Twitch Or Swim For Spawning Bass

Fluke and dipper-style softbaits look similar, but they call for drastically different presentations.

Why do so many bass pros dote on two soft plastic baits that look similar but have different applications? Why else? These lures put the big hurt on bass. One is the fluke, which has been a mainstay since Zoom introduced the Super Fluke in the late ’80s. It features a long minnow profile and slender forked tail that make it dart back and forth when fished with a twitching retrieve. Nearly 30 different companies now make fluke-style baits that excel at catching both numbers of bass as well as heavyweight fish.

Reaction Innovation’s 5-inch Skinny Dipper, which hit the market in the spring of 2007, also has a long minnow profile. However, it’s fatter, ribbed body sports a wiggling boot-tail. At least 13 other companies now offer similar baits.

Think of dipper lures as finesse swimbaits. They are designed to be retrieved steadily, cover water like a spinnerbait and dupe big bass. Florida anglers are especially keen on them because they slide over and through dense aquatic vegetation without snagging or tearing up.

Spring Twitchin’
Alabama pro Gerald Swindle has long been a fluke junkie. He mops up with them from the beginning of the spawn through the fry-guarding phase. “Bass get lethargic when they move into spawning areas,” he says. “They won’t cruise away from cover to bite.”

Swindle tempts these reluctant bass by casting a watermelon seed, green pumpkin candy or disco violet Super Fluke to flooded brush and any other visible cover that might hold a spawning bass. Then he slowly twitches the bait a few times and lets it sink to the bottom on semi-tight line.

If that doesn’t coax a bite, he twitch- es the bait up a few times and lets it fall back to bottom. It’s a lot like deadsticking a Senko.

“The big difference is the side-to-side action you get when you twitch a fluke,” Swindle says. “That’s like slappin’ a bass in the face.”

He Texas-rigs the bait on a 4/0 Trokar Extra Wide Gap Worm hook and fishes it with a 7-foot rod matched with 10-pound braid and a 5-foot, 10-pound fluorocarbon leader. A spinning outfit lets him cast farther and skip under overhangs and docks.

Texas bass ace Dave Mansue also fishes flukes, but he twitches them at an upbeat pace near the surface when bass are spawning in shallow grass and pads. He claims the erratic action fires up bedding bass, and can get a response on sunny days when nothing else seems to work.

“You miss a lot of the bass that swing at it,” he says. “But that shows me where a particular fish is spawning. Then I follow up with a Senko.”

Bass don’t move far immediately after they spawn. Mansue often finds them hanging near the first outside edge of a grassline near the bedding area in three to five feet of water.

“They’re just waiting for a meal to swim over them,” he says. “I catch them by jerking a fluke over the grass edge a few times and letting it die.”

Dave Mansue swims dipper-style baits over shallow grass in spring.

Twitch & Burn
Flukes also score big in late summer and fall when bass school on shad and other baitfish. Since schooling bass usually maraud prey on the surface in open water, Mansue rigs his fluke with an exposed 5/0 straight-shank hook that protrudes from the bait’s back.

Even though schooling bass feed in a frenzy, he warns against overworking the lure. Many anglers twitch it quickly across the surface, believing an aggressive retrieve is the best way to catch a schooling bass.

“A lot of times schooling bass won’t come up for a topwater bait,” he says. “I get way more bites by twitching a fluke a few times and letting it sink like a stunned shad.”

Larger bass hang beneath the surface commotion and wait for an easy meal to drop to them. When a fluke flutters down to them, they can’t resist it. To increase the sink rate, he wraps two Storm SuspenStrips around the hook’s shank just below the line eye. This also makes the bait sink nose-down, which bass find appealing.

Swindle sparks strikes from schooling bass by burning a fluke. He cranks the reel so fast that the bait skips over the surface like a fleeing baitfish for eight to 10 feet. Then he suddenly stops, lets it sink a foot or so and repeats the burn-pause action until the lure is out of the strike zone.

“That burning deal kicks butt on lakes where blueback herring feed on shallow points in early summer,” he says. “The bass are done spawning and they really get after those bluebacks.”

Swimmin’ Class
Mansue opts for the original Skinny Dipper when he swims a boot-tailed stickbait—typically during spring in shallow grass. A 5/0 Daiichi Fatgap offset worm hook and 20-pound fluoro help him wrestle bass from thick vegetation. A slot in the bait’s back shields the hookpoint from snags.

“It’s a fantastic search lure, especially for locating bedding bass,” he says. Bass that stay shallow after the spawn do so because they’re famished and looking for a substantial meal, Mansue believes. Bluegills, which are moving shallow to spawn, are the special of the day.

Although dipper baits don’t have a panfish profile, he claims the lure’s swimming action closely mimics that of a bluegill. And since bass usually see the bait swimming above them, a wide profile isn’t critical. Bluegill colors like green pumpkin and Spanish fly fare best for Mansue in the shallows after the bass spawn.

A slow, steady retrieve works best— Mansue warns against “over-reeling.” “I fish with a 5:1 reel and pull the bait lazily through the water and over cover,” he says.

You’ll miss more bites with an upbeat retrieve, and if you set the hook too fast. A bass often attacks these baits from behind and moves toward you when it engulfs the lure. If you set the hook immediately, you pull the lure out of the bass’ mouth.

“I tell people to point the rod at the bass when they get a strike,” he says. “When the line tightens, sweep the rod sideways, not overhead.”

Versatile Baits
When Mansue wants to swim a dipper near the surface, he rigs it with bare hook. If he needs to get the bait deeper to reach submerged grass, he switches to a swimbait hook with a narrow 1/16- to 1/4-ounce weight molded to its shank. A 1/4-ounce hook lets him tick grass that tops out six to 10 feet below the surface.

In open water, he gets a the bait deeper by rigging it on a 1/8- to 1/4- ounce jighead. The exposed hook reduces missed strikes. If he thinks added flash will draw more bites, he threads a Skinny Dipper onto a spinner jig, such as the Sworming Hornet Fish Head Spin.

Swindle favors the paddletail Swimmin’ Super Fluke over a standard fluke when he fishes heavy vegetation and stained water. This has come through for him from southern Florida to Ontario.

“It’s super-weedless and you can retrieve it just like a spinnerbait,” he says. “Or, you can put it on a jighead and slow-roll it deep.”

He continues to find new uses for the bait. He’s caught bass with it rigged on a swimming jig, on a bare jighead bounced over shell beds, and even as multi-bait trailers on an umbrella rig.

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