to catching plenty of bass this year.
Two schools of thought exist when it comes to matching the color of soft-plastic trailers to jigs. You can choose a trailer that’s the same basic color as the jig — brown/brown, black/black, green pumpkin/green pumpkin — because it’s a productive color. Or you can fish a trailer of a slightly different color to try and make the bait even more visible to more fish: black/blue, black/red, green pumpkin/chartreuse. You typically don’t mix dark colors with naturals, however.