By Gary Dobyns
Tournament fishermen are notorious for remaining tight-lipped about particular baits that they believe provide them a competitive advantage. Well, one of my favorite Yamamoto baits actually fits that description. A lot of guys consider it a secret weapon, but I want to tell you that the Fat Ika is definitely a bait you want to have in your boat.
Basically a grub style body with a built-in skirt of plastic tentacles, this bait’s density makes it easy to cast and easy to work through the water. Those tentacles add to the visual attraction, but they’ve also earned this bait its code-word nickname — “palm tree.”
Put it this way, the Fat Ika can be so effective, some guys won’t even call it by name during a tournament; they just say “I’m fishing the palm tree.” That’s the fishermen’s lingo when they’re catching fish on this bait, but they don’t want to mention it by name.
This bait has won a lot of tournaments, but guys just don’t want to talk about it. That’s not the case for me. I’m a big believer in the Fat Ika and I want anglers to understand why it’s so effective.
HOW I RIG IT
I fish this bait on a 3/0 Gamakatsu EWG Superline hook. Considering the Fat Ika’s 4-inch body, it’s basically all hook. The fish aren’t going to grab that thing without being hooked, so you have an excellent hook-up and landing ratio.
Some guys will rig it on a 4/0 hook, but considering the bait’s length, it’s harder to fit on that size. That 3/0 Superline EWG is the perfect fit.
The Fat Ika is a phenomenal flipping bait because it has enough body density that you don’t have to add any weight. I simply Texas rig it on that EWG hook and the bait’s density gives me all the weight I need.
The key, I’ve found, is rigging the bait backward by inserting the hook through the tentacle end because this creates an incredibly enticing action.
When you pitch this bait and it hits the water, it automatically goes away from you. Just think about the advantages: You don’t have to possess expert casting precision and if the fish are spooky, you can stay back and still get your bait into the strike zone.
This isn’t a light line technique; most of the time, I’m using at least 10- to 12-pound fluorocarbon because I’m using a big hook. A lot of times, when I’m flipping cover, I’m fishing the Fat Ika on 16- to 20-pound fluoro, but it also works excellent on braided line.
Let me run down my favorite scenarios for fishing a Fat Ika:
I think this is one of the best examples of how the Fat Ika’s backward swimming action can prove advantageous. Basically, you can pitch it to the edge of a dock, give it some slack line and it will swim back up under the dock!
If you haven’t mastered dock skipping, you now have a way to get your bait under that structure. If you can send your bait between the wood and the water, the Fat Ika’s gliding action will pull your bait even farther into the shaded area where bass will be hiding.
Rigging - I’ll often rig the Fat Ika on 12-pound fluorocarbon, or I might go to 30-pound braid with a 10- to 12-pound fluoro leader connected with an improved Albright knot. We’re not flipping into cover, so we have to hide the braided line. That’s what the fluorocarbon leader does.
Outfit - I like a decent size rod for this technique, so I’m going to use a rod from my Champion line. One of my favorites is my Dobyns Rods Champion 744 Jig Rod Special because it has so much power.
This is not a finesse technique; it’s a bait you’re going to need a little power to throw. I generally throw at least a medium-heavy action rod, but mostly, I’ll throw a heavy-action rod. It still has to have some tip to pitch the bait well.
I’ll pair that rod with a Daiwa Tatula 6.3:1 baitcaster. That’s a standard gear ratio because this technique doesn’t need to be speedy — it just needs a good balance of speed and power.
Presentation - Any and all docks will work, but the ones I really like are the ones that are very close to the water; the ones that are very difficult for anglers to cast back under and get their baits into the shadows.
If the dock is a foot and a half off the water, well, a lot of people can pitch a bait under there. But if that dock is within a few inches of the water, most people are not going to be able to get a bait under there. In that kind of tight scenario, those fish are not going to be seeing baits and they’re not going to get fishing pressure.
The Fat Ika will do the work for you; it will swim away from you. So, if you’re not a really good dock skipper, this is a great bait for you.
I like to pitch or flip the bait because I like a really quiet, subtle entry. The best tip I can give is don’t bomb that bait in there. The Fat Ika has enough bulk and weight that it’s very easy to do.
This is a really popular technique that a lot of guys keep hidden and secret. You pitch the Fat Ika right at the front of the tules or even back in the tules or reeds, and it swims right down into the cover. It just kind of rattles its way down into the vegetation, but it’s swimming away from you the whole time.
The bait falls end-first; it doesn’t fall flat, so it will go down into the brush. If if fell flat, it wouldn’t make it down into the brush very well. But this bait works its way down into the cover because it falls nose-first.
I’ll also throw the Fat Ika into any kind of laydowns and I’ll throw it in holes in the grass. The holes indicate hard bottom and the fish will spawn in those spots. You can pitch the bait to the edge and that bait will swim right down into the hole.
Rigging - The heavier cover requires an increase to 50-pound braid with a 16-to 20-pound fluorocarbon leader, but a lot of times you can get away with straight braid.
Outfit - This is when I usually step up to a flipping stick. You don’t necessarily have to have a flipping stick, but you do need a rod with a lot of power — something I’d rate as a 4- or 5-power rod, which would be a heavy or mag-heavy action rod or a flipping stick.
I like a little tip in the rod, but I want the power because you’re going to be hooking these fish back in the tules and bullrushes and basically dragging them out. All fishermen know that if those fish can get wrapped up in the tules, they’re going to wallow off.
There’s no finesse to it; this is flipping and pitching and “bubba fishing.” You’re going to flip in there, he’s going to bite it and you’re going to set the hook and drag him out of there.
For this, I like the Dobyns Champion 765 C flipping stick, but you can also use a pitching model like the Champion 735 C. You need enough tip for presenting the bait, but the rod needs to load quickly with some power because this is a big-fish technique.
You’re going to catch some really big fish and you have to be prepared for it. If you hook them back there on light line or a light rod, they own you. You have to be able to set the hook and put some horsepower on them to drag them out.
Presentation - The fish could literally be anywhere, but the high percentage spots would be any variance. That could be points, pockets, or laydown tules that the wind has piled up.
I will fish the Fat Ika down a regular bank of tules, but I’ll never miss a point or a pocket. Anything irregular is a high percentage place.
A lot of guys plant brush piles or you might have a laydown tree on the bank; in any of that stuff the Fat Ika is just a really good bait. It’s so unique because the bait just swims down there and swims away from you.
Rigging: One element of my Fat Ika rigging that is very relevant here is what we call Texposure. Basically, you Texas rig the bait, but when you insert the hook point back into the bait’s body, you bring it all the way through and then just pin the tip of the point into the bait.
You have a very small amount of plastic that you have to pull the hook through before it meets that fish’s mouth, but it’s very weedless.
Outfit: I’m using the same outfit I use for the standing vegetation. A fast or extra-fast action rod is ideal here because it loads quicker and it’s into the fish quicker so you have a lot left in that road that allows you to lift and pull.
Presentation: With a big layodwn, I’ll start with the outside and fish my way in. I’d prefer to catch them on the outside edge if I can, because I don’t have to fight them out of the brush. So, if I can make a pitch to the edge and get them to eat it, my landing percentage is almost 100 percent.
I don’t want to go right up to that tree, throw in the middle of it and have a fish eat it. If he’s a really aggressive fish that’s in a feeding mode, I’d rather have him come out of that tree and eat it on the edge where I got him. So, I’ll fish outside first and then I’ll work my way inside and go right in the middle of that tree and go after him.
As far as color, some guys like black and blue, but my personal favorite is a green pumpkin — you just can’t hardly go wrong with that color. A lot of times, with this bait swimming down through that vegetation, it’s a reaction bite. I think under a dock, bait color might make more of a difference, but when you’re pitching and flipping into cover, you’re getting a reaction strike.
The good thing about a reaction bite is that the fish might not be in a feeding mode, but that bait goes sailing past his head and he just reacts to it. It’s a good bait for feeding and it’s a good bait for reaction type bites.
I really don’t know of another bait that does what the Fat Ika does.