Connecticut angler Paul Mueller guides on Candlewood Lake, and he’s convinced that this year at least 30 to 40 of his clients landed their personal best smallmouth under his tutelage. Location and presentation are of course critical, but Mueller believes that his job has been made easier by virtue of two particular Reins soft plastics, both of which lend themselves to novices and experts alike – the 5-inch Bubbling Shaker worm and the 4-inch Fat Rockvibe Shad.
“That Bubbling Shaker is great for guiding but I’ve also used it successfully in a wide variety of tournaments,” he said. “They don’t advertise it as a shakey head worm, but it’s great for that and it’s the best dropshot worm that I know of. One reason is that it floats, so on a shakey head it stands up and on a dropshot it sits perfectly horizontal. With other worms, if you pause them they’ll lay down lifelessly. I like to dropshot the 4-inch model by nose-hooking it and Texas rig the 5-inch model in the deep milfoil on a straight shank hook with a homemade keeper made of shrink tubing to secure it on there.”
You may think that these comparatively small plastics are only good for clear water, but that’s not the case. When he won the co-angler side of the Forrest Wood Cup, Mueller caught his three biggest fish on the Rockvibe in dirty water far up Lake Ouachita.
“If you’ve ever seen the roll that a typical soft plastic has on a Scrounger head, this lure has that action on any hook,” he explained. “It rolls side-to-side but still has the kick of a swimbait. Unlike other swimbaits that only work at a certain speed, you can fish this one super-slow or burn it and it’ll still run right.”
It’s versatile, too. At Okeechobee he fishes it like a buzz frog, waking it over the surface vegetation, with a 3/0 or 4/0 EWG hook for the smaller version and a 5/0 for the larger one. At the Potomac River, he used it as a frog “replacement.” After the early frog bite died off, he fished through the same stretches of grass with the Rockvibe and caught multiple fish while others struggled. “It was a pressure deal.” He added that it’s also a fantastic Alabama Rig bait. The plastic is durable and he’s caught up to a dozen fish on one superglued Rockvibe where other lures wouldn’t have lasted more than a fish or two.
“At first I thought it might be too hard, but it hasn’t affected the action or the hookups at all,” he reported. “In fact, since it’s not bulky like other swimbaits, you have more hook gap and your hookup rate is even better.”
The bottom line is that neither of these baits ever leaves his boat.
While both lures are available in a great variety of color patterns, Mueller takes note of local forage and water clarity but generally keeps his color selections simple.
“In the Bubbling Shaker, I like Kito Kito Shad and Bluegill if there are shad around. In the summer, especially if the water is clear, I like Watermelon Seed and Purple Weenie. In dirty water, especially on a shakey head, I like Green Pumpkin Allstars. It just lights up in dirty water. That flake illuminates it.”
With the Fat Rockvibe Shad, he again goes with Bluegill (“It looks like smoke with gold and blue flake,” he said) in shad-oriented situations, and in the northeast he likes perch colors, mostly greens, often with the tail dipped in orange Spike-It. One new color that quickly became a favorite is called “Dos Vert,” another shade of green. “It’s two tone, watermelon with off white and silver fleck. Out of all of the colors, this is the one I can’t wait to throw in summer.”
One deviation from his typical color palette occurs in dark and stormy conditions. That’s when he turns to Ghost Pro Blue. “I’m a big believer in matching colors to lighting,” he said. “When it gets gloomy and low light out, I won’t throw any other color. I caught the third largest smallmouth of my life on it this year.”
With the Bassmaster Classic next on his schedule, Mueller predicted that there will be a solid swimbait bite going on somewhere on the lake, and while some anglers may try to throw 10- and 12-inch “tennis shoes,” he’ll be looking to get something going with the Fat Rockvibe. These compact lures may be easy to teach to beginners, but he also knows that they’re a good bet to win when money is on the line.