Author: Jason Stutts
I often use, like many of you riverbasser’s, Rapala’s broke back minnow plugs in the J series. They range from a tiny J-5 to a GIANT J-17. The colors range from black back/silver bottom, black back/gold and white bottom, chartreuse, and yellow perch.
Now for river fishing you often don’t have to go deep to catch big bass and I have learned a lot about using these lures since May 2010 when I first began fishing the Ocmulgee and Flint rivers for shoal bass. These lures flat out kill all four species that live in the Ocmulgee…the Shoal Bass, Redeye Bass, Largemouth Bass, and Spotted Bass.
I usually throw from the J-9 to the J-13…those will just about cover any forage size you reasonably need to imitate. I don’t claim credit to finding out about this technique on my own, was shown by some wise fisherman who most on the site know, won’t mention names in case he wants to remain anonymous. My absolute favorite size is the J-11. Read any thread I have written and at least one of the fish will have been caught on a Rapala J-11 usually the black and silver model because of the crystal clear water. In stained water throw the fire tiger or on an overcast day I have had the yellow perch color flat wear em’ out. I use 20-30lb braid tied to a four or five ft leader of 20lb mono. This gives me the sensitivity I need along with the strength to handle a big fish and some stretch so you don’t pull the hook from the fishes mouth.
As for tackle for the Rapala. I recommend using a 6 or 6 1/2Ft medium bait-casting outfit with a decent reel that can hold at least 20lb mono or braid. These shoal bass are tough fighters and you don’t want to be breaking off all the time. I like a rod with a faster tip so it give more while the fish is inhaling the Rapala. Once a fish is hooked the longer rod also helps with control of a big fish.
My technique for using this lure is to make sure and not “over work,” your lure. You don’t want to pop or twitch your rod tip like a common jerkbait. No, the most deadly way to catch these shoal bass, and really all the other species as well, is just a slow steady retrieve with a pause every now and then. The majority of your strikes will come on the pause. My personal best shoal bass of 4lbs 12oz’s hit black and silver J-13 in a cove while it was poring down rain, the hit was on the pause. I had stopped it and it all the sudden just didn’t wobble when I went to reel and I set the hook..fish was on.
Now hooking them is the easy part, and Paw Paw can testify to this, it’s keeping them hooked and also keeping them hooks out of yourself! While fishing with Paw Paw on the Ocmulgee, he had a 3lb spot stick a treble from a J-13 in his finger down to the bone. We had to use the “yank technique” to remove the hook which was more unpleasant for me than him he said. So once your fish is hooked be sure to keep a tight line and always have the fish moving in towards the kayak. I now carry a net that I stand behind my seat and is at easy access. Try also, which with shoal bass is nearly impossible, to keep your fish from jumping. If you have to stick the rod tip under the water in the opposite direction of the fish and pull and reel…this can sometimes keep a fish from jumping and throwing the hooks.
Speaking of hooks, these lures come with excellent trebles, but like any hook they can get dull. So make sure and keep your hooks sharp and replace them after you have caught many fish. It’s heartbreaking to lose a lunker because one part of the three pronged treble breaks off and your trophy swims away.
Use that Rapala anytime fish are feeding, and sometimes when there not, and I promise you’ll catch more bass! We have used the Rapala from our first day Catching shoal bass, May 1st of this year, up until today and are still catching bass on this wonderful luire. I can honestly say that the last ten shoal bass over 3lbs I have caught all came on the J11 and J13. Happy Fishing ya’ll from the Fish Whisperer.