Fall Wakebait Tips withPAA Pro Russ Lane
Story by Russ “Bassdozer” Comeau
There are at least two popular types of wakebaits used for surface fishing for bass. First, there are your short, fat crankbait-shaped wakebaits which in many cases are crankbaits that manufacturers’ retooled with different lips to keep them on or nearly on the surface. Second, you have your long, slender minnow- or jerkbait-shaped wakebaits and in this category, PAA pro Russ Lane prefers using his sponsor Buckeye Lures Wake Up wakebait.
“What I like to use it for is early in the morning around cover like wood, laydown logs, docks, shallow grass – just any kind of cover that fish may be on early in the morning,” suggests Lane. “Just throw it past the cover, and if it’s a log or a weed edge, just throw it straight parallel to that, and bring it down the length leaving a slow, rolling V wake behind it.”
The Buckeye wakebait is a little unique in that it’s made of balsawood. Other minnow wakebaits tend to be made of hard plastic.
Most anglers experience with balsa stems from using small, delicate balsa crankbaits with fragile screw eye hook hangers. Unlike the balsa crankbaits that anglers may be familiar with, Lane says, “Even though this wakebait’s balsa, it’s big, sturdy (at 5-1/4″ long, weighing 1/2 oz) and the circuit board lip is in there pretty solid. I’ve caught some really big fish on it – and a lot of fish at times. The finish holds up. They’re not fragile, not prone to break if you hit a rock or dock with them,” emphasizes Russ. “I think I still have one of the first ones I ever got. I have never torn one up and I’ve never had any problems with the wire eyes getting loose or anything.”
The Best Time of Fall
“When the wakebait bite gets really good is later in the day when the sun gets up high and you have a definite shade line, say under bluffs or down the sides of docks, under bridges or anything that makes a definite shade line. That enables you to pinpoint exactly where the bass will be,” instructs Russ.
“The time when the shade lines get good later in the day also coincides during the fall with when bass usually get a little more active because the bait and everything gets high in the water column then also, and the bass start feeding toward the surface. That’s my absolute favorite time to use the wakebait – later in the day in the fall – throwing it around anything that makes shade.”
In terms of weather conditions, Lane says, “Those slick, calm days when fishing can usually be a struggle during the fall, especially in clear water, that’s when the wakebait shines under those conditions.
“In terms of water temperature, the season for wakebaits starts and ends when the water temperature is falling from the low 70’s through the mid-60′s, says Russ.
In terms of the calendar, the fall wakebait bite should last into mid- to late November where Lane lives in Alabama.
Rod, Reel, Line, Hooks
Russ uses 12 lb Sunline FC Sniper fluorocarbon with a Carrot Stix 7’0″ medium action Wild Green baitcasting rod and a 5:1 ratio reel. The slower gear ratio lets you reel incredibly slowly so the wakebait has a tantalizing wobble and makes a V wake on the surface.
It’s surprising to hear that Lane prefers a fast-sinking line like fluorocarbon for a topwater presentation. Typically, fluorocarbon is best used with subsurface lures of all kinds.
Russ explains, “I hold my rod tip high (about ten o’clock) and that fluorocarbon line cuts through the surface, causing a downward angle of pull that actually makes the wakebait want to stay more on the surface instead of making it want to dive under. It’s just the opposite of what you’d think; when you hold your rod tip high, the fluorocarbon cuts through the water bringing the bait up high. That’s why I use a smaller diameter line also.”
Furthermore, he doesn’t use a split ring or snap or anything – Russ just ties his fluorocarbon straight to the line tie eye on the bait’s nose as he finds he generates the ultimate wake this way.
In terms of castability, Lane claims it casts fine even being balsa – and it casts especially well with the lighter line Russ uses.
Another important detail for Lane is putting three #4 Gamakatsu Superline Round Bend trebles on the bait. That adds just a little more weight to it, and helps it to run even better. The stock hooks that come on it are wire hooks and they don’t weigh as much as the Gamakatsu Superline Round Bends.
Holding the rod high, using a low speed reel with 12 lb. fluorocarbon to slice through the surface thereby changing the angle of pull, tying direct and replacing the hooks with heavier ones…all these details add up to letting you wake the surface just as slow as you can stand to reel it.
“A lot of times when they hit it, you may be reeling in so slow that you’re kind of not even paying attention (at least I’m not sometimes),” laughs Russ. “Although you’re going slowly, the fish tend to hit it really hard just like they do any other topwater type bait, and the worst thing you can do is snatch or set the hook immediately. You just have to let them get it and pull your rod tip down. The easiest way to do that is to try to train yourself to keep reeling at the same steady pace until the rod loads up – and that’s how you’ll hook them every time.”
“Occasionally, I will have days when a couple of fish will come up, you’ll see them roll on it, but they won’t take it. Usually what you can do is put a #4 feather treble hook on the back and that seems like it helps when they’re short-striking,” concludes Russ.
The Buckeye Wake Up and some other products mentioned in this story are available at Tackle Warehouse. Please click here whenever you shop there:
Thank you and good luck fishing!