Lucky Craft CIF Flash Minnow 190

There is a strange fusion of saltwater and freshwater bass. There is a yin and yang.

My buddy Chris Lillis, showed me the  Lucky Craft CIF Flash Minnow 190 a while back.  It didn’t click until recently how deadly these things are.  I am thinking the freshwater guys need to explore these.  Think herring eaters.  Think smelt eaters.  Think how well long slender baits get bit.  

Game changer in my fishing. Big Hardbaits and surface irons. Epic.

This is a beautiful bait from Lucky Craft.  These companies in the fishing world are so interesting.  The people, the connections to the angling community, the baits, the progression, etc.   I love to see ‘saltwater grade stuff’ made for bass fishing.  Crankbaits and jerkbaits ARE good calico baits, and there is a lot I want to try.  Chatter crickets, robust square bills, etc. 

Reel this thing fast and hard, and then just kill it. Wait. Reel like hell, if you don’t get back and pause again.

When faced with long and slender, bass will often eat baits that are are > 50% or more of their body length. Little fish eating baits their same size, even.

This is NOT A JERKBAIT.  It is more of a crankbait / glide / stall bait.  You burn it, pause it.  You bump bump bump at 6 and 12 and it dances a couple feet side to side up and down.  They love it when you pause it.  It sinks.  It does NOT wear you out, physically to fish.  It’s intimidating.  Your wrists start hurting just looking at it!Jerkbaits are the shiz.  Let’s be real.  Jerkbaits are one of the catchiest ways to fish.  Although this is not a jerkbait, it has the same profile.  Except it’s 7.5″ long and weighs 2.25 oz. 

Pros: 

  • You can cast a mile. 
  • It has Owner ST-66 Trebles, stock
  • Killer Colors
  • You catch jerkbait fish. Check this thing out.  It’s similar but fishes differently. You can reel reel reel pause instead of jerk jerk jerk pause. 
  • It is long and skinny (bass have proven this profile = good ) 
  • 7.5″ and slender is a ‘sweet spot’ I will have to explain later, but it’s a real good balance of bulk and slender.  Fusion of bigbait and conventional small bait tool. 

Application: 

  • Think windy high spots on lakes with blue back herring.
  • That one spot, beyond the buoy line, or to some off limits area, where you need the absolute longest cast of your life to be a hero.  Try this.   
  • Windy points.  
  • Windy rip rap
  • Over grass
  • Over rock
  • Not sure about wood?  Might be sticky. 
  • Wherever you have big baitfish and big fish to target, but don’t have a good consistent hardbait to throw?  Try this. 

Purchasing: 

I’m 100% sure I bought my Lucky Craft CIF Flash Minnow 190 from Tackle Warehouse.  They aren’t stocking that size, for some unknown reason, although it’s still listed on the product description.  Check out the 110s in stock, though.  The colors are killer.  You can use Google, I’m sure. 

I’m telling you, explore this thing. Herring lakes, especially.

 

Lil baby guys would commit suicide on this bait. Like 10″ fish on a 7.5″ lure.

 

The Gambler Really Big GZ 8 Inch Swimbait

The Gambler Really Big GZ 8″ Swimbait Tail vs. the familiar 8″ Huddleston trout tail.

 

The Gambler Really Big GZ 8″ next to some other baits for some relative sizing. From Top to Bottom: The Big Hammer Sledge Hammer, the Gambler Really Big GZ 8″, the ShellBack Customs 6″ Swimbait, and 8″ Huddleston Deluxe trout.  

 

The hookset, the circumstances of this fish….Tip of the hat to Gambler,  my friends, my competitors, and to the mighty unique state of Florida. I had no doubt the 8″ Gambler Really Big GZ 8″ bait was gonna get bit.

One on the Gambler Big GZ 8″ and one on the Shellback Customs 6″ swimmer

 

3 fatties. I’m getting ready for Okeechobee in Jan 202X in my mind.  Gambler Big GZ 8″, Shell Back customs 6″, some Huddies, some bed fishing w Hammer, some, Harney Pond Duck Pond Casey Martin was here dot com.

Gambler in Florida is like RoboWorm or Keitech in California.  Gambler is based in South Florida, near Okeechobee and is known for in particular for its goodness around grass.  The owner, Val is a tournament fisherman and has won major events on Okeechobee.  I have seen him, competed against him back in the day, and know he is a solid fisherman.   They maintain a pro-staff of really good local and national anglers that tend to be good anywhere, but grass in particular.  Think JT Kenny or Brandon McMillan.  The BB Cricket is legend amongst the punchers.  Super small profile simple bait that fishes well behind massive 1.5ounce punch weight and beefy punch hook.

Right around the corner from the Kissimmee River. Bob Wood gave me an early tour of what the deal is with Okeechobee. Notice, the Gambler Flappy Shad swinging off his line. Look at the water we are fishing.  The flappy shad is little quite weedless buzzbait when you cut the tail and high stick reel it on braid.  Blamo!   

 

Jimmy, Day 4 final weigh in. Notice Koby Kreiger in the background. I knew I better get right in hurry.  Okeechobee was intimidating.  Not an easy read for me, but man, the lessons in life and fishing.  Okeechobee haunts me still. 

Day 2, FLW Series on Okeechobee 2009. I fished w Robert Gulley from MS. We had a great day. I somehow remember this day incredibly well.  Tin House Cove, boyeeeeee. 

When I first arrived in Okeechobee in January of 2009, the very first event I fished, within weeks of resigning from software world, was the 2009 FLW Series Event.  That was they event the late great Jimmy McMillan won. I actually fished well the first 2 days and totally choked the 3rd.  The irony, is I was fishing the Gambler Flappy Shad and sight fishing.  Day 3, things got wicked rough and windy, but behind the grass lines, the water was uber fishy. I basically rookied out, and to this day cannot answer why I didn’t just fish the wind the throw a spinnerbait.  I watched Dion Hibdon whack like 19 pounds all around around me.  Anyway, I was out.  Jimmy McMillan would go on to win.  The winning bait?  The Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper.  Over in this place called J&S which of course was the only corner of Okeechboee I hadn’t seen!   It would put me on journey of a braid on weedless swimbait fishing. 

Swimming Worms 

I had a golden opportunity to just put on a boot tailed swimbait like Basstrix paddle tail and would have made a $10K in my first event.  I just didn’t.  I fought the wind, kept looking for bed fish, and kooked out.   I didn’t have that in my game, saddly, out of arrogance. I fished ‘bigbaits’.  I fished other baits, but didn’t spend the time on the simple boot tailed swimmers, the paddle tailed swimmers, the simple swimbaits—–that I should have.  I should have had that in my game and kept with it.  It was a mistake I made all during my full time fishing journey.  Anyway, after that Okeeechobee event, I had nearly a month to prepare for the next one on Okeechobee.  

Tell me that isn’t a Florida largemouth? Black bass. Yamamoto Swim Senko. I would never suggest reeling them over grass!

 

That next 30 days, in my mind, will remain as some my finest and biggest progression in fishing, probably ever.  I will forever remember staying at the Roland Martin Marine.  I got over the Clewiston part of the lake in a hurry, and was far more enamored with Harney Pond, Monkey Box, the North Shore all the up to Okeechobee.  That being said, I learned that I could drive from Clewiston to Okeechobee and put in in the Kissimmee River and save the boat run, and wake up to some coffee and music of choice. I was driving my truck 1 hour each way from Clewiston, to go learn the ‘north side’.   I found the north side of Okeechobee fished more more liking and had these great pools and runs that got me dialed-in.  Braid was a huge part of the approach, boat handling, strong grass ready trolling motor and batteries…but most importantly was the mindset of shallow water weedless grass swimbait fishing.

As thick as the 8″ Hudd too. But has a much slender and rounder profile and is not as life like/fish shaped.  The articulated section helps the bait kick, and articulate and gives it a unique footprint. 

 

Weedless Grass Swimbait Fishing 

There is a steady progression of weedless swimbaits.  You could start with paddle tails, Speed Worms, and even curly tailed worms, that come to find out, fish really well when you just reel them along.  I quickly connected the dots between the Skinny Dipper and baits like the Yamamoto Swim Senko.  Gambler is to Florida like Yamamoto is to the West too.  I knew Gary Yamamoto had a great tournament on the Swim Senko, so I had to explore that bait too.  I LOVE putting in the Kissimee River, shooting the gap at Kings Bar and making my way West.  I really got to learn Okeechobee my first winter of 2009, by committing my time to the Midtown (aka Monkey Box/Harney Pond) and UpTown – Eagle Bay>JS<Kings Bar>Indian Prairie>.  The bait was the Skinny Dipper.  And the Swim Senko.  Ken Huddleston’s Grass Minnow become a goto for me a little later.  His 6″ weedless too, but the more simple, weedless 5-6″ swimbaits you use a screw lock hook to attach to, is what I’m saying.  The Skinny Dipper was king for a bit.   Other baits sorta came along, but nothing earth shattering.  Then, one day the Gambler Big EZ broke.  

Relativity. Theories. Science. Known vs. Unknown.  Sledge Hammer > ShellBack war >8″ Huddie.

All my South Florida buddies being all fired up about the Gambler Big EZ.  It pushed more water, had a different swim signature than the others.  It was catching better fish.  It was the trailer on the back of a chatterbait.  Of course, most lethal is the weighted screw lock (or unweighted too) just reeling it over, up and over, thru, and around as many good swim lanes and hot pockets as you can.  Braided line.  I remember guys at Santee Cooper getting good bites.  Seminole.  Okeechobee of course.  The core grass lakes we hit. 

 

 

Okay, I like pink tails, pink baits, but I didn’t choose the pink single wide to live in. It did work out just fine, thanks.

 

I lived in West Palm Beach for like 5 months, hoping to be a S. Florida surfer and Okeechobee local.  Not to be.  As I was about to move from the thug life side of West Palm Beach to Jupiter, a bombshell went off in my life.  I was at a software team event and somebody mentioned the new office in Aliso Viejo, CA.  Boom, I literally undid my world,  and jumped on the train back home.  So, it’s been a minute since I been around guys named Wood, Luke, Carter, McMillan, Tharp, Fitzgerald…but yeah, the Seminole winds blow thru San Clemente often. 

 

Tin House. Notice the dollar pads (not the dead gator. I was hungry and felt like some gator!) and the dark black coffee water. I really like dollar pads at times. They are fun to fish.

Box o Calico swimmer. The 6.5″ Gambler GZ Swimmers and the Shellback Customs swimmers.

Gambler makes a whole series of the EZ Swimmer.  It wasn’t really hard for me to buy a couple of packs of the Gambler Really Big GZ 8″ baits to ‘test’ them out on the calico bass.  I had already gotten the 6.5″ versions, but I was intrigued to see the bigger version. 

The Gamber Really Big GZ 8″ Swimbait 

You have to see this bait next to other known baits to appreciate it’s size.  Long, round, fat and a big paddle.  Big round style paddle.  Looks like a SUP paddle.  When the bait swims, it has a lot of ROLL.  The articulated section help the bait pulse and kick.  You can feel this 8″ swimmer on the end of your big beefy calico bass rod, far better than most of the weedless swimbaits I’ve fished.   It pushes a ton of water, and just happens to match up really well with the 12/0 Owner Beast Swimbait Hook and 3/4 oz weight. 

 

 

Okeechobee good swimbait spot. To give you an idea, you have to be ready for your bait to be out of the water at least 25% of the time.

 

Grass and Kelp fish very similar. You go over, use high stick retrieves, go thru, go around, bump and run, stall and straight wind your way around.

 

Kelp, and in this case, with boiler rocks to add to the mix, you need to be able to be weedless, rockless, and have eyes on the back of your head. Very dangerous fishing boiler rocks. 2 man fishing only, with one guy on the gas engine keeping an eye on the waves.

 

 

Choked. Pinned. Owner 12/0 Beast w 3/4 weight

 

Owner ST-66 Treble Hooks and Saltwater Swimbait Fishing

I am a huge fan of Owner Hooks. I have had a journey with treble hooks, as most of us have had. You go thru the balance of:   Uber sharp points, short shank/non fouling, hook strength and ability to handle 80# braid or a giant fish, or both.  I came around to the ST-66 Owner Treble Hooks as I refined my 8″ Huddleston rigging.  I like to call it the Southern Trout Eaters rig.  Reality, its a derivative and fusion of others rigs from friends my own flavors.  Super small, sharp, XXX strong and well balanced hook was what drew me to the ST-66 for a small profile that would complement the Hudd vs. stick out and go against the flow. 

The fish have literally beaten the eyes out of my hard and soft baits lately. You are sticking your bites with braid and ST-66. Remember, you gotta match your braid with strong hooks, because you can bend hooks and hook points EASY.

Now, as I’m getting salty, and fishing for saltwater bass, tuna, yellowtail, halibut and bay bass, to name a few target species…I’m going thru my tackle and saltwater-ize-ing it all.    I am putting the 1/0 , 2/0 and 3/0 sized ST-66 on my Triple Trouts.  I am replacing the Owner Hyper Split Rings, with larger Hyper Wire Split Rings.  #8s and #10s in cases.  Big ole split rings that require fatty split ring pliers these to work right:  

I noticed Kevin has ST-66 on his baits too. Gold bar Triple Trout. That other bait is MC Swimbaits’ Slug. Cough Cough. If I fished for big bass in freshwater, I wouldn’t look at that slug for big ones, cough cough. Corey makes some killer baits and has pioneered things that make a lot of sense.

I really believe in the Hyper Wire Split Rings and ST-66 combinations for any baits with hanging trebles.  They are heavy, and tend to make your bait sink a little quicker than lighter wire ST-36 hooks, but they are geared for whatever fishes you encounter (hopefully).   The Slide Swimmer 250 comes stock with big ST-66s, to give you an idea of how well they match w bigbaits.  

 

Good calico bass fishing is as satisfying as any largemouth bites I’ve ever been on. Great swimbait eaters. You have to search and work. I catch little ones around home, but there are good ones to be had at these local islands, LA County, Santa Barbara, Mexico, etc. That search is what drives me these days.

 

Weedless Saltwater Swimbaits

Solid Mexican Calico Bass on the MC Swimbaits Viejo weedless swimmer. Kelp colored bass and bait.

Cover shot!

Fishing the kelp in the saltwater, is a lot like fishing massive grass beds like you’d find in Franks Tract at low tide, or Lake Seminole or Okeechobee.  Your bait often comes out of the water, and you need to be prepared to drop it into holes and gaps.  Expect it.  Expect a fish ‘tracking’ your bait while its out of the water.  You need to choose your casts wisely.  Choose good swim lanes where you get  to run your bait thru juicy spots and long pools of water.  The guy who can cast the furthest, is off the front of the boat, and covers the most water with the best presentation will catch the fish.   Be ready, followers abound, and they tend to be big or bigger or way bigger, depending.  Your fishing partner needs to be on their toes when you hook one.  There’s usually more calicos around than the hooked one who are fired up and will bite.  

Weedless Saltwater Swimbaits are great for the saltwater kelp or any vegetation I suppose in salt or brackish water.   Also, if you’re hunting a big one a grass lake in the freshwater. I have to say, the boot tailed/paddle tailed/cut tailed swimmers, that are long and slender get bit really well.  You might give the 3-5-7 pounders a different look with the following couple?  

Split Belly

The following two baits both have a split belly.  Split belly baits are synonymous with weedless swimbaits.  It helps hide/hold the hook and make the bait more low profile and less likely to snag.  The beauty of things like the Weighted Owner Beast Hooks, 10/0 is a good choice w 1/2 oz, because it fits a lot of swimbaits with split bellys really well. 

 

MC Swimbaits Inshore Weedless swimbait

Kevin and everyone I know that fishes the MC Swimbaits refers to Corey.  Corey Sanden is the guy behind MC Swimbaits.  He is credited with many innovations, baits, and developments in the world of saltwater bass fishing.  The heavy floro leader attached to braid, for example, I believe Corey is credited with. The only downside of braid is that sharp teeth will cut it.  Calico Bass have sharp teeth, so do the 10+ pound largemouth bass and trophy spotted/smallmouth bass.  You can cut braid on a bass’s teeth, if they inhale/choke your bait deep enough.   Many calico bass have been lost by the braid cutting against the fish’s teeth, hence the 12″ floro leader of 50 or 60# 100% floro.  Corey is in a position to design weedless baits and make modifications from a place of authority.  

Long, skinny, split belly and sorta penny colored is always good for calicos 

Magnum calico choked the MC Inshore swimmer

Kevin fishes Corey’s MC Inshore Swimbaits exclusively. I have now fished it quite a bit too.  Great running and fishing bait.  Pairs up nicely with the Owner and Trokar weighted swimbait hooks out there. Kevin does a lot of damage, and is all about the tons of MC Swimbaits plastic Kevin carries around.   Slender profile, yet beefy, nice little boot tail.  Great colors and offerings.  Very resilient and will last multiple fishes.  Catches big ones.   The split belly helps make it hold and rig on a screw lock style hook really well.

 

I love trying new baits, other peoples’ gear, new gear, new setups. Believe me, I wanted to fish one of Kevin’s MC Swimbaits to get a feel for them. Yeah, they work! Daiwa Tatula HDs are a great wider than normal/bigger spool bass reel, built w saltwater grade components. Casts a frickin mile reel.

Shellback Customs Swimbaits

Chad Yates came onto the weedless swimbait scene with his Shellback Customs series of swimmers.   His bait is fatter/wider than the other weedless baits.  It has the largest profile, and a large paddle tail.   The Shellback Customs baits have a really neat slender profile in the water.  They have a really tight body movement yet, loud, obnoxious and vibrant tail doing some good thumping and displacing mad water. 

Shellback Custom Swimbaits in a safety / garibaldi orange

 

 

Extremely resilient bait

Check out Chad and his baits on Instagram: http://instagram.com/shellback_custom_swimbaits

 

Kelp burying fools

Saltwater Grade Spinnerbaits for Calico Bass

Not a giant fish, but I don’t get tired of ‘keeper’ sized bass of any flavor. Daiwa Tatula HD reels, 65# Braid, and Low Down Customs 8 footer.  Times they are a changin’. 

 

My longtime friend Brett Woodward, from Dana Point, who now lives in Laguna Niguel, gave me my first calico bass exposure.  Brett is a really good hook and lethal as a team partner.  Brett got me hooked on slow rolling spinnerbaits in the kelp for calico bass well over a decade ago now, from his Boston Whaler. 

Kelp = Hard Grass

If you’ve never felt or touched Pacific Ocean kelp, you may not know its super hard.  Hard grass, like the good kind of hydrilla you look for on Okeechobee or Seminole.  Hard grass means your bait doesn’t muck up in it while fishing.  Hard grass means really fishable grass.  Hard grass means it’s healthy and likely has an entire ecosystem of life living under/within it.  

Box O Saltwater Grade Spinnerbaits

Spinnerbaits are really ‘old school’ in the freshwater bass world, especially over grass.  Spinnerbaits are weedless and fish really well in the grass, and do a great job of creating a bait ball/chaser rig.  It makes a ton of sense to fish them in the kelp.  I am sure lots of guys are throwing swimbaits in the kelp, including myself.  I feel like the spinnerbait is a go-to to ‘catch a fish’ and see if any little calico bass are around or sorta see how aggressive the fish are.  

I am new to calico bass fishing.  I love to throw weedless swimbaits.  Believe me.  Braided line, Owner screw lock hooks, and weedless paddle/boot tailed swimmers are key part of my progression as a fisherman, swimming bait fisherman.   However, the spinnerbait gets down and can be slow rolled.  It get’s in the funky zone where you lose visibility, where there are deep shade pockets created by the kelp stringers.  Calico bass are aggressive and bold, but they aren’t dumb.  They have been picked over pretty good around Dana Point area, but it’s still really fun fishing.  You have to work hard for smaller fish I feel like than 10-15 years ago, but then again, what place gets better over time?  

Here are some thoughts on spinnerbaits I carry for saltwater bass fishing:  

WarBaits Spinnerbait HD 1 oz

I like all things WarBaits.  They have a no-nonsense 1 oz spinnerbait that keeps it simple, keeps it heavy duty, and has one heck of an Owner Hook that dwarfs most spinnerbait hooks.  The colors and durability are awesome and the baits will catch ‘many’ fishes before the wire and bait become useless.  Highly recommend them.  Here is a link to an Instagram video I made fishing the Warbaits HD 1 oz Spinnerbait somewhere near Trestles:  https://instagram.com/p/BRlhPf4B91e/

Nichols Pulsator Depth Finder Spinnerbait

Nichols is a favorite of mine. I’ve caught many spinnerbaits fish on Nichols bass. I love their colors, painted blades and fishability of the double willow spinnerbaits they make.  I realized they make a 1 oz version, made with heavy wire, dubbed the Nichols Pulsator Depth Finder.  Nice and compact, nice hook, but nowhere near the Owner hook on the Warbaits HD Spinnerbait.   Really cool color combinations and a good choice of 1 oz weights. 

The Warbaits Spinnerbait HD 1 oz come with a big and stout 10/0 and 3X Strong Owner hook. The hook is ‘significantly’ beefier gauge and reaches way further back than any other spinnerbaits I own. Beast of a hook on a beast of a spinnerbait.

Blade Runner 1.5 oz

I have fished the Blade Runner 1.5 and it definitely is heavy duty and the flat sided nature of the bait make it keel very well.  Keels tend to work well or work against you.  I find this 1.5 oz bait is really easy to throw and I liked having the turtle shell/willow combination.  Heavy duty Wire too. 

Blade Runner Guppy Spinnerbait 2.5 oz  

Maybe the guys wanted to build a better mouse-trap?  I just noticed Blade Runner makes a 2.5 oz spinnerbait now?  Check out the Guppy.  It says flat bottom, so maybe this bait has less keel and is even more a deep creeping thumper.  Will get some and advise. 

Revenge Heavy Duty Spinnerbaits

Revenge makes really good baits in general.  They have all kinds of spinnerbaits.  They make a heavy duty and a deep runner that are saltwater worthy.  I find the Heavy Duty have heavier wire and are more geared to salt than the deep runners.  I have always liked the way Revenge distributes the weight of the spinnerbait into the body shape of spinnerbait.  Most spinnerbaits are all head.  Revenge has a good sized body and is a compact bait.  I like gold shiner color! 

Notice the body resembles a baitfish and the weight is distributed to more than just the head of the spinnerbait