Fishing & Boating News
The Genius of Idiot baits
It was one of those post cold front winter days that Texas is famous for with warm sunny skies and light southerly breezes temporarily replacing the arctic chills of winter. With a late afternoon enjoyment of bass fishing on Lake Sam Rayburn. enhanced by our decision to throttle our bass-rig over to a main lake slough to work Rattle Traps.
And the bite was on after only two casts with both of us connecting after working our half oz Rat-L-Traps along the 3 to 5ft edges of a grassy flat. A surprise to me that the bass were so shallow in the chill after a cold north wind as these bass were swimming up from deeper waters to feed.
With water temps hovering around 54 degrees after a cold front blew through two days previously we were treated to some exceptional post-front bass fishing that produced some quality bass action. In fact, IF we had been fishing a bass Tournament we could have culled a solid five bass/20 lb weight from our fishing efforts.
But, we weren't competing in a bass tournament and had to settle with just fishing for the fun of it. My fishing buddy for the day, a bass tournament pro, explained it this way about one of the “Idiot baits”, a Rattle Trap, we were fishing.
Rattle Traps (Rat-L-Traps) are often referred to as idiot baits with dual meanings. Either you’re an idiot for not fishing with it or that it’s so easy to use that any idiot can fish with it and catch bass. In either case, the Rattle Trap, a hard plastic bait that resembles bait fish with built in rattles, is both a relic of the past, and a promise for the f u t u re. “The Trap” much like the cockroach, will be around forever.
The so called idiot bait is often overlooked by most anglers, He stated, but the Rat-L-Trap is probably one of the most versatile lures that an angler can have in their tackle pack as it can be jigged, slow rolled, popped, slow-cranked, speed-cranked, ticked, bumped, flipped flopped, or just reeled in on a normal retrieve. It’s also a bait that can be successfully used year round to catch bass. But during early spring, with its staccato cold fronts and changing weather patterns, the Trap, he stressed, can be very, very, deadly.
The Rat-L-Trap is my number one choice when fishing grassy waters, He advised, and it’s the only lure that has produced multiple five bass/20plus lb stringers for me over the course of my fishing tournaments. In the early spring, when you have 50 degree waters hovering over grassy areas, there is no better lure to use when the bass want to chase a moving bait. Especially in cold waters that would normally numb the bite, the Trap still
produces very aggressive bites with its awkward wobbling and erratic, movements.
My theory on this is phenomenon is that the main reason why bass are so aggressive towards the Trap during spring is BREAM, who are their worse enemy during this time, as bream often move in during spawn to feed on bass eggs, so the bass will try to kill and eat as many of the bream as they can before, during, and after the spawning periods.
But Traps aren’t the only “Idiot Baits” closely resembling bream that feed on bass eggs, as soft plastics and spinner baits seem to do just as well. The bass seem to go out of their way to attack and eat it anything that looks like, sounds like, or reacts like bait-fish.
Typical Trap fishing gear are stiffer rods such as 7ft medium/heavy worm rods, and fast (7-to-1) casting reels spooled with either 20 lb mono, or thin braided line of 6lb circumference to 25lb test for working a Trap through grass or hydrilla. Braid has no stretch and works very well for popping the lure out of grass-snags, where bass may be waiting to nail it.
The neat thing about a Rattle Trap is that there is no wrong way to work the lure as it is so versatile that you could screw-up fishing with it, and still catch a fish. To prove t his point drop the trap to the bottom near a stump where a bass might be holding, hitting it as it’s fluttering down. This is called “dead trapping” and I’ve seen this type of angling catch up to four-pound bass.
Another reason for using traps at this time of year is that it’s simply one of the best lures to use when culling-water, which is a term for clearing areas not holding fish to those areas that are holding fish. Guides and tournament anglers use this method when pre-fishing for clients or bass tournaments. And after finding them the Trap is also simply the best lure to use for catching them as well.
And a fast retrieve reel will help you maintain either a slow or high speed retrieve without burning you out. But it also helps to pick up your line quickly after a head-on bite, where the line will slack on you suddenly with the bass coming in straight at you. And believe me, this happens quite often when using the trap.
Rat-L-Traps comes in all sizes from the 1/4 oz for fishing (1ft to 3ft) shallow grass, to the 1/2 oz for working (3ft to 5ft) mid-depth grass, and the 3/4 and 1-oz for cranking (6ft -to8ft) or deeper grass. And the noise the trap puts out also contributes to its great success with its built in rattles attracting bass by its vibrations as well as its noise.
And the trap is most productive when you can do radical things with it. This can make a big difference by making small subtle changes in your retrieves can often make a huge difference for catching some really nice bass, or not catching them at all.
And radical is how we were working our traps today, with jerking and popping the trap through the grass-clumps, or by working it wacky-style with short flippy jerks and pauses over the grass. Both methods seemed to work very well as we cruised the shore-line catching bass and having a lot of fun.
At the end of our morning fishing trip we managed to boat an impressive bass count of 12 keepers to five -pluslbs, losing another eight bass, with one estimated at around nine lbs.
Due to the weather changes experienced during early spring, the bass will change their feeding patterns on how they want their food (bait) to react and may change from wanting it fast and radical to slow and steady. So be sure to change your retrieves if the bass aren’t cooperating until you’ve found what speed they are hitting. This is the same with the colors as well, where they were hitting chartreuse on one day, they may have changed to shad or crawfish colors the next day. So be versatile and experimental until you’ve found the right combination that attracts their feeding interests.
Colors are very important too, with blue bird days demanding the “bread and butter trap” which is a chrome blue trap. Brighter colors, such as Rayburn reds and Fire-Tigers do well on partly cloudy days. In muddy, stained, or off colored waters, or on overcast days use the gold or copper colored traps. The prime trap colors to have in your boat at all times are the shad, chrome, chartreuse, or red color combinations.
Another important thing to do is to check your traps for water intrusion. A lot of times when you’re casting and hitting bank structure, stumps, or even the side of your boat, the trap may crack and allow water to seep in. This will cause the trap to run sluggishly or may even muffle the rattling BB’s inside, which neutralizes the main reasons for the success of the Rattle-Trap in the first place, lots of radical noise. So be advised to tie on another trap and throw the busted one away.
Key structure for catching those tournament winning sacks is to locate some really thick grassy areas in the three to six foot range that have good drains or ditches running through them. Main lake flats that have uneven bottoms and clumps of grass with drains or ditches meandering through, are excellent fishing areas. The drains and ditches offer the bass channels and corridors for traveling to and from their prime feeding areas, and you’ll catch most of your bass from these well traveled passageways.
Another method that works very well is “speed trapping” which works right after a cold front passes through replaced by a high blue day with hard sunshine.The bass will sulk on top of hydrilla patches at 4ft to 5ft depths. Sitting on top of the grass absorbing the warmth of the sun. What you do is crank a 1/4 oz trap as fast as you can, keeping your rod-tip up to avoid digging in the grass.but if you catch grass just rip it loose and keep on cranking. The bass will hit the trap out of reaction as it zips by. This is one of the best cold front fishing techs I’ve seen and use it quite often.
In short, if you aren’t fishing an Idiot-bait at this time of year, then you become the idiot!
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