Fortunately, IMA gives him three solid tools to work with – the Roumba, the Skimmer and the Big Stik, the latter of which is his personal favorite because he had a large role in its development. It’s big bait that produces some of the biggest bass he’s ever caught.
“It’s so erratic,” he said. “It has that far left to far right action and there’s a lot of water being pushed that bass feel the need to come and investigate. It pushes more water than the others, so on a very windy day the bass might not know that the other lures are there.”
That’s great if there’s wind or current breaking up the silhouette, but on calmer days, he’ll go with the less intrusive and smaller lures, especially if the bass indicate that they’re going to be less active.
“Right now,” he said, referring to the months of May and June, the fish are not chasing long distances. They may be protecting fry or they may just be tuckered out from the spawn, but it’s important to try to keep the bait in a confined area. Keep it in the strike zone as long as you can. With the Skimmer, for example, you want to stretch out the retrieve a bit – maybe one-two-sit or one-two-three-sit.”
One key to slowing down the retrieve is to increase the size of his monofilament line. “A lot of guys downsize, but this time of year I upsize,” Pringle said. “That works to keep the bait afloat.”
California guide Randy Pringle typically has both on his deck “all the time from May through about November,” but he typically employs them in different fashions.
“The Poppin’ Furbit has one of the best side-to-side walking actions out there,” he said. “In open water, it walks extremely well. You can keep it in the strike zone for a long time. It’s also great when you want something a little more aggressive, like when there’s lots of wind or current. That pop will wake up your larger than average fish.”
The original Furbit the Frog, however, excels in the densest, heaviest vegetation you can find. “That triangular pointed head slides through the cover a lot easier,” he explained.
He’ll have both at the ready to attack the conditions that may change from minute to minute, and typically one will be light-colored and the other dark, the better to further narrow down the bite.
In either case, he wants heavy tackle to drive the hook past the plastic and into the lip of an outsized largemouth. In open water, he’ll typically fish the Poppin’ model on 50 to 65 pound test braid, although he’ll sometimes drop down to 25 pound mono if the fish are a little line-shy. In heavy cover, 65 pound braid almost always gets the nod. He prefers Spiderwire Stealth, “because it’s flat and doesn’t have that heavy coating like some other braids. With the coated style, if you make one little twitch, the bait tends to lunge forward.”
With both lures, he wants a rod with a lot of backbone, but it also has to have a soft tip. “You want a delayed action so when the fish sucks in that large bait, it’ll draw it into his mouth,” he explained. A Fenwick Elite Tech frogging rod usually gets the nod, although he still sometimes relies on his original Fenwick HMB 7’6” flipping stick.
South Carolina pro Michael Murphy knows when to downsize his swimbaits. “It’s a matter of basic biology,” he said. “You always want to match the hatch.” Accordingly, he’ll drop down to the various three-inch swimbaits Optimum makes, or even the 2.5” Double Diamond, when conditions dictate.
“In the pre-spawn, fish are looking for bigger meals,” he explained. “They’re trying to put on weight. But around March, when they’re getting ready for the spawn, they have things on their minds other than just eating. Sometimes they want a snack instead of a meal. I’ll go from a five-inch to a three-inch almost immediately.”
Once the spawn kicks in completely, his bite goes from shad to bluegill, which hover around the bass nests and seek to annoy them. “That’s when I go to the little BLT under the surface,” he stated. “Especially on the deeper beds, the fish will come up and look. You can fish the swimbait slower than you can with a crankbait or spinnerbait. Whether they’re on the bed or guarding fry, the strike zone is extremely small and this allows you to find the beds. They won’t always eat it but often they’ll show themselves and then you can come back and catch them.”
When the spawn is done, he’ll upsize his swimbaits once again, until later in the summer when the young of year baitfish become prevalent. “That’s when they’re starting to look at little bait again.” He’ll stay with the minis through fall, at which point he’ll upsize a bit again. “Whatever size the shad are, I’ll go an inch bigger. If you go too big, it spooks them off.”
His trailer choices are simple, too. While he’s been known to hit the outer ends of the color spectrum on occasion, most of the time he tries to stay in a very basic range of hues.
“When the bite is really on, I usually have three rods with three different colors on the deck of my boat,” he said. Each one gets a matching Double Diamond swimbait on the back. “I try to keep everything in the same color spectrum.”
The first is a black/blue flash jig, black and blue skirt strands with some blue tinsel mixed in. That usually gets a basic black/blue Double Diamond to match.
His second option is a shad imitator, a white jig with silver tinsel. That gets a pearl shad Double Diamond on the back. If there are smallmouths around, he’ll occasionally pair it with a gaudy pink swimbait, and noted that bright yellow or chartreuse would also work for the bronzebacks, but day-in, day-out, simple pearl gets the nod.
His third go-to swim jig color is known as Green Crystal Craw – it combines green pumpkin and root beer flakes with a dash of gold tinsel. Again, a matching Double Diamond does double duty here. Straight green pumpkin will work, although red flake and/or a chartreuse tail sometimes get called up to the majors.
“If fish are going to eat a swim jig, they’ll eat one of these colors,” he concluded. “Sometimes it’ll change in the same day depending on the situation. It may go from sunny to cloudy or from clear to stained. That’s why you need all three.”