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How to Hitch a Trailer to Your Bait

By Russ Bassdozer

What not to trailer-ize. If it's okay with you, I'd like to kick off this article in a round-about manner. Let's identify what not to trailer-ize first, okay? This doesn't mean that you can't lace trailers onto the following baits, just that it isn't normally done. So here goes. Trailers are hardly ever used on lipped or lipless crankbaits or on hard jerkbaits. Soft plastic lure bodies (worms, grubs, spiders, craws, lizards, tubes, shads, soft stickbaits) are used on jigheads, Texas rig in cover, Carolina rig on structure, or weightless on or near the surface. No one I know puts extra trailers on soft plastics, do you? Jigging spoons, blade baits and tail spinners typically go deep, cold and unadorned. Hard topwaters - poppers, walk-the-dogs, and twitching minnows - do work well with sparse hackle trailers on their tail trebles. You can get more info about this by listening in to Topwater Talk.

Hitch your wagons. But when we talk about trailers in this article, what we are going to give you are suggestions for trailers to hitch up to your weedless bass jigs. By default, we will also easily cover suggestions for spinnerbait and buzzbait trailers too! Why is this so? Well, bass jigs, spinnerbaits and buzzbaits are just three specialized forms of the same basic lure. All three feature a lead jig head, an upright single hook, and a rubber or silicone multi-strand skirt. Their specialized uses in bass fishing are as follows:

  • First, the weedless bass jig is the specialized bottom-probing form of this lure, often used in thick cover. This form sports a fiberguard hook protector to remain weedless and snagless on bottom or in cover.
  • Second, a buzzbait is a specialized topwater form. It is nothing more than a bass jig that has a bubbly pinwheel propeller wired onto it that keeps it planing on the surface.
  • And of course, a spinnerbait is simply a midwater form of a bass jig. It is used from just under the surface, to just over the bottom - and everywhere in between. I liken a spinnerbait to a "punk rock" version of a jig. It's just your standard jig with a wire-pierced nose, and an earring or two dangling over its head!

For a basic discussion of jig trailers therefore, we can easily apply the following suggestions not just to jigs, but to spinnerbaits and buzzbaits too. Ready? Let's go. Don't trail behind now.

Uncle Josh Hank Parker's Pro Cut FrogPork Chunks. Uncle Josh and Strike King are the major national distributors of pork, and there are a few smaller manufacturers with regional popularity in the South and West. Click here to learn how pork chunks were originally invented during the summer of 1920 due to a scarcity of frogs for bait in Wisconsin! Pork's has a toughness which is both an advantage and a disadvantage. It's good that bass will not be able to tear the pork off the hook as they easily do with plastic chunks. It's bad in that when a bass inhales your jig, chunk and all, the tough pork can cover the point of the hook, thereby preventing the hook from setting properly - or at all. End of game. You lose. Nevertheless, properly softened pork has a supple movement and exudes a concentrated scent and saltiness fresh out of the jar. This life-like movement and scent is no illusion to the fish - pork chunks were alive at one time! Plastic chunks can only imitate these life-like properties of pork. On a final note, some pork chunks are too stiff right out of the jar. To soften them, you can put a few drops of glycerin into the jar a few days prior to use. But you must then use them soon, because this softening process also shortens the storage life of the pork.

Prowler Pro Pitch ChunkPlastic Chunks. Plastic chunks are perhaps the most popular of all jig trailers. Some of the most popular styles of plastic chunks are made by Zoom Bait Company. Lunker City, Kalin's, and many other national and regional manufacturers also offer their versions of chunks. For the longest time, most plastic chunks exactly duplicated the size and shape of pork frogs. More recently, manufacturers are starting to promote chunks that have flattened claw-like appendages rather than the straight "frog legs". Both bass and anglers are both showing an affinity for the newer "claw chunk" styles.

Most anglers feel that plastic chunks work as well as pork for them. Plastic chunks still have the disadvantage that they are big, bulky, and can cover the hookpoint when a big bass inhales it, thereby making for a poor hookset that occasionally drives the point into the chunky plastic rather than into the fish's mouth. Of course, all the fish that you lose this way are the biggest ones of the day! Another disadvantage is that most anglers impale plastic chunks onto the hook in the same manner that they impale a pork chunk, thereby making it very easy for a bass to rip the chunk off the hook when it bites or hits short. To combat this, many anglers insert a short piece of toothpick into the chunky part in front of the point where the hook sits in the chunk. In this way, it is not so easy for a bass to tear off the chunk, but it still can fold over and impede a good hookset this way. Why not try what I do with chunks? Instead of going in the bottom and out the top of the chunk like usual, why not thread the chunk onto the hook shank as if you were starting to rig a worm? That's right, start rigging front and center like you do with most soft plastics, but take the hook out the top of the chunk once it has penetrated about 1/2 inch. The chunk should still sit well back on the hook shank, just before the bend starts. Make sure it lies fairly flat. It can even point upwards slightly. Then, slide it back up, put a shot of superglue on the hook shank where the pork will sit, and slide it back down into place. Once dry, the pork will stay in place without getting torn off as easily, and it will not fold over and interfere with a good hook set very often either! 

Now let's mention some less popular alternatives. Less popular with anglers, but bass belt 'em good!

Yamamoto 5" Double Tail GrubYamamoto double tail grubs. To me, this is the best alternative trailer to a pork or plastic chunk. Why? Because pork or plastic chunks will eventually cause you to lose something - BIG BASS. The pork or plastic chunk will ultimately fold over your hook point, and prevent the hookset from penetrating the maw of a big one. Trust me, it will happen to's not a matter of if but when! Not so with the fat, feisty double tail grubs. You thread them all the way up onto the hook shank, and lock 'em on with a little shot of superglue. The body is much more compact than the fleshy chunks, and can't get in the way when a fish bites. I like these particularly for slowly swimming a buzzbait or slow rolling a spinnerbait, using a lift/drop spinnerbait pattern on bottom, or for fishing a short arm spinnerbait just like a jig. Use grub and skirt color patterns to imitate crayfish. Most commonly used are either 4" or 5" sizes.

Yamamoto 7" Double tail GrubAnglers rarely use the bulkier 6" or 7" sizes of double tail grubs , which can be pinched down to from a squat, bulky trailer. Once pinched short, it can be threaded up onto the hook shank, or impaled like you would a pork chunk, using a piece of toothpick to help prevent bass from tearing it off. This option is not at all unlike rigging a pork or plastic chunk, but without as much risk of losing your bass of a lifetimel because the grub body is more compact and interferes less than a bulbous chunk during the hookset.

On the double tails, either threaded or impaled, I rig it "flat" for the illusion of crayfish claws or for more "lift" as I swim the lure. Surprisingly, I also rig it "straight up" which you will rarely see people do with a double tail. I think it more closely imitates a wide-bodied shad, shiner or bluegill when the double tail is rigged straight up, and pinched down really short so the tails barely extend past the jig skirt strands! Why not try it yourself?

4" Mister TwisterMister Twister 4" curly tail worms. I mostly use single tail grubs as stand-alone lures on unskirted jig heads, or I may remove the skirt completely from a spinnerbait or buzzbait and replace it with a single tail grub body. I don't use single tail grubs much as trailers on rubber or silicone-skirted lures. Sure, they'll work alright. They just never seemed to produce spectacular results - at least not for the bass that I catch! But there is one exception, which is special use of the original Mister Twister curly tail worm as a deadly spinnerbait trailer in rivers, tidal waters, and areas of current flow. The extra thick, strong curly tail produces a heavy rippling vibration that attracts gamefish in flowing water. Most of the delicate, thin-tailed curly worms and grubs on the market today just cannot produce the strong vibrations that stimulate fish to strike like the Mister Twister does in current flows. Also works well as a trailer in still waters whenever you are fishing spinnerbaits at a fast clip to cover lots of water. Another plus is that this curly tail is durable, so you won't lose your tail to fish or snags as easily as with other single tail grubs. Try white twisters and black twisters with skirts the same color. Also chartreuse twisters on white skirts. By the way, Mister Twisters are also the best trailer to use on Johnson Silver Minnow spoons on stout gear in the slop and reeds. The best time for this is at the beginning and end of the day in early summer...right before the water gets too hot in mid-summer. The key point about the Mister Twister is that the curly tail is much thicker than most other curly-tailed grubs so it creates very strong vibrations as it wriggles frantically behind the spoon or spinnerbait. Equally important, the tail is thick enough to drag through heavy cover all day without being torn off by tough weed stalks. On the Johnson's you don't just put the grub onto the hook so it lays straight like on a spinnerbait - instead thread the grub body a little bit up onto the curvature of the spoon's hook - and secure it to the butt of the spoon with a little spot of super glue. It will look a bit odd this way as it kind of points up at an angle. I use black, white, and chartreuse grubs. The gold spoon/black grub combo is pretty as a picture, and it is deadly under low light conditions at dawn, dusk, or in those ion-charged, magical moments just before a summer squall (act responsibly, and seek a safe haven before any squall approaches close enough to endanger you). Use silver spoon/chartreuse grub in turbid or muddy water.

Prowler Pro Pitch Eel ChunkLong, slim plastic copies of pork chunks. Technically speaking, these are actually plastic imitations of pork twin tail eels. During late 1998, Prowler Pro Pitch Lures introduced a slimmer, longer twin-tailed plastic pork frog chunk than you usually see in the market. It has a slim plastic chunk up front, followed by two long, thin, straight "frog legs." Looks like a typical plastic or pork chunk, but I have never seen one so narrow and so long in the legs. It is definitely a great-shaped trailer for spinnerbaits and buzzbaits.

Prowler Pro Pitch CrawPork, the other white meats. Pretty much everyone is familiar with the fleshy pork frog chunks, but there are other varieties of the white meat that are largely forgotten, but still effective, bass trailers. Try the Uncle Josh 4" twin tail eels, particularly on sparsely-skirted spinnerbaits. Also try the following double trailer cocktail on a sparsely-skirted jig. First, thin out and trim down the jig skirt more than normally. Second, pinch down a craw worm body, one with realistic-looking claws, and thread it onto the hook shank. Use a bit of superglue to secure it. Now, slip an Uncle Josh 4" twin tail eel onto the hook. The shortened, sparser skirt hints at crawfish legs, the realistic claws are an obvious signal to bass, and the twintail eel legs top off the illusion of crayfish antennae flicking back and forth! Remember, we are dealing with an animal driven by instinct. Imprinted in bass, there is an innate urge to prey upon anything its instinct recognizes as food. As fishermen, all we require are colors, shapes, and prey characteristics that create an impression that "suggests" food. Actual realism is rarely needed (that would be called shiner fishing).  It does not have to be picture perfect. We simply have to send out the right signals. We have accomplished that with the legs, claws, and antennae of the lure we just described here. All we really have to do is give enough illusion to suggest prey to the bass and its instinct will take over from there.

Don't use a trailer. After reading this far, it's probably the last thing you expected to hear, but I always prefer to fish spinnerbaits and buzzbaits without trailers. The bass I catch don't seem to care, so why bother! On bass jigs though, I religiously use trailers. Just the way I was raised I guess.


Preyfish Colors. Divide your jig, spinnerbait and buzzbait color patterns into two series: a crayfish series and a baitfish series. In the baitfish series, always sling a white silicone-skirted jig with a smoke/silver flake (135) trailer. This combo represents shad, shiners, minnows and such. Z-man is a silicone skirt manufacturer that produces a series of semi-translucent white skirts called “glimmers”. They have overtones like gold, blue, etc. Sunlight gives a living, vibrant sheen to the glimmer colors. Also, consider a “rainbow trout” pattern which is green back/black flakes with white/pink glimmer belly. Works well everywhere, even where rainbow trout don’t happen. Might want to toss a “golden shiner” or “shad” pattern too.

On all these skirt patterns, try the smoke trailer with silver, gold or copper metal flakes to match. What the smoke-colored trailer gives you is contrast against the white-bellied skirts. Contrast is an important thing in a lure. In this case of contrast, the smoke trailer is used to sharpen the appearance and silhouette of the skirt's white or baitfish pattern. As far as shaping the skirt's silhouette, I trim both the front and rear-facing fronds of the skirt to create an overall willow leaf-shaped "layered look" that presents the silhouette of either a crayfish or a baitfish body. Also, I do not leave too much of the skirt trailing out past the hook. Bottom line, I like the skirt strands to be cut at all different lengths, forming the overall effect of a gradually tapering body. Worst to me is when the skirt ends are just cut square.

You can also try a white single tail grub trailer instead of the twin tail. Many anglers feel strongly that the single tail grub trailer represents a baitfish better than the twin tail, but I don't think the bass feel as strongly about this as some anglers do. And talking about pork, try a white Strike King Bo Leech, which is a chunky fish-shaped pennant of pork. Or buy a bottle of Uncle Josh Offshore Bigboys, which comes with two large pork rinds for marlin and tuna, but that you can cut into 14 bass-sized, fish-shaped pennants. Another baitfish pattern is fire tiger and its derivatives, which on a jig can represent yellow perch and sunfish patterns. These gaudy patterns provide increased visibility in thick cover, in stained water, or for highly active fish in spring and fall, particularly pre-spawn. Try white or chartreuse trailers with the fire tiger family.

Crayfish Colors. When bass are on crayfish (and they usually are), match the color. When crayfish are greenish brown with orange spots, use a brown/orange skirt with smoke rootbeer/green & copper flake (236) trailer. When crayfish are black/red, try black/red skirt with black/red flake (051) trailer. When they're blackish brown, try the black/red skirt with watermelon/black & red flake (208) trailer. In clear water, crayfish are sometimes smoke-colored with powder blue, bright orange and white accents on their claws and bellies. A good clear water match is a clear crystal/copper flake skirt with a smoke/copper flake (163) or clear/bronze flake (200) trailer. When I make this one, I make a custom matching tri-tone fiberguard of blue, orange and clear fibers. The colors referenced here are from Gary Yamamoto's catalog. I am using them because you can click on the color codes to go to that web site to see a large image of that color.

In dark or dingy water, I like a black skirt with an orange trailer for contrast. You can use a black laundry marker to spot and mottle the orange trailer. At night, start right off with some contrast in the skirt itself - use a black/chartreuse skirt. Then add more contrast by sweetening it with a light brown trailer such as amber honey/copper flake (182) or root beer/gold flake (149).

Zoom Colors. As mentioned above, the Zoom jig trailers are good choices that are popular with both anglers and bass! My favorite Zoom picks are basic blacks and blues such as Black/\Red Glitter (01), Red Shad (25), Black/ Blue Glitter (72), Flippin' Blue (66), and Sapphire Blue (110). In the browns and greens, look into: Watermelon Seed (19) which is similar but clearer than Green Pumpkin (25), Watermelon/Red Glitter (54), Crawdad (92), and Brown (117). Also, there are two newer colors that are good: Blue Olive, Green Olive.

Hitch 'em up. Hope to see ya out on the trail-er!

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