Living on the shores of Lake Erie has added a unique perspective to Bassmaster Tour pro Frank Scalish's tournament tactics. He was hip to tubes and their fish appeal long before many others, thanks in part to experience with smallmouth bass that eat tubes like candy off Erie's shoals and rockpiles.
Scalish now has another special weapon in his tackle system. It's a lure that's more widely known among anglers who troll the wide-open spaces of the Great Lakes in search of schools of walleyes suspended around giant pods of baitfish. The Cleveland, Ohio, native credits the lure – Bomber's deep-running Long A (model B24A) – for keeping him in the hunt at the recent Clarks Hill Bassmaster Tour event.
Scalish admitted he gets odd stares when he pulls out a rod with the Model 24A tied on.
"I'd say it's something few, if any, pros are throwing," he said. "Every time I pull it out, bass fishermen wonder what the heck it is. But the walleye guys know all about it."
He fishes the lure as a deep-diving jerkbait and works it over the edges of vegetation down to 10 or 12 feet. If he needs to get the bait even deeper, he'll add a strip of lead to the belly.
"It tears through the grass really nice. When I feel the lure hit the grass, I snap the rod and it busts right through."
At Clarks Hill, he targeted hydrilla and elodia.
"I make long, sweeping pulls rather than jerks. I'll pull the bait a full rod length, then pause and pick up the slack. Then I pull it again. The sweeps are probably about 6 feet."
Scalish called the deep-diving Long A an "interceptor bait." He employs it before the bass are fully committed to the shallow water – before they reach "Rogue range." The Rogue is a jerkbait made by Smithwick.
"Sweeping the model 24A has been very productive for me," he said. "The bait has a very tight vibration, which is what you want in the cold weather. When I pull, I can really feel the bait vibrating down there."
He culled through eight bass during the first day of the Clarks Hill event, and six the second day, including a 6-pounder. He finished with two limits that totaled 19-04 – good for 38th place and a check while many anglers struggled.
He said the lure has a 3 1/2-inch Long A body with a diving lip similar to that used on the Bomber Model 8A crankbait.
"It's a walleye lure, basically, and it'll run down to about 20 feet when trolled. But it's also one of the most fish-catching jerkbaits I own."
Since getting the lure down is important for catching pre-spawn bass, Scalish typically spools up with fluorocarbon line when fishing the deep-diving Long A.
"The bait runs deep naturally, but I get more control over depth with 8- and 10-pound fluorocarbon because it sinks. Plus, it helps me snap the bait out of the grass."
He said the deep Long A easily runs to 10 feet on 10-pound Silver Thread fluorocarbon line and, 11 to 12 feet on 8-pound.
He said the setup is most productive when the largemouths are in a pre-spawn stage and vegetation is prevalent. But it's very effective on clear-water smallmouth bass, too.
"It's absolutely deadly on Lake Erie smallies," he said. "They'll come up over 20 feet of water to eat it."
For smallies, his preferred colors include black/gold, black/pearl-white sides and Tennessee shad.
His largemouth colors include a hand-painted version that incorporates a purple back, chartreuse sides and a white belly, as well as a ghost minnow color.
> Scalish uses a 7-foot Quarrow ML4 medium-action rod with the Long A. "You need a rod that's a little more stout, because you're really working the bait and you need hooking power."
> His preferred reel is a Shimano Chronarch (not a sponsor). "The high-speed reel picks up the slack quickly, which is important. You don't want a low-speed reel for this technique."