Apr 26, 2012, 4:12 PM EDT
I was at Berkley’s Spirit Lake, Iowa, facility a few days back for a meeting. I love walking into that building because it simply reeks fishing, and I’m not just smelling the Gulp! they manufacture there. For decades this was the national headquarters for the company (it’s now in Columbia, South Carolina), and it’s still a critical cog in the company’s overall operations. They manufacture monofilament and more here, plus its the home of their research team that develops legendary products like PowerBait and FireLine.
What’s not known by most, is that the Spirit Lake area is also home to a number of great fishing lakes including Big Spirit, West and East Okoboji, and others, and all offer top fishing for walleye, pike, muskie, largemouth and smallmouth bass.
That makes it easy for the Berkley team to subject promising new products to some real-world testing, and believe me they put every product they make through rigorous testing before it ever hits the market. A recent example of this their new “unifilament” line Nanofil, which won numerous awards worldwide as the best new product of 2011. Testing on Nanofil last several years before it was market-ready.s
For Mark Sexton, project manager-new product design and evaluation, this testing protocol is welcomed because his job description include “field testing” In other words, Mark gets paid to fish. And I got to join him the other day on West Lake Okoboji.
Per Mark, a recent front had dropped water temps 9 degrees from the previous week, but the fish were still going well. We stopped first spot on a shallow gravel/rock bar in 6 feet of water. The spot had produced two 5-pound-plus smallmouths for Mark in recent days. I picked up a spinning rod that had a firetiger jerkbait attached, while Mark reached for one a small Bandit crankbait. Both reels were loaded with prototypes lines, one a braid, the other a fluorocarbon.
Just 10 casts into the afternoon, I rolled a big smallmouth that took the jerkbait, but didn’t hook him. I saw the fish flash in the clear water at the hookset, and it was wide a brown–a smallmouth running at least 4 pounds. Mark picked up a couple small largemouths before we left to fish a series of docks with a new PowerBait worm design. I can’t share much of what the bait looks like yet, but I can say it designed for maximum scent dispersion. I can also assure you it catches fish!
Mark landed a small largemouth on the bait off the third dock we fished. We headed to another series of docks in a more protected bay. We immediately spotted a wad of fish in the shallows, including some nice largemouths, a few panfish and a roaming muskie that went close to 20.
I picked off a couple fish with the prototype worm, while Mark started throwing the jerkbait. Within minutes, it because clear that the jerkbait was the day’s best choice.
I don’t know why jerkbaits are so deadly on pre-spawn bass, both largemouth and smallmouth. All I know is the bait’s action when fished with a series of short, hard, jerks with pauses in between will take them when they ignore just about anytime else. I like fishing jerkbait on a 6 1/2-foot spinning rod with a soft tip. The rig cast and fishes well, and the soft tip improves hooking percentages.
One tip when fishing these baits–introduce just a small amount of slack before ripping the rod tip down. This gives the bait a more erratic, darting action than you get when activating the bait on a tight line. Listen for the little “hiss” the line will make as cuts through the water. This tells you you are doing it right.
Over the next hour fishing offshore rocks and gravel in 6 fish of water, we landed a number of nice bass including a surprising amount of largemouth. On one bar, the jerkbait outfished the Bandit crank 5-0, and on another it went 4-1. The results speak for themselves.–Steve
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