Pros' tricks for choosing which bait, when
Artificial softbaits are deadly weapons for bass of all stripes, including largemouths and smallmouths. Always a threat, their combination of lifelike feel, profile and action triggers strikes when other baits won't.
Throw a bass-busting cocktail of scents and flavors into the mix like no other in the industry, and you wield even more fish-catching power on the end of your line.
Berkley offers a wide variety of softbaits, providing bass fans with options for virtually any fishing scenario. The arsenal is broken into three families: PowerBait, Gulp! and Havoc. Choosing the right bait for your personal style of fishing and the conditions at hand is a matter of understanding how members of these three families shine in different situations.
To help simplify the process in practical terms, we enlisted the services of top touring pros Scott Suggs and Justin Lucas. No strangers to success on bass fishing's national stage, they offer timely advice on choosing the right softbait.
PowerBait — "Berkley PowerBait is infused with natural attractants, so bass hang on longer once you get them to bite," says Suggs, an Arkansas pro who owes a string of top finishes to PowerBait, including a million-dollar win at the FLW Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita.
"PowerBait is one of my go-to softbaits for largemouths, especially on heavily-pressured lakes and whenever the bass aren't in a biting mood," Suggs continues. "When the fish are just pecking and poking at the bait, it gives me confidence knowing any bass that hits will hang on longer, allowing me more time to set the hook."
Northern California native Justin Lucas, also a top gun on the pro tour, agrees with Suggs' assessment. "PowerBait is a great all-around choice, and really key whenever bass are finicky," he says. "If I'm only getting six bites a day, it's critical not to miss a single fish; PowerBait gives me that ability because bass keep the bait in their mouth longer than non-scented softbaits."
Gulp! — A great option for flooding the strike zone with attractants while fishing slow-moving presentations, Gulp! catches all types of bass, but both Suggs and Lucas lean most heavily on its scent-dispersing powers when targeting smallmouths.
"I love throwing Gulp! for smallies because it produces many more bites than anything else," Suggs confesses. "Whether I'm up north fishing the Great Lakes or on Southern impoundments, it's my bait of choice for bronzebacks."
"There's no question Gulp! is deadly on smallmouths," adds Lucas. "It's my main bait for dropshotting smallies. Even when I'm throwing topwaters, jerkbaits and other presentations, I always have a dropshot rod close at hand, ready for a Gulp! Leech or Minnow."
Havoc — The newest addition to Berkley's softbait family, Havoc brings a breadth of colors, shapes and actions to the table. "PowerBait and Gulp! have the scents and flavors, while Havoc is geared to triggering bass feeding by sight and lateral line," Suggs explains. "It shines for faster presentations and aggressive fish."
"Havoc also excels in clear water, when I need to dial in specific color patterns to get bit," adds Lucas. Being able to tailor body shapes and actions to the mood of the bass and conditions at hand is also a plus.
Suggs is perhaps best-known for breaking into the Millionaires' Club with a 10-inch plum-colored PowerBait Power Worm at the Forrest Wood Cup. "It definitely got me the right bites when I needed them," he recalls.
The big worm is still a producer, but he religiously fishes a number of other PowerBait products as well. "On pressured lakes like Old Hickory, a Crazy Legs Chigger Craw on a football-head jig is hard to beat," he says.
Lucas likewise throws a variety of PowerBaits. One of his favorites for tackling tough bites is a 4-inch, green pumpkin-colored Berkley Power Hawg. Texas-rigged with a ¼- to 5/16-ounce bullet sinker pegged tight to a size 3/0 or 4/0 extra-wide gap hook, it's a deadly utility player. "You can throw this rig into any cover, anywhere in the country and catch bass," he grins.
Lucas likes 12- to 17-pound Berkley Trilene 100% Fluoro Professional Grade line for this technique—along with a number of other presentations—and confides that green pumpkin is his favorite Power Hawg color, though it always pays to experiment.
In the Havoc lineup, Lucas "fishes everything," but admits one of his favorite setups is a Pit Boss on 65-pound-test Berkley Trilene Braid Professional Grade, with a pegged 1- to 2-ounce sinker. "It's great for crashing thick weed mats," he says. "Punch it through the canopy, let it fall to bottom, then give it a twitch and hang on."
Suggs and Lucas share an appreciation for Gulp!'s ability to produce smallmouths on dropshot rigs. "It's one of my favorite ways to fish smallmouths," says Suggs. He rigs a 3-inch, olive-color Gulp! Leech threaded on a size 1 dropshot hook, eight to 24 inches above a ¼- to ½-ounce dropshot sinker. Suggs favors 15-pound Trilene Braid mainline with an 8-pound-test or heavier Trilene 100% Fluoro leader.
"It's perfect for drifting, and I also like fishing directly below the boat, using sonar to see how bass react to the rig," he explains. "Gulp! Minnows are also great for dropshotting, though you may need to upsize to a 1/0 hook."
Lucas wields a similar bronzeback dropshot setup, also favoring Gulp! Leeches and Minnows. He notes that keeping Gulp! baits charged is key to reaping their full bass-attracting potential. "I keep a bag with a handful of baits in my pocket, and the main stash in a Gulp! Alive! bucket tucked in a forward compartment," he says.
Softbaits are extremely versatile, capable of triggering strikes in a wide variety of conditions. By following Lucas and Suggs' tips, you can tailor Berkley's amazing arsenal to catch the most bass in any situation.