The High Five: Five key bass baits every angler should have in their boat year-round

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The following are the five key baits and setups I feel that every bass fisherman should have in his boat. Of course, there are many other baits – far too many to go around – and this is just my take on the five that should be in every bass boat throughout the year. These five baits work consistently pretty much all year round, and this is why I feel they are vital to always have in the boat.

From this short list you should be able to fish on any body of water and manage to get bit.

Let’s start right here.

THE STICKBAIT

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There is no denying the power and fish-catching ability of a Yamamoto Senko. With the various lengths, thickness and colors available today, you could outfit your boat with just these baits alone and cover a large swath of techniques to land fish anywhere on any body of water.

Fly-lined (weightless – either Texas- or wacky-rigged) seems to be the go-to technique and I have to say that’s my preferred technique with them, too.

What did Roland Martin say way back in the ‘90s on his commercial? “Son, you don’t work them, they work for you.”

Talk about the do-nothing, fish-catching bait. Its natural movement takes care of all the work. Toss it out and do nothing further. Just let it sink and wait for the line to move or twitch. The technique does not change, be it dead of winter or the dog days of summer.

THE DROP-SHOT (TECHNICALLY NOT A BAIT!)

This simple, glorified bluegill setup seems to land a lot of fish. Everywhere from the north to the south and everywhere in between, this setup catches fish. Mostly known as a finesse-type worming technique. Yet, it can also be set up as a much heavier rig – “power drop” as they say. As mentioned, the drop-shot is technically not a bait itself, however, it is one of the most widely used worm techniques in the nation and beyond. From that alone, it needs to be in the High Five of must-have bass rigs. It does not get much easier than a drop-shot: a small weight at the bottom and a hook 6- to 10-inch above the weight. Slow- ly drag it or hop it on the bottom. I call it the glorified bluegill rig, as that’s how we used to catch bluegill when I was kid in the ‘70s. Same with bay fishing. It was the preferred method for soaking bait. It hit the freshwater bass fishing scene a bit late in my view. However, it kicked down the door when it did get there.

SOFT PLASTIC SHAD BAITS

These baits are some of my very favorites. I am a shad pat- tern fisherman. Like a Senko, most are fly-lined and rigged weightless and these are generally worked on the surface or subsurface. These can also be fished on the bottom just as effectively at times, and while most fish them on the surface, how you do it is up to you. The common universal name for these baits is a Fluke, that’s from it being the most widely used version. However, there are many different versions on the market and I have yet to find one that does not get bit. We should also toss in the weedless paddle tail baits here. Some call them swimbaits. I just have a hard time calling them a swimbait in the sizes I use. For me, the 3- to 5-inch sizes play a huge roll in my fishing success. They’re heavy enough to be used weightless but my go-to is 1/8-ounce keel-weighted screw lock EWG hook. On the smaller size baits, a darterhead works perfectly as well.

TEXAS-RIGGED WORM

This is the ‘ol standby, it just does not get the same love it used to back 10 to 20 years ago.

The drop-shot and fly-lined baits took over #1 billing for most Southern California bass guys. Still, for me, it’s a definite must-have in the boat year-round. It’s a very versatile bait. It can be fished in 1 foot of wa- ter all the way down to 60 feet of water. It still lands fish every- where and can’t be denied that fact. I will always toss that bait when out on the water. I love to flip into cover and or toss it on a rock pile and drag it around. So having the Texas rig perennially ready to roll at all times is an absolute must in my book.

CRANKBAIT

This bait comes in so many versions you could spend the rest of your life seeking them all out and still not have them all. There are a few chosen styles that would be considered the go-tos in my opinion.

1. Squarebill crankbait

2. Rat-L-Trap (or lipless crankbait)

3. Deep-diving crankbait

Yes, those are three different baits, however, they still all belong in the same genus and species by and large.

The squarebill: This is an interesting bait. This one, it kind of fits in a place where a few other lures fit. It’s almost like a fish soup of baits when you think of fishing a lure in 6 feet of water or less. And the squarebill can do just that – cover water from 6 feet to the surface extremely well. It goes in and around cover fairly well too. From it not diving so deep, you can be a bit more aggressive with where you toss it. It’s much easier to unsnag a squarebill hanging on top of a bush in 3 to 4 feet of water versus a deep-diver that’s down 25 feet stuck on a stump.

The Rat-L-Trap, or lipless crank: It’s a great search bait for active fish. It works very well along grass lines and long points and flats. Another advantage is that it can also cover a lot of water really quickly and it can be fished in many different depths and situations. I like it between about 15 feet and the shoreline, that’s my preference. Yours may vary, but ripping it over grass is a mainstay tactic for me.

The deep-diver: a favorite in the winter months and also moving into early spring. This bait just seems to land fish, and land them it does. It takes the right gear, though, to work a bait that dives down 20 to 25 feet. But with the correct gear it becomes an easier bait to work effectively – targeting the fish hanging out on the tops of trees and the tops of rock piles or sit- ting down in those deeper channels where some bigger fish are stagging or transitioning to move up.

With these 5 baits in your boat, I truly feel there is not a body of water you can’t show up to and land fish, big and small. It comes down to your imagination on how you rig them and what techniques you use for each of them.

Of course, I know many are saying, “You forgot a chatterbait or spinnerbait.” Or, “Hey, he never mentioned an A-Rig or a jig. How could he not mention those, as those are my go-to?”

That’s the beauty of this, and the beauty of the endless creativity and imagination of our ever-evolving sport of bass fishing. What makes up your “High Five?”