Wacky Rigging. One of my favorite things to do in a small bait, finesse, tough bite, you just need to catch 5 fish and haven’t had a bite in a while style of fishing is wacky rigging. Wacky rigging is the canary in the coal mine to me at times. If you can’t get a bite, wacky rigging, you are very likely not around ’em. My 2012 FLW Everstart tournament on Santee Cooper, started by picking up my boat in Augusta, GA on the way to lake, with a fresh fiberglass patch from the damage it sustained from Seminole. So, I only had 5 days to prepare for Santee Cooper, and in case you don’t know, Santee Cooper is 2 lakes, connected by a canal, and it HUGE. I mean, a man could spend a lifetime learning Santee Cooper, and because it has grass in it, which even the types of grasses are constantly changing (and growing and being sprayed or eaten by introduced grass carp), Santee Cooper is a lake that changes often. Add to that, South Carolina’s real estate on the Eastern seaboard. South Carolina, goes from extreme mountain trout eaters in the West, to the lowland black water swamp, palmetto tree + Spanish moss frog, swim jig, skippin’ jigs, buzzbait, 30 pound sack capable water, to Atlantic Coast beaches that people surf regularly ( I scored fun 1-2 foot peelers at Hilton Head one 4th of July circa 2006, 10 foot single fin, 80+ degree water, and a lot of hootin’ an’a hollerin’!) in the East. Santee Cooper is big fish fishery and it didn’t disappoint. Look at the weights from the event, lots of 11-15 pound, 3 fish sacks getting weighed in. Guys on 4-6 pounders pretty good, just numbers hard to come by. Santee Cooper is on a healthy cycle and it could be a sleeper for an incredible event if scheduling and weather permit. I wished I’d had more time to practice and explore things, because a bigbait bait there is inevitable. I threw Slammers, 3:16 Sunfish, 22nd Century Bluegills, and skipped the 6″ weedless Huddie too. I didn’t have tons of practice, but my gameplan was mostly around catching 4-6 pounders off cypress trees, but of course trying to just go fish and find big ones coming or going or on beds. I thought I could win with the wacky rig—if I got the bites and got them in the boat, there are just some awesome moments in tree fishing where you can get on ’em good. I had good bites going, just not lots of them, and it was the same stuff I had done here 3 years ago when I finished 7th place. I had the bites to win last time. This time, I didn’t have the bites to win, but I had a shot at it, and I knew I could compete and perhaps win, just like last time, but this time, things didn’t work out quite so well, but I did jump off a big one that cost me a Top 20 or so. 5-6 pounder eats my Senko on the base of tree with sparse grass around it in about 3 feet of water, and rips line off immediately for 10 feet right under the surface just hot and full dig style and when I went to turn and stop her, she reared up and jumped mouth open wide reverse flip backside roll tail grab fakey and spits the hook. Fudge. Whatever, I’m sitting in 7th place overall in the the SouthEast Division, and had a great tournament and finished 35th place, just solid, nothing great, but I’ll take it because Santee Cooper is tough as she is awesome at times. I had 3 fish on Day 1 for almost 12 pounds, so fun day getting 2 bigguns onboard, and one 14.5″ keeper. Big fish on the spinning gear around trees is just exciting and fun. I kept working and working, and also had a grass pattern going that never panned out, so I felt like I fished pretty damn hard and smart, just didn’t have the next levels of fish I needed. Look at how few guys caught limits both days. See Results Here. Ken Ellis won the tournament wacky rigging a Trick Worm on deep trees. So, I was on the right track and had the right gameplan, I just didn’t have the trees and the knowledge of what trees. Finding deeper trees is a key, sparse grass is key, and areas adjacent or near spawning grounds, where the fish are pulling out of their spawning areas and resting up, feeding up and hanging loose on the natural cover/structures in the lake.
I stayed in Eutawville (“Utah-Ville”) at Bells Marina and fished with my good friend Ron and his son, that I’d met here a few years ago when I was here last. Ron helped me quickly get a feel for the lake and more specifically, the tree bite. The best trees tend to be deeper 2.5 to 4 feet of water, and have sparse grass around them, or just be on the ‘point’ or generally favorable position to feed from in a stack of trees. However, it’s sort of like flipping at some level, where you just have to put your head down and make hundreds of perfect presentations time and time again, and eventually you get a bite. And where you get one bite, you usually get more bites. Little flurries, I love you so! I tried to find good areas of trees in practice. Which I did. I also tried to find a grass bite, which I did with some help from my man Bobby Wood and Ron Buck. I practiced with them a day and really did some damage on Skinny Dippers and Swim Senkos around lilly pads, gator grass, and mixed stuff. With the cool weather we had for the tournament, my grass bite died on the vine. You just knew they were in the grass and biting for someone, but I had trees and grass to balance, and after starting each morning in the grass and coming up empty both days, I decided my grass bite was dead and didn’t try it afternoon of Day 2, just stuck out the trees, which helped because I got my 5th fish with 10 minutes left and helped me get a paycheck. I caught all 8 of my keepers on the wacky rig and only missed one bite, but it was a big one. Wacky rigging is a work in progress for me, and I love doing it. I love super finesse and super big stuff, opposing poles, positives and negatives, north vs south/ east vs west, natural attractions and relationships between the two ends of any spectrum. I love how it points out things to my bigbait fishing, because I think my success with bigbaits in a national tournament will be somehow directly or indirectly related to a super small bait bite or understanding of fish and fishing. For example, keeping it simple, just throw a Senko or a Trick Worm, or just throw a Triple Trout or a Huddleston or Slammer, having the right tools narrowed down for your window and using the small baits to either quickly fill a limit or be there as backup to back fill a couple big ones.
Here’s the deal with Wacky Rigging:
Rod: Shimano Cumara 7’2″ Medium Heavy (CUS72MH)
Reel: Shimano Stradic 1000 or CI4 Stradic 1000 (small spooled reels handle 10-15 pound braid really well, that line has super small diameter and although I like big spooled spinning reels, smaller spooled small spinning reels are good too. You can throw small and light baits really well, and manage you line nicely. It all matches up, where you don’t have super thin line on a big spool.
Hook: Owner Mosquito Hook, #1 or 1/0, get the 50 packs, because you use these things a lot and you do break off at times because of the exposed nose hook, trust me, this is a good investment. Use bigger hook size in the wind
Rigging: Wacky O Tool and O-Rings: I put an O-Ring around my senko and slide the hook under the ring and just fish away. Sometimes I criss cross two rings and put the hook under the X, but I a really like the way this one fishes and rigs, it’s not perfect, but I haven’t found one that is!
Here is the deal with the Grass Bite:
Line: 65 or 50# Power Pro
Some really good fish were caught in the grass. You just had to have grass with bait or just fish in it. The grass was like the trees, lots to choose from, but most does/do not hold fish and even if they do, you have to be good to catch them, especially for 2 days in a row. Things change quickly on Santee Cooper.