Waking Surface Swimmers at Night
From sun up to sun down, splashing poppers, Sammy's, Spooks
will work all day, even at high noon. After dark, however, I
would rather not use such topwaters. All through the night, I
would rather wake surface swimmers slowly on top.
One of my favorite night baits is commonly found in
tackle shops, yet often overlooked by bass anglers. It's the
Cotton Cordell Red Fin, a 5 inch 5/8 ounce plastic lip swimmer.
Normally, if you retrieved it quickly, the Red Fin could get down
about 3 feet deep. But the most effective way to use it is so
slowly it never gets below the surface film. This is best done at
night, especially if there is a flat surface on the water -
either flat and still, or flat and moving current.
It is less effective to wake the surface when there is a
pitching current, heavy rain, wind, chop, waves or ripples that
break up the water surface and make it harder for bass to track
the wake of the Red Fin.
It is also a great bait for dead-drifting downstream in
current. Just cast slightly upcurrent, let the line tighten as it
swings past you without reeling while the Red Fin struggles
downstream. The Red Fin is a real sleeper of a lure that
few people use, especially at night.
If I had to pick one color to use for surface
swimmers at night, make mine white. Let me have a second color at
night? I would go for black. A third color would be blue/chrome.
Just caught too many bass on the blue backs - can't think of
anything else that would be a better third choice than that for
me! During twilight, the original blue/chrome color often works
better than all black or all white. Those are the big three
producers for me over a lifetime of bagging bass. Sure, there's
been lots of hot colors that I can fondly recall depending on
season, place, and resident bait - but I can't think of any other
colors that have caught so consistently for me over the long term
as the white, black, and blue/chrome.
With Red Fins, paint some of the ones with chrome sides. The
ones that come with white sides are a denser plastic, whereas the
ones with chrome sides are a lighter, more buoyant plastic that
you can wobble more slowly on the surface, leaving a vee wake.
You're buying these metallic ones in order to paint them all
white or all black for night fishing. First, barely sand
them, then give them a thin spray of either flat white or flat
black paint and you'll do much better at night. Once the paint
dries, replace the original trebles with super thin yet super
sharp premium brand trebles. Fish will hook themselves on these
Make a Super-Vee Waker
There is a modification that you can perform on a
Red Fin that will make one special. You can slightly melt the lip
enough to bend it back, thereby making a super-vee waker!
Carefully take a cigarette lighter or safe heating device, turn
the flame way down low, and hold it near the base of the lip
where it joins the body of the bait. Better to heat it too slowly
than too quickly. This works better on the solid-colored ones
like the Smoky Joe color pattern for example. The ones with
chrome paint have a tendency when heated to bubble up a bit. Just
heat gently, and use a flat stick like a paint stirrer or
straight-edged ruler to slowly bend the lip back towards the tail
a bit. This modified bait works best on those super quiet nights
when everything is flat and during those first and last hours of
twilight when everything is moving slowly. This one almost twists
and turns in place without moving forward, causing explosive
strikes. Just reel in as slow as possible. Holding the rod tip up
and to the side often helps fine-tune the surface-swimming
Tease Them to Please Them
Make a small fluorocarbon leader about two feet long with a
swivel at one end. Tie a second small length of line (about six
inches) to the swivel, and knot a small black or white feather
teaser on a single hook to the short trace. You'll probably have
to tie these yourself on a 4/0 O'Shaughnessy hook. Use stainless
steel hooks so the feathers don't get rust rot. Tie the natural
curve of the feathers (about 6 of them) all facing in - like a
"praying hands effect. Strip all the fuzzy part off the top
stem of the feathers and only wrap with the neat, gauzy filament
part. This may be illegal in some states to fish two lures on one
line, but if it's allowable, you will often catch more fish on
the teaser than on the Red Fin. The teaser is a most effective
night time summer bait.
For the color of a teaser, most of the time I use all white or
all black teasers and do fine. A third color would be
chartreuse/white combination. Usually, the color is neither the
attraction nor the trigger, It is the feather material that
provides the allure, the attraction, the seductive come-hither.
Hold the bare hook bend in a table vise or pair
of hand-held needlenose vise grips. Use fly-tying thread in a
weighted bobbin, which keeps tension on the thread when you let
it hang down. Take about 6 to 8 hackles. With a very pointy
scissors, snip right where the fuzzy marabou-like part of the
feather gives way to the webbed filaments. You do not want to tie
using any of the fuzzy, frizzy part at all...so use your fingers
to strip any last fuzzy piece and/or strip a few webbed filaments
off the stem, just enough to give you a bare stub of stem to wrap
under the thread, okay? Now, start wrapping the longest feathers
first. Right side, left side, right, left, right, left... for 6
to 8 feathers...wrap the longest ones first and the shortest ones
last. Never wrap on the top or bottom of the hook. It is perfect
if there a gap from top to bottom between the two sides - it
creates water flow, enhanced movement and vibration. Overall, you
are looking to wrap a pennant-shaped, therefore fish-shaped
What more do you need to know? Well, it would
have been pretty sneaky of me not to say that the
"inside" of the feather MUST BE WRAPPED FACING THE
INSIDE of the teaser. This is called the "praying
hands" method of feather-tying. Now just put the slightest
amount of clear nail polish on the wraps, but be very careful it
doesn't wick up into the feathers. Do not build up a bulky thread
head. Do not use a glob of epoxy to build a "head n'
shoulders". The only thing a big head does is dampen out the
desirable movement that water flow gives to the the teaser the
way I recommend you tie it. Remember, a sparse teaser and less
thread is often better than overdoing it. That's it! That's all
there is to tying a feather teaser.
The second type of surface swimmer I use
at night is the original "Danny Surface Swimmer", a
wooden metal-lip plug made by legendary striped bass lure
designer Danny Pinchney of Long Island, New York. Truly a monster
largemouth and smallmouth bass bait at night.