by Dustin Wilks
April’s one-two punch for bigger bass, arguably the best month for soft plastics. Fish are moving shallow to spawn and can be both aggressive and finicky. Nothing gets them in the boat like two baits from Culprit — the Water Dragon and the Skinny Jerk.
The Water Dragon is a lizard imitation that sparks aggressive strikes from defensive bass, and the Skinny Jerk is a soft jerk bait.
I often start the day with a Culprit Skinny Jerk, moving at a steady pace while gauging the mood of the fish. The Skinny Jerk can be fished fast or slow. The key is trying different speeds until the fish let you know how they want it. This could vary throughout the day.
Usually if fish are inside the coves, they want it lazily walking back and forth, but if they are on points and feeding, faster often works well. I try it all until I get a few bites. The Skinny Jerk has great action, especially using lighter line. To get it to walk slowly, don’t overwork it, just light pulls followed by slack will allow it to glide back and forth. A 3/0 or 4/0 wide gap hook is perfect. Fish it on 10- or 15-lb. braid. If the water is especially clear, use a flexible leader which will allow the bait to perform better. Sometimes, even in clear water, the braid doesn’t matter so I often just wait to see if the fish are rejecting it before I switch to a leader. Braid is more visible than traditional lines.
My favorite color is Raw Chicken, it is easy to see and seems to actually make the fish angry when they are around bedding areas. I’ll switch to Albino for faster fishing. If they are rejecting the colors, then I go natural with Tennessee Shad, Sexy Shad or Watermelon Red being three of my favorites.
While I’m working down banks and into coves, I have my eyes peeled for anything unusual with the bottom or individual fish. Fish can be both spawning or just cruising pre-spawn or post spawn at this time of year. Often the biggest fish bed slightly deeper, so I’m on the lookout for any type of cover that a fish would like to spawn beside. I often will quickly pick up the Culprit Water Dragon on a Texas rig and precisely drop it near cover or light spots. My setup is usually 20-lb. fluoro or 50-lb. braid and a 3/8-oz. weight and 4/0 offset hook.
The Water Dragon has large back legs and the action really ticks off fish around beds, so be ready for quick jarring strikes as soon as it drops in. Pressured fish may be more wary, but I’ve found first cast is your best shot. I often don’t even bother trying to irritate a fish anymore, I just keep moving looking for aggressive bedders, if they refuse the first cast or two.
The other method I use with the Water Dragon is typically not used as often, but the Carolina rig on points near spawning areas can get the biggest fish. These can be in all phases of the spawn using these “staging areas” or bedding on the points. If you have the patience for this, you’ll catch some nice fish. I often use a 1/2-oz. weight with a 2-ft. leader.
Junebug, Watermelon Pearl Belly and Swamp Juice are my go-to colors, but I always adapt based on water color and light conditions as well as how well the response is. I occasionally fish for a spawner beyond the first cast or two and I’ll often use the smaller 6’’ size for the job. If your fishery has a chance for big ones, go with the 7’’ just fishing.
One last tip is the Water Dragon fishes really well on hooks designed for swimbait fishing, which means a belly-weighted hook. This allows for a slower, more horizontal fall. If fish are “hovering” in shallow water this is my go-to technique.
April’s one-two punch for bigger bass, hope these tips have you catching lots of bigg bass this spring!