(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.)
Spinnerbaits, crankbaits and other moving lures garner plenty of bites, but on many waters if you want to catch the five biggest fish on tournament day, you need to punch. Louisiana pro Nick LeBrun says that “a lot of times big bass are like big deer,” and they burrow down in the heaviest cover available. It’s a popular technique, but not necessarily a simple or easy one. “There’s a lot more to it than just crashing it in there and wiggling and pulling it out.”
He's developed a system and a devotion to the tactic that enables him to be consistently competitive on tour. It starts with the size of the weight, which could be as light aa 1/2-ounce or as heavy as 2 ounces, but usually falls in the 1 to 1 1/4-ounce range. Mission number one is penetrating the cover, while mission number two is determining the rate of fall that garners the most bites.
Next up is the hook. Some anglers like an EWG, but “an EWG is not going to be effective when you tie a snell knot,” and LeBrun thinks that’s a critical element for success. Accordingly, he generally uses a 4/0 Hayabusa straight-shank flipping hook. “If you see me punching with anything but this hook, check me into the psych ward,” he joked. “Something’s wrong.” No matter which hook you use, make sure that the bait is rigged totally straight. A slightly off-kilter rigging may occasionally get a bite or two, but not nearly as many. He puts a quality bobber stopper – or sometimes two with the really big weights – to keep the heavy wad of tungsten from separation from the soft plastic.
LeBrun’s gear is specifically built to go to battle. It starts with a Fitzgerald VLD10 baitcasting reel with an 8:1 gear ratio. It retrieves a lot of line with each turn of the handle. He locks down the drag star as much as possible because he’s using heavy braid, which is unlikely to break – this enables him to winch a giant bass out of the thickest grass. “I like 50,” he explained, noting that while it’s not quite as strong as 65- or 80-pound test, it’s more manageable, quieter, and slips into tight spaces with greater ease.
He also utilizes a range of Fitzgerald rods, usually rated for 1/2- to 2-ounce weights since that’s his typical range, but he’ll vary the length. When the area he’s fishing is wide open above the surface, he might go up to a 7’8” or 7’10” stick, but if he’s in a thick forest of standing timber, or punching around boat slips, a 7’ extra-heavy might get the call. He typically goes somewhere in between, and noted that 7’3” is just a good, versatile length.”
His soft plastics are generally compact models, and he keeps his colors simple: “Some kind of black and blue or some kind of green.”
If you want to learn some of LeBrun’s other punching technique nuances, including his favorite soft plastic color variation for muddy water, and how he adjusts his tungsten weight sizes to dial in maximum effectiveness, check out his full on-the-water video, available only by subscribing to The Bass University TV.