Five tried and true options for backwater bassing.
The metal lipped swimmer was snaking its way through the rock studded shoreline when the surface erupted in what I can only describe as someone dropping a cinder block into the water! My heart was racing as I watched a broom-sized tail smashing the water while the bass tried to shake my plug loose from its maw. I kept tension on the line, but, after a short run, the fish again thrashed the surface and succeeded in spitting the hook. Once I stopped shaking, I continued on, plying the backwaters in search of another.
The lure mentioned above is one of the five that I consider to be essential for back bay fishing at night. These were selected because they cover the water column and mimic a wide array of forage. I keep things simple because I don’t like carrying around 75 pounds of plugs on my back, but my experience has proven that they work, year in and year out. The following are my five tried and true favorites.
Starting with the surface swimming metal lip, the Gibbs Danny has always been a good bet in both the 1-1/2- and 2-1/4-ounce sizes. There are many good metal lips being made by custom builders that are excellent fish catchers also, but the Gibbs is easy to find and won’t empty the wallet. White is my favorite color but other colors like black, purple and herring all have their place. This lure imitates larger prey such as bunker, and herring. Work these plugs slowly over and through rocky areas and eddies. Make sure it is swimming properly with that classic ‘s’ wiggle. The strikes can be bone jarring especially in quiet waters.
The Mag Darter
The Yo-Zuri Mag Darter is a very popular lure that should feel right at home in the back bays. I will not fish these waters without one. It comes in several sizes and colors. Built into this lure is the magnet and ball system that allows for great casting distance for a lure of its size. The action is fantastic. It dives and swims when retrieved and floats at rest, and has the bonus of a low frequency rattle. This profile covers many different baits such as large spearing, alewives, bergalls, small weakfish and snappers, It dives from about 1 to 3 feet down, depending on the size your using.
Plastic Lip Swimmers
Next up are the slender swimmers such as the SP Minnow, Bomber and Red Fin. Retrieving these slowly on and just below the surface accounts for many fish in these sheltered waters. Letting them hang down current and crawling them back slowly has worked well for me many times. Cranking them down and swinging them through current also works very well. These plugs imitate large sand eels, juvenile weakfish and herring.
The fourth choice for me is the needlefish. A floating and a slow sinking model can cover a lot of bases in terms of presentation and baitfish. For the floating needle, retrieve slowly, and I mean s-l-o-w-l-y creating a v-wake. The slow-sinking model can be regulated by letting it drop down before retrieving. Gibbs and Super Strike, along with many custom builders give the angler a wide spectrum of choices. They mimic any slender baitfish but will draw strikes regardless of what is present.
My last pick is anything fished on a leadhead—that includes, paddletails threaded onto jigheads, swimshads with their internal weights and, of course, bucktails. These can be fished whenever you want to get your offering down into a faster, deeper area. There are many brands to choose from, and they come in all sizes. I try to select weights based on where I will be fishing. When fishing faster moving water, make your cast up-current and work it back as it swings down along the bottom and add in some slow jigging action. These work especially well when peanut bunker are around, but will also cover a lot of other smaller forage.
These are my top producers when fishing sheltered waters without taking a ton of tackle with me. Try and make selections that suit your area and what you feel comfortable with. With striper season in high gear, now is the time to get out and enjoy the solitude of plugging the back bays at night.