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When it comes to the baitfish that occur in our local waters there is one key difference between South Africa and the USA, namely that there is no species our bass predate on which school on the surface like Blueback Herring and Shad do. Indeed it is very rare that bass actively herd local baitfish and push them to the surface, similar to what they do to herring and shad in the States, literally creating a feeding frenzy on the surface, but that doesn’t mean that the favourite autumn pattern of two Bassmaster Elite Series Pro’s won’t work here.
As the summer season progresses into autumn baitfish will begin to move up ultra-shallow in smaller schools or pods, and where the baitfish go the bass will follow. If you’ve ever been out on the water in autumn and experienced large disturbances occurring right up on the edge of shallows or in between grass beds, nine times out of ten it is a bass actively feeding.
But how do you trick bass into believing baitfish in the shallows are being chased? US pro Fred Roumbanis shared some interesting insight into the subject during a day on the lake session during his trip to South Africa in 2011. “Do you guys ever burn a soft plastic jerkbait on the surface and kill it, letting it flutter down and then reeling in as fast as you can?” he asked while we were on Loskop. “Not? I learnt that trick from Swindle (Bassmaster Elite Series Angler Gerald Swindle) and it works especially well when bass are eating bait on the surface. To them it looks like a baitfish that’s escaping from a predator and all of a sudden it’s been hit by something. You cast the bait out and reel it as fast as you can and then just kill it - most of the time they eat it as it’s falling.”
But lacking similar conditions in our dams it doesn’t have much application until the autumn bite fully kicks in - when bass begin pushing pods of bait up shallow onto the bank, into the back of bays or over submerged, offshore grass beds just prior to the big winter feed. You might ask why not simply throw a frog or topwater? - the major difference is that at that speed you will never be able to control any type of topwater without it rolling over or ruining the action completely, whereas a soft plastic jerkbait shimmies, darts and even jumps as you reel it at speed.
The key is to cast the bait onto the bank and then to reel it back as fast as your reel will allow while keeping the rod tip up in the 11 0’clock position (if fishing a baitcaster a 7.0:1 gear ratio is essential). Keep the bait on the surface for roughly 10ft at a time before stopping it and let it fall before continuing the retrieve.
The key to burning a soft plastic jerkbait under local conditions is to work areas such as newly flooded vegetation or areas where bass are suspended over submerged vegetation, making shallow water a relative term.
Tackle Round Up:
7’0” Medium Action slow taper rod.
To employ the technique effectively you need to make long accurate casts and a medium action rod suited to weightless applications with a slightly slower tip is required. The slower tip also allows a bass to engulf the bait if it hits the bait on the surface.
Line: 12-15lb Fluorocarbon
Fluorocarbon might not seem like the best line for the technique, but it will offer higher abrasion resistance in the heavier cover while allowing the soft plastic jerkbait to sink a foot or more quickly before continuing the retrieve.
Manufacturers of soft plastic Jerkbaits:
Zoom - Super Fluke
Strike King – KVD Perfect Plastic Caffeine Shad
Cull-em – Flounder
Damiki – Armor Shad
Berkley – Gulp Shad
El Grande – Jerk Shad
Z-Man - Streakz