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Chalk Talk: Kenney dishes on prop baits

Chalk Talk: Kenney dishes on prop baits

(Editor's note: The following is the latest installment in a series of fishing tips presented by The Bass University. Check back each Friday for a new tip.)

It’s common knowledge among serious bass fishermen that in and around the spawn in Florida – or any grassy fisheries, for that matter – topwater prop baits can catch some of the biggest bass of the year. JT Kenney said that despite that near universal understanding, he often sees fishermen around him who are using the right baits, but fishing them far too fast.

“One of the things I see a lot of anglers making a big mistake on in Florida is just completely overworking their topwater baits,” he said. The aggressive warp-speed thrashing action that might work on peacock bass in the Amazon will chase away finicky Florida strain largemouths. In this case, less is more.

“When you think you’re fishing it slow, fish it slower,” he emphasized.

He doesn’t have any particular prop bait that he favors, although he noted that some of the newer ones like the Rapala X Rap Prop cast better than their predecessors. Because fish sometimes slap at or kiss these lures, the first thing he does out of the package is “put good hooks on it.”

This is primarily a clear-water technique, and spawning fish are often spooky, so he makes sure to use balanced tackle that allows for extra-long casts. Accordingly, he fishes his topwater prop baits on a 7-foot medium-action, extra-fast Halo TI rod paired with a high-speed Ardent baitcasting reel. The speedy gear ratio allows him to catch up with big fish that grab the lure and run right at him. Around heavy vegetation, he’ll often have to venture into the muck to retrieve big fish. That’s why he relies on at least 30-pound Sunline braided line. The lures may cast better on 20-pound braid, but when he’s around big fish, on waters like Okeechobee, “I don’t want to be outgunned.”

One another critical piece of equipment is decidedly low-tech. He uses thin, clear tubing that can be purchased from hardware stores or some tackle shops around the first inch or so of his braid. He first slides a bobber stopper onto the line, then adds the tubing before tying a Palomar Knot. With the bobber stopper cinched down, it keeps that short section of braid closest to the lure semi-rigid, so that the line won’t get caught in a rotating front propeller, rendering the cast worthless. This increases his efficiency and allows him to hit more prime targets with a painstakingly slow retrieve over the course of the day. That adds up to extra bites. While 3- and 4-pound bass tend to “absolutely come unglued on it,” Kenney said that most of the giants that he’s caught on prop baits haven’t exploded on the lures – they’ve simply kissed it or sucked it in. That’s when the shallow water chaos occurs.

If you want to learn more about when, where and how Kenney maximizes his topwater prop bait effectiveness, including signs that a fish is inspecting your otherwise motionless lure, check out his full video, available only by subscribing to The Bass University TV.

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