By David A. Brown
It has many appendages, it has many applications and it has a standing reservation in Brent Ehrler’s boat. We’re talking about the Yamamoto Flappin’ Hog — a multi-faceted soft plastic that the Bassmaster Elite Series pro simply won’t leave home without.
“I believe the Flappin’ Hog is a very overlooked bait,” Ehrler said. “You go to certain places and you clean your boat out and pack what you’re going to use at that lake. The Flappin’ Hog is something that never leaves my boat because it’s something that I always use.
“The versatility of this bait is huge. That’s what I like about it. It looks like just a standard flipping bait, but there are so many different things you can do with it.”
Noting that he most frequently employs the Flappin’ Hog for flipping and pitching presentations, Ehrler said he keeps an open mind when considering the bait’s tremendous diversity.
“You can alter the bait and make it cater to your needs,” he said. “It has the two bottom flappers and it has legs along the side of the bait, as well.
“You can rig the bait Texas style, right out of the package, and pitch it around for bigger bulk and a slower fall. Or you can remove some of the side legs so the bait falls faster — and it also glides.”
That latter point, Ehrler said, is a big deal because a bait that glides puts on a more enticing show than one that falls straight to the bottom.
“When you’re flipping or pitching the Flappin’ Hog and crawling it over cover, on your initial pitch or flip, it doesn’t just drop to the bottom — it glides and spirals,” he said. “Then, when you pull the bait up and over a piece of cover and drop it again, it spirals and glides again.
“The Flappin’ Hog has movement to it the whole time. And for me, that’s a big key for getting bites.”
PROFILE AND APPEARANCE ALTERATIONS
Ehrler values the Flappin’ Hog in its entirety, but he also knows the benefits of strategic adjustments. When he’s looking to streamline his presentation, he’ll start by removing the side legs with the spherical tips.
If he needs to further reduce the profile, he’ll also lose the next set of legs — the ones that angle downward toward the prominent lower legs, which frame the central flappers. For jig uses meriting a larger profile, Ehrler leaves the second set of legs intact.
Examples of situations meriting such cosmetic surgery:
Faster falls in clear, warmer waters — remove both sets of legs.
Slower falls to keep a bait in the fish’ strike zone longer — keep all legs intact.
Swimming presentations — remove those first two sets of legs and let the bottom legs and flappers do all the work for you.
“This gives me more of a bluegill or a shad profile,” Ehrler said.
Knowing that he can alter an already effective bait for specific needs gives him the confidence to keep the Flappin’ Hog intrinsically involved in his game plan. Ehrler’s top uses for the Flappin’ Hog can be broken into two main groups — Texas rigs and Jigs.
Rigging: Favoring the larger size bait (4.5-inch), Ehrler rigs his Flappin’ Hog with a 3/8-ounce Reins tungsten sinker (pegged) and a 4/0 Gamakatsu straight shank heavy cover hook.
Presentation: Ehrler will pitch and flip this rig into grass or wood cover, let it fall and then use a slow hop, or bounce to give the fish an enticing look.
“This rig just has that cross between a crawdad and a bluegill,” he said. “When the Flappin’ Hog falls, the legs and flappers stand up in the water and resemble a crawdad.
For a smaller presentation with the 3.75-inch Flappin’ Hog, Ehrler uses the same hook as he does with his larger Texas rig, but he typically holds his weight to a 7/16-ounce (also pegged).
Tip: Ehrler said he’s a big fan of pegging sinkers for flipping/pitching rigs because it effects a more lifelike fall.
“Pegging the weight is what helps you get that glide,” he said. “If the weight separates from the bait, you don’t get that gliding motion; you just have a chunk of plastic that’s following a weight to the bottom.”
Now, Ehrler’s not obsessing over the Flappin’ Hog’s glide simply for aesthetic reasons — he has a solid explanation for why this motion plays such a pivotal role in his presentations.
“Its directional change and inconsistency,” Ehrler explained. “When the Flappin Hog falls, you can’t really duplicate the motion (from one pitch to the next).
“If you have that bait over a limb and you’re lifting it and dropping it, every time it drops, it falls differently.”
Such unpredictable presentations often make the difference between lookers and biters.
“If the fish are watching a bait fall straight to the bottom, it falls straight to the bottom,” Ehrler said. “But if it’s falling to the bottom and then it starts to turn, that mimics a baitfish trying to get away.
“Anytime you have a directional change, that’s when things start to get special.”
Ehrler keeps a well-rounded arsenal of jigs handy to address various scenarios. Here’s a look at how he employs the Flappin’ Hog for various tactics.
Presentation: Ehrler likes this one for deeper scenarios like docks or rocks with at least 8 feet of water over them.
“That Flappin’ Hog creates a great planing bait, whether it’s the swim jig or the casting jig,” he said “It’s amazing for skipping around docks because it’s like a little surf board on the back and it helps skip that jig better.
“With that bait, when you skip a jig, it just doesn’t want to stop; it just goes forever.”
Boss Head Banger Bladed Vibrating Jig
Presentation: Sparse grass is Ehrler’s preference for the bladed jig, but he’ll also throw it around docks. Forage is another criterion and if he believes the fish are feeding on bluegill or shad, the blade gets the call.
“To me, it seems like this is more of a prespawn to early postspawn bait,” Ehrler said. “Then, I would jump all the way to the fall.
“I tend to go more with bluegill colors around the spawn and then shad colors in the fall.”
3/8-ounce Boss Swim Jig
Presentation: Ideal for shallower presentations, particularly in the prespawn stage. The swim jig’s narrow design pushes through vegetation better than a bladed jig, so when the salad is thicker, he’s swimming.
“With a swim jig, you can actually slow it, flutter it and swim it right through the middle of the grass, whereas a bladed jig hangs up way too much,” Ehrler said. “So, the bladed jig is better around sparse grass and the swim jig is better around thicker grass.
“Typically, if I’m throwing one, I’ll have the other tied on. When I get into areas where the grass is thick, I throw the swim jig. When it thins out, I throw the bladed jig.”
7/16- or 9/16-ounce Boss Swivel Head Jig
Presentation: This bait’s made for bottom bumping, so Ehrler wants to make sure he never hinders the jig’s descent.
“Mostly I will pull the legs off the side, so it’s just the bottom four legs,” he said. “I do that so I can have the bait hit the bottom faster.
“I also want to keep it on the bottom when I’m swimming it — you’re essentially swimming it on the bottom. I want to make sure it makes contact with the bottom. The more bulk on the bait, the more it’s going to rise off the bottom when you’re reeling it.”
Ehrler said he’ll primarily fish the swivel head jig with the Flappin’ Hog around rock. Chunk rock, big rocks — he’ll use this in just about any scenario in which a crankbait might be the main deal.
“If you’re catching them on a crankbait and it gets dead calm, you can pick up that bait,” he said. “It works really well in Oklahoma, the Ozark chain, the White River stuff like Beaver Lake, and Bull Shoals.
“Anytime you have gravel and rock banks in a fishery, a swivel head and Flappin’ Hog is a really good bait to throw. You can cover a lot of water with it.”
Ehrler said he keeps his color selections pretty basic, but he will dress up his Flappin’ Hog to match indigenous forage. He won’t employ this aesthetic adjustment for flipping and pitching scenarios with jigs or Texas rigs, but when he’s trying to mimic bluegill with his swim jig or bladed vibrating jig, he’ll dye the tails of his Flappin’ Hog chartreuse.
“The biggest mistake people make with the Flappin’ Hog is not throwing it,” Ehrler said. “It’s funny, because I know that if I’m going to flip or pitch or throw a jig, I know that’s my bait because it really works.
“I don’t think people realize that when you’re flipping and pitching, it’s so important to have that glide and have a different fall to it. That really makes a difference.”
How does he measure that difference? Well, if the proof is in the pudding, then for Flappin’ Hog influence, the confirmation is in the catching.
“When I pitch or flip my bait into something I can see it swim and I can’t tell you how many bites I’ve had when I pull it over something,” he said. “I’ve watched that bait start to fall and all I’ve seen is a mouth come up and the bait disappears.”