Bass Fishing, Bass Lures, Bass Boats, Russ Bassdozer

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Waking Surface Swimmers at Night

By Russ Bassdozer

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.

Simplifying Colors

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 replacement trebles.

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 action.

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.

Wrapping Tips

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 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 teaser.

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.


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