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Big Rubber

By Russ Bassdozer

For those who like to follow pros, Davy Hite is truly a legend of our sport. In spring 2006. Hite bounced a big rubber jig, uniquely styled with extra long, super thick strands according to local custom, to win the Elite Series event this past weekend at Clark Hill Lake on the border of South Carolina and Georgia near Augusta.

You've surely seen flipping jigs before, but chances are, you've never seen jigs like Hite threw in that tournament, and you may never see them again. Not unless Hite and his cronies on the BASS tour continue to toss big rubber, but that's not likely.

Big rubber is something Stephen Bayazes of Belvedere, South Carolina turned me onto a while back. I often wished to write of it, but never did because big rubber is so far out of the ordinary for 99% of readers, they'd summarily dismiss it as not pertinent to them. All that changed momentarily when Davy Hite beat one hundred of the world's elite anglers with big rubber. Hite's success made it instantly of interest to every avid bass angler who now wants to know all about big rubber... if only for the moment.

You've seen jigs before, just never like these. Unless you are a weekend tournament angler who fishes in the vicinity of Belvedere, South Carolina, then you may have seen them - in your worst nightmares.

Belvedere is across the Savannah River from Augusta, Georgia and Clark Hill Lake where Davy Hite just won the Elite Series event on jigs like these.

Belvedere is also home to Stephen Bayazes Jr who operates the Superbass tackle store and makes custom jigs and spinnerbaits. He's the gent whose jigs are shown here. "This rubber has to be imported from Japan. It is custom made in order to get this thickness. People around here have already run out of the green pumpkin, and the guy who imports it says it'll be months before more gets here. I'm glad I still have twenty pounds of brown rubber in stock," says Bayazes.

"If you are going to win a tournament around here, you need a big bait, and this jig is something local anglers came up with to do that," claims Bayazes who has held nine world records for Savannah River species like stripers and hybrids, all caught with jigs.

"Jack Clements is the gentleman who taught me how to make jigs and spinnerbaits," says Bayazes. "Papa Jack as we call him is in his seventies now. He's the most humble human being I've ever met, but Papa Jack is the first I know to use the big rubber, making jigs with it on his kitchen table since the early seventies. One of the first local anglers to make a name with the big rubber, Greg Lovelace spearheaded that. He'd make up an Arkie style jig with a big old hook and the big brown rubber. Greg has spanked everybody in tournaments on Murray, Santee and Clark Hill with that big rubber jig for the last ten years," says Stephen.

"Greg's not alone though. Top guys here such as Joey Zielinski and Norman Adway, they were key in evolving the use of the big rubber too. For the last ten years, these gentlemen have won more boats and they've won every tournament you could ever think about winning around here. They've spanked everybody and all they ever do is throw jigs. The key is simple and this - the big rubber produces about a four pound average fish around here, and I don't know of many other lures that will do that," says Stephen. "You're going to fish for five to seven bites are all, but they're going to average three to five pounds apiece, on up to ten and eleven pounders."

"That big rubber, throw it in the water and the rubber comes alive, walks away from the body and does a dance on it. Each strand absolutely just bounces vibrantly," exclaims Stephen.

As bulky and extra long as the skirt is, Bayazes relies on a surprisingly small trailer. "The big rubber brings them over. It's the attraction at first. But when you pause that jig, there's rubber nowhere around it. It takes about two seconds for that rubber to expand all the way out, and the trailer is revealed. That's the prize morsel. When a four or five pound bass sees that succulent worm, the rest of the bait, the rubber, it just becomes secondary. It's like an oyster shell opening up to reveal a pearl inside. So that's the reason why a small trailer works," says Bayazes.

Another thing Stephen likes to do is get his trailer above the rubber, so the small trailer is never lost in the skirt. He either affixes a trailer keeper to the hook eye making the jig weedless, or else he threads the trailer up the hook bend so it's held upward at a forty-five degree angle. "Fish just don't have to kiss the dirt and the elevated trailer gives them a strike target separate and apart from the skirt. The trailer is what they lock their sights on."

"My favorite trailers are several sizes of Gary Yamamoto's Kut Tail Worms. I can use the skinnier smaller Kut Tails as is, and I get a lot of wiggling action out of these slender sizes. On the bigger Kut Tails, I can use them too, but always pinch the thicker head sections off, leaving only the slanky tail parts to thread on the jigs. One way it helps to think of this thick jig and thin worm combination is you are using the jig, the skirt and all that as a picnic blanket spread out to attract a big fish to a finesse worm that it would otherwise not have bothered with or not have found."

Many weekend tournaments in this neck of the woods are held on summer nights. "You have got to have sound and vibration in a jig at night," Bayazes emphasizes. "At night you've got to have rattles. It would be perfect if you could get a jig to sound like a Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap, but there's only so many rattles one can put on a jig."

"Four rattles is about standard at night. When you pop that jig out from hydrilla onto rocks, just keep working the rod tip so it bounces back and forth causing the rattles to click on the rocks. It just sings to them. That's usually when it gets hit," smiles Stephen.

"Indeed, areas combining weeds with rocks are the best spots for rattling big rubber. You can have rock pockets hidden inside weed beds where the weeds can't grow except around the rocks. You may know those rocks are down there in the weeds, but not exactly sure just where until the jig starts clicking. You're in a rock pocket then, and just slow way, way down and shake that thing, make that sweet music. Or you can have edges and transitions where weed beds meet gravel or rock. Ripping the big rubber through the weeds out onto the rocks is the ticket," says Bayazes.

"Several different jig head styles are used down here, but the Arkie style goes through weeds and rock better than any others. The Arkie profile stands up and keeps that worm tail held high up there like a proud flag waving. Other jig styles, they tend to turn over on their sides coming through grass and rocks. That taint no good'" says Bayazes.

"When the water is clear at night and the moon is out, black/blue is terrific. On an overcast or moonless night, straight black. In the daytime, green pumpkin or brown are often used. Jig fishing down here is fundamental. Add in tomato seed and cherry seed, and you can throw the rest of them [other colors] away," says he.

And while many anglers can't make up their minds whether red hooks work, Bayazes is a firm believer. "Especially at night, it [the red hook] separates the men from the boys."

"We only use big hooks on these jigs, even the light weight jigs have about the biggest 5/0 you can find. You get a faster hook set when a fish has a hook that big in its mouth."

Another thing you may not have seen before, Bayazes often using split rings on his jig hook eyes. This practice evolved for night fighting. "At night, you can't see and you can't easily counter what a fish is doing to throw the jig. With the split ring, a fish can work his head from left to right, and all the pressure is on the loose split ring, not direct pressure on the jig head it's trying to knock loose. You get three hundred and sixty degrees of movement. No pressure on the jig head or hook. All the pressure is on the the line, and the loose split ring can stop fish from having any direct movement of the line like when it's tightly-knotted to the jig."

Chances are, you've never seen jigs like these before, and may never see them again. So you can consider them more of a curiosity or local custom than anything, and you can summarily dismiss the big rubber. Unless you find yourself in a tournament on Clark Hill, Santee or Murray. Then you'll fear the big rubber and the men who use it.

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