Case Study: Potholes – New Lure Testing Ground

This is the second part of a series on Potholes Reservoir in the state of Washington and how it provides the perfect case study for bass fishing.  If you missed part one, get it here.  Otherwise, below is part two.

I’d like to tell you about just a sample of the new, never used by me, lures that have had amazing, if not humorous, debuts at Potholes.  In each case, I had a feeling these lures might work, but they were so far different from anything else I had tried there before, that I wasn’t all together sure how to rig or work the lure.  As my experiences with each one unfolded, I began to really gain confidence in breaking in a new lure at Potholes.  It became somewhat of a joke about what lure was going to be the key bait this year!  It was almost like a new rookie making the club every year and not only making the team, but ending up as the Rookie of the Year and the league MVP!  These rookies are all seasoned veterans now, so it’s time to start telling there story in preparation for there respective Hall of Fame runs.

The Senko

Right around 2001 or 2002 was my introduction to the Senko.  I’m not claiming to be the first to use it at Potholes or even close, but the bass sure acted like I was the first to use it.  Now, of course, this wasn’t a Potholes thing.  The Senko was a phenomena all over the country.  But it sure made me feel like a pro at Potholes.  I don’t really want to spend much time on this one other than to give it a mention since it is so well known already.  However, I do want to say that the Senko and others like it, have become controversial in a weird sort of way.  Some consider the Senko so effective, it was borderline cheating, or at least “brainless” and frowned upon by some as too basic.  All of which goes to show what a truly remarkable lure it is to generate so much loyalty and so much disdain at the same time.

Bubblegum Trick Worm

I think it started because I read an article about fishing a “floating” worm around the spawn and how it was especially effective around flooded willows.  Hmm…I know a place like that.  Ray was with me that day, as he often was at Potholes, and an hour or so into the morning, I decided to try Zoom’s Trick Worm.  A pink one.  Ray was more than a little amused and I don’t think too concerned he didn’t have any, but nobody was around, so I wouldn’t have to explain my “sissy” lure on my “sissy stick” (spinning rod).  The Trick Worm was amazing that day.  It was mesmerizing to fish.  It seemed to glow in the water and when it disappeared, it was often because it had been swallowed by a nice largemouth.  The reaction from the bass, (and a few BIG smallmouth too) was like I was suddenly using live bait.

Over the years, I noticed there seems to be a critical window in which the Trick Worm is just that – like you’ve got a magic trick on the end of your line!  You can’t just go around willy nilly all year round and get the same feedback.  But during that certain window…man, is it ever a fun lure to use.  And Potholes isn’t the only place I’ve done well with it.  Banks Lake and Coeur d’ Alene are a couple of others where is works really well.  But I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

Zoom Trick Worm
Trick Worm(Bubblegum) rigged with 3/0 Gamakatsu offset hook

I never worried about hiding it from anyone, just because I thought they wouldn’t believe it was such a good lure at times.  It’s amazing, how many will assume you aren’t willing to show your real lures so you only have “dummy” lures on display.  It wasn’t always easy work throwing a Trick Worm around, especially on windy days, but it was (and still is) an effective lure and maybe one of the funnest things to use simply for the visual feedback you get from the lure and the bass.  Because of it’s slow sinking and bright color, seldom is the Trick Worm out of sight.  The only dicey part of it was hooking into big bass near willows with 10# line.

Many of you may have heard of using the Trick Worm as a backup bait for a bass that misses a buzzbait.  As we gained confidence in the Trick Worm, we decided to use it in combination with a buzzbait.  So the deal with this was that the guy in front of the boat would use a buzzbait and whenever a bass hit and missed, boiled or even just showed himself on the buzzbait, then the guy behind would throw the Trick Worm for an easy hook up.  This worked okay, but I remember one time in particular where Ray was working that buzzbait and I got impatient and started throwing the Trick Worm around without waiting for a missed strike.  Well, I had a bass boil on that Trick Worm and miss it and Ray throws the buzzbait over there and catches him.  Not exactly how the 1-2 punch was supposed to happen.

Enter the Swim Jig

In early June, 2005, Ray and I were prefishing for an ABA event.  It wasn’t like I just pulled the swimjig out of nowhere.  I had been reading about it’s use especially in the midwest and upper Mississippi River for largemouth.  The more I studied it, the more I thought it would be something worth trying at Potholes.  I made an order with Brovarney Baits in Wisconsin.  On that prefish day in 2005, I tied one on about mid-morning and along with Ray, we witnessed bass (largemouth and smallmouth) react to it like we had never seen before.  Bass were charging from 10-20 yards away to run it down.  The strikes were viscous and very visual in the clear water.  They would often “wake” the water (throw up a small wake as they made their way to the swim jig) in their pursuit.  I only had a couple of these in a june bug color (Brovarney’s color was “Gil”) with a Junebug Zoom Fat Albert grub.  I started out with a medium retrieve and then really got it going as the day wore along.  You couldn’t move it too fast.  But I could tell that the rod, reel and line were going to be critical components of this technique and that turned out to be very true.

Brovarney Swim
1/4 oz. Brovarney Swim Jig (“Gil”) with a Zoom Fat Albert grub (junebug)

The longer the casts, the better.  It simply gave more bass more time to track it down and it kept us and the boat off of the fish.  But making long casts around shallow wood cover is often a recipe for getting your heart broken.  All braid is often bad around willows and wood cover and straight mono had too much stretch to be effective over long distances and needing to get that hook into the bass now and not let him have his way with you in the willows.  So over time, I started testing new line combinations that would give me the best of both worlds.

Now, we’ve made a bunch of modifications to the swim jig system over the years, and trust me, we will go into detail on all of those later, but I feel it’s worth giving some credit to the original lure combination because it provided so many memorial moments in those early years.

Honorable Mention:

  • Zoom Horny Toad
  • 10-12″ Big Worms
  • Various Swim Baits (see video below)
  • Just about any “creature” bait ever made

By the way, that ABA event we were prefishing for, we took 2nd on Saturday and 1st on Sunday and you will see with the next article that I’m not bragging here!  Both days were very special and memorable and those days will be the subject of the next part as I look into what a couple of days look like where everyone thinks you’ve got it all dialed in – if they only knew the truth.  Next time.

Before you go, check out this example of using a new lure, in fact, a lure that can’t be bought anywhere because there was only one of them ever made.


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