During our most recent trip to El Salto, the bite changed every day. It wasn’t so much the quality – our group caught fish over 7 pounds, and tons of fives and sixes, every day – as it was the way they reacted. One day you’d have a fantastic topwater experience and the next day, in similar places, under what seemed to be similar conditions, the surface bite would be weak.
Nowhere was this more evident than in the shallow brush bite with moving baits. When we got there, they were chewing a Chatterbait pretty well. That petered out over the course of a couple of days, at which point we figured out that those same fish would eat a swim jig in similar places. That too got less effective over time, at which point we figured out that a 5-inch soft swimbait was deadly. Not only would the bass come rocketing out of the bushes to smoke one, but they’d also follow it back to the boat. Sometimes those followers could be convinced to strike, but even when they couldn’t it was a sign of the quantity and quality in a given area.
We started off with traditional screw-in swimbait hooks, but when I switched to a bladed version from Zappu called the Blading Pile Driver my catch rate immediately went up. I can’t prove that it wasn’t just a coincidence, but I have faith that it was more than just a matter of correlation, bordering on causation.
If you like to fish soft swimbaits like the Heart Tail or the Swimming Senko, I strongly recommend this product. I pay retail just like you will, and in fact I dropped quite a few clams on them immediately upon my return to get some more in stock. One other bite to try, one that I learned from my friend Lee Byrd years ago, is to put a small flapping craw in place of the swimbait. He told me that when fish just bump your spinnerbait in the bushes, oftentimes this simple switch will get them to commit. The claws will pulsate seductively on the retrieve, and if you stop the bait they’ll often eat it on the fall.
Now that I’ve broken the ice, my mind is racing with all sorts of situations where I can see it being deadly, and I can’t wait to use it more. I only have two gripes with this product: the first is with the quality of the centering pin they use. Do yourself a favor and get some more durable ones, like those made by Owner, and switch them out before the first cast. My second complaint is that I’d love for this same product to be available in a size bigger than 5/0. A 6/0, 7/0 or even a bigger version would be a killer on soft baits that require a bit more gap and bite. The strikes were so violent that we didn’t miss many fish with the Zappu, but on the next trip to Mexico I’m anxious to chase this same bite with some bigger plastics.