When pre-spawn bass are on flats, your best bet to catch them is a lipless crankbait like the Storm® Arashi® Vibe. In extremely cold water, fish it as slow as possible, but as water temps warm as the season progresses, gradually increase your retrieve speed.
Those are the recommendations of Rapala Pro Ott DeFoe, who won the 2019 Bassmaster Classic with a Vibe.
“Pre-spawn time of year, that’s when a bait like this Storm Arashi Vibe really catches some big fish, There’s not a lot better way to catch a big ol’ monster.” DeFoe explains in this video.
Lipless crankbaits like the Vibe often excel in the spring, when bass are first pulling up from deeper water and moving close to flat, shallow spawning areas.
DeFoe will tie on a Vibe when his side- and forward-looking sonar units locate bass holding on such flats – places “where there’s not a lot of depth change” and “the bottom doesn’t have a lot of taper.”
“I can really almost ‘worm’ those bass through those areas where bass are holding,” he says.
Vibes start swimming at slower speeds than do other lipless crankbaits. They fall slower too, allowing you to fish them in shallower water at a slower speed. That’s key, especially early in the pre-spawn, when water temps are the coldest. Water temperature will determine how aggressive the fish are likely to be, and therefore how fast to fish your Vibe. Here’s DeFoe’s guide:
• 45-49 degrees = Move your Vibe only with your rod, not your reel. “I’m taking slack up with the reel and pumping it with the rod,” DeFoe explains.
• 50 to 53 degrees = Reel in your Vibe with a steady, “slow to moderate retrieve.”
• 55-57 degrees = Turn your reel handle pretty steadily, DeFoe instructs, “occasionally popping it along, not letting it have a lot of pauses.”
• 57-plus degrees = In the warmest range of the Vibe bite, “it’s going to be chunk it out and bring it back in,” DeFoe says.
DeFoe fishes Arashi Vibes on 17-pound fluorocarbon line spooled on a 6.8:1 gear-ratio baitcasting reel seated on 7- to 7-foot, 6-inch Medium Heavy baitcasting rod. “I’m able to control that bait extremely well” with that set-up, DeFoe says.
Featuring a soft-knock rattle, Vibes emit a unique single-cadence, low-pitch sound that attracts attention without alarming tentative fish.
“It doesn’t make a whole lot of noise,” DeFoe says. “[But] I’m not expecting one of these fish to come a great distance to eat my bait. I already know where he lives. I already know where I need to throw it. I just need a bait that looks pretty natural, that swims just exactly how it needs to, like this one does, and has a little bit of flutter on the fall, so when I pause it, it just shimmies a little bit on the way down.”
In the pre-spawn period – when water is often stained, to muddy – bright, crawfish-imitating color patterns like Red Craw and Rusty Craw work best. “If you’ve got some off-colored water and you know those fish are keyed up on crawfish, those are going to be the colors that pick out then,” DeFoe says.
On the first day of the 2019 Bassmaster Classic, which DeFoe won, four bass in his 20-pound limit came out of cold, muddy water on a brightly colored crawfish-pattern Vibe. Among them was a 6-pounder that was the biggest bass caught that day by any competitor. A 4-pound, 7-ounce bass he caught on a Vibe on the tournament’s final day allowed him to cull a smaller fish, solidifying his win.
“I love to fish a lipless crankbait in that cold-water temperature,” DeFoe says. “If it’s in the low 50s, that’s when those big ones like to munch it.”