Hitting the Strike Zone with 3 hot baits for big bass

Before Al Lindner begins boating one big bass after another, he first finds the “strike zone” in which they’re biting best by throwing a trio of Rapala® jerkbaits in different sizes and color patterns – a RipStop®, Shadow Rap® and X-Rap®.

“Those are the baits that I use most of the time for my bass fishing today,” says Lindner, a Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame Legendary Angler, co-founder of In-Fisherman and host of the influential Angling Edge and Fishing Edge TV shows. “Each one of them do certain things that makes a difference on how deep you are, the water clarity, are you fishing largemouth? Are you fishing smallmouth? That’s why I’ve got five rods rigged with different baits in different sizes and different colors. … Each bait has its time and its place.”

The time and place in which one lure will work better on any given day than another is influenced by what anglers refer to as the “strike zone.” Here’s how Lindner explains it:

“There’s a zone, based on water clarity, where the fish can see a bait, but they won’t waste the energy to chase it,” he explains.

In clear water, the strike zone is generally larger. In stained to muddy water, it is smaller. Rigging multiple rods with baits that dive to different depths – and in several sizes and color patterns – allows you to experiment until you determine the depth at which fish are holding, and the color, size and shape that best elicits strikes in the current conditions.

“How many times have you sat on a structure and said, ‘I know the fish are here’?” Lindner asks. “And then … you leave that spot and a guy comes right in back of you and all of a sudden, he lights them up.”

In such cases, Lindner explains, you probably were not putting your bait in the strike zone. Often, he says, “a bait that just gets a little bit deeper, or a little bit further out off of the structure, where it gets in front of their face,” will the only one the fish will bite.

Such was the case when Lindner filmed an episode of Angling Edge (see the video accompanying this post). After locating a group of bass on his depthfinder, he proceeded to cast to them with his favorite three jerkbaits. But only a Shadow Rap Deep yielded strikes.

“Almost every cast I’ve made with this bait, I get bit,” he says in the episode. “I grab the other baits, throw ‘em through there – no interest. They just can’t quite get down deep enough.”

Every Rapala jerkbait “has a time and place where it really shines,” Lindner says. On the day he was filming, the bass would not “come up that extra three, four, five feet” from where they were suspending off a ledge to hit a shallower-running jerkbait. But the Shadow Rap Deep was “getting right to them,” he says. It was “right in the zone.” Later, he says, “the other baits will come into play on different structures.”

Catch Big, Big, Big Fish’ on a Shadow Rap® Deep
The original Shadow Rap runs two to four feet deep. The Shadow Rap Deep dives to eight feet. Lindner often refers to both the shallow-running and deeper-diving version as an “original Shadow Rap,” differentiating between them and Shadow Rap Shads, which feature a different body shape and action.

The Shadow Rap Deep is Lindner’s “all-time favorite for smallmouth and largemouth, when they start going deep,” he says. “It’s an amazing deep-water jerkbait” that catches “big, big, big fish,” he continues.

Combining a horizontal struggle with a vertical fade, Shadow Raps perfectly mimic an injured minnow’s last moments. Uniquely, they neither rise slightly on the pause, nor strictly suspend in space. “When you kill it … it just stops and it just quivers and falls really, really slow,” Lindner explains.

Shadow Raps can trigger bites in three phases of your retrieve – initial kick, snap back to action, and on the pause while slowly sinking, nose down. And not only can they dart side to side, they will spin around almost 180 degrees with the right action applied.

Both Shadow Rap Deeps and the shallower-running Shadow Rap come armed with three No. 6 VMC black-nickel, round-bend hooks and are available in 24 color patterns.

“The hooks are really fine … like needles,” Lindner says.

RipStop® Features Boot Tail Unique to Hard Baits
The “new kid on the block” in Lindner’s trio of favorite bass baits is the Rip Stop. In the two years since it was released, it’s been “working really well for both largemouth and smallmouth,” he says.

RipStops come in two sizes – No. 9 and No. 12. The No. 9, which will run three to four feet deep, measures 3 ½ inches and weighs ¼ an ounce. The No. 12 runs four to five feet, measures 4 ¾ inches and weighs ½ an ounce.

Looking like a cross between a jerk-bait, suspending twitch bait and a swimbait, a RipStop will stop in place and suspend almost immediately when you stop reeling it in – something no other bait does. When it’s in motion, the RipStop’s unique hard-plastic boot tail, creates a hard-rolling, slashing action that mimics a live minnow swimming.

Although a RipStop can be fished as a twitch bait or popped and ripped like a jerkbait, it works equally well when simply retrieved at a steady pace, provided you stop reeling from time to time, causing it to stop on a dime. Featuring a modified flat-sided body, a RipStop cuts easily through the water and gives off maximum flash. Containing no rattles, they swim silently.

For the best results, fish No. 9 RipStops on a spinning rod spooled with 6- to 10-pound-test Sufix® 832 Advanced Superline® braid tipped with an 8- to 10-pound-test leader of Sufix® Invisiline™ 100% Fluorocarbon. Linder throws No. 12 RipStops on 12-pound-test line with a baitcasting combo.

Featuring two-part plastic construction with a non-inserted lip, RipStops contain no rattles and swim silently. They are available in 14 color patterns.

The X-Rap® Is ‘All-time Greatest Smallmouth Bait’
When bass are feeding in about four to six feet, Linder will throw the No. 8 and No. 10 X-Rap at ‘em. The X-Rap, he says, is the “all-time greatest smallmouth bait ever made, in my opinion.”

While X-Raps mimic in size and shape numerous species of baitfish that smallmouth feed on, what makes them deadly for smallmouths, Lindner says, are the bright color patterns in which they are available. The patterns that consistently drive smallmouth crazy, Linder says, are Hot Head and Hot Pink.

Contributing to “the magic of the X-Rap,” Lindner adds, is a Flash Feather Teaser Tail, which comprises both feathers and tinsel strands. The versatility of an X-Rap allows an angler to impart a number of fish-catching actions in a single retrieve. It can be fished with an aggressive “slashbait” technique, or with a classic Rapala wobble.

X-Raps cast like a bullet, making for long, accurate casts. They feature prominent scales and a lateral line on the fuselage to capture and flash light like a beacon. Additional features include: textured translucent body, internal holographic foil, 3D holographic eyes, flash-foil teaser tails and premium VMC black-nickel hooks.

See Rapala® Shadow Rap®

See Rapala® Shadow Rap® Deep

See Rapala® RipStop®

See Rapala® X-Rap®

See Sufix 832 Advanced Superline

Sufix® Castable Invisiline 100% Fluorocarbon

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