By Jonathan LePera
Special to BassFan
(Editor’s note: This is part 1 of an occasional 3-part series on how pro anglers utilize nail weights to improve their presentations.)
Bassmaster Elite Series angler Josh Bertrand isn’t totally opposed to using spinning rods. In fact, the Arizona resident is quite fond of them and is known for his dropshotting skills.
As a tournament angler, though, he needs a diverse tried-and-true bag of tricks, which includes fishing nail-weighted plastics – a technique he doesn’t particularly enjoy, but one he admits has its time and place to be effective.
Why It Works
Bertrand picked up the technique from other Arizona anglers and the first time he utilized nail-weighted plastics was while fishing for spotted bass at California'sLake Shasta.
“They were in 90 to 100 feet of water and I was targeting suspended fish relating to bridge pilings,” he said. “They were all through the water column, but a lot of those fish were 30 to 40 feet down.”
Bertrand sees the rig as “the last line of offense on those fish” when nothing else will work.
“It’s what I’ll throw when I can’t catch one on a dropshot,” he said. “I prefer to drop shot and use other techniques because I can dropshot a lot faster than I can fish a nail-weighted rig.”
Nail-weighted plastics can be a productive counter measure when fishing pressure starts to take its toll in a tournament.
“It’s a day-3 bait for me,” he said. “If there’s a school I’ve been hammering for two straight days, sometimes that third day is nice to be able to pull that nail-weighted worm out. If there is a spot you are sharing water with people it’s a nice bait to go in behind people.”
He recalled a local tournament a few years back in which he was able to generate bites from a particular grassy flat that was getting hammered.
“Everyone was fishing a drop shot and fishing weightless stick worms,” he said. “I threw this rig with a nail-weighted Berkley Bottom Hopper and I cleaned house behind everyone else.”
He also used the rig to cash a $10,000 check at the Kentucky Lake Elite Series BASSFest in 2015.
“It was my late day-2 and day-3 bait,” he added. “I had a couple schools I just smashed and that nail-weighted Bottom Hopper was my way to keep getting bit later in the tournament.”
It’s an especially useful tool when targeting suspended fish, he says.
“It has that slower, funky fall and gets their attention,” he said.
Upon casting the nail-weighted worm to fish on the bottom, especially those on deep structure, Bertrand will lift and drop it all the way back to the boat. When targeting suspended fish, once it hits the bottom, pick it up. If no bites materialize, shake it once or twice and reel it in.
Bertrand fishes a 7-foot medium-action Abu Garcia Veracity spinning rod paired with an Abu Garcia Premier 30 spinning reel spooled with yellow or white 8-pound Berkley Nanofil with an 8-pound Berkley 100% fluorocarbon leader.
“I think it’s critical to use a highly visible superline,” he said. “I’ll make the cast and let it come off the reel really smooth and watch that slack line as it falls for any movement to see if it jumps or swims off to the side or stops before it hits bottom. A lot of times you don’t feel a real hard bite, but you just feel it load up, reel into the fish and pull back.”
Bertrand prefers tungsten nail weights that he’ll insert toward the front of the new Berkley General soft-plastic stick bait, which was unveiled at ICAST in 2017, or the reliable 6 1/4-inch Bottom Hopper, both in plum color. He’ll hook a 1/0 Berkley Fusion 19 dropshot hook through the egg sack of the worm.
“If you use too big of a hook, you are not going to get as many bites,” he said. “If you use that smaller hook, you are going to get bit.”
Bertrand suggests rigging the bait with an O-ring might prevent the worm from balling up, as is typical when smallmouth and spotted bass bite.
When asked why more anglers don’t fish, or talk about, nail-weighted plastics, Bertrand surmises that the rig really isn’t that popular.
It is painfully slow to fish at times and for an angler who lacks confidence in the technique, they might not want to risk losing valuable time needed to fish it properly. No major tournaments have been won on the rig, so perhaps anglers have yet to realize the power of it, he suggests.
“I’m using it more and more because I see how effective it is,” he said.