Big Swimmers for Big “First Light” Bass at the Canal – Jon Spencer

Big swimmers for big bass, seems logical right?  Of course it is!  Striper anglers have been throwing various forms of large swimming plugs for over 40 years, however it seems that many leave the biggest wood at home when they visit the Canal.  This is especially relevant for those who’s fishing preferences or work schedules lead them to fish first light; a time when the pencil popper seems to be the number one choice.  The purpose of this article is to show you that a bit of out of the box thinking can help you score big when others cast top-water plugs till their arms fall off!
So you may be thinking “big swimmers in all that current, your crazy” and you are  right…most of the time.  However, there are times when you can really take advantage of the Canal Tides to effectively offer the large bass swimming there a big, slow moving, desirable target.  As I mentioned above the go-to morning lure at the Canal without question is the Pencil Popper.  I have seen many show up with only pencils having made the assumption that it will produce more times than not.  I do not disagree that it is a great fish catching plug for first light action, however they have disadvantages like any other plug.  Namely many simply fish them to fast imparting little to no side to side action.  Some get away with that when the fish are up top in large groups, however as many of us noticed last year it didn’t happen frequently.  Many mornings had sporadic top-water action and often it seemed to be on the opposite bank of where this angler was standing.    So mornings with slim top-water action and a slacking tide made sense to run the biggest plugs in my arsenal in the slowing current, with most times great success.
The best time to utilize the largest plugs in your bag would be any time you can get away with it.  There are some minor considerations that need to be made to ensure your success, mainly that your presenting large swimmers in current they can swim well in.  Some plugs run in current better than others and knowing which in your collection are best suited for current will provide you with a major advantage.  Some of the larger eddy’s present an opportunity to offer up large swimmers to the cows that lurk below almost any time.  I have found that one of the most productive times to be on the morning low tides.  When the current is slacking you have an opportunity to cast out and hold large swimmers in the current for a good amount of time before they become parallel to shore.  This is a major advantage while bass ignore the 80 different pencils ripping across the surface.  Once the swimmer is close to parallel to shore you need to take into consideration how much current is working against the plug and pick your retrieve speed accordingly.   Sometimes this will be a dead crawl as any faster will cause the plug to swim incorrectly.  Take into consideration where bait likes to travel in the Canal and you’ll understand why this is so deadly.  Couple that technique with the correct structure such as some of the deeper holes close to the bank, the bridge pilings, and any large swirling eddy’s.
When trout fishing those that know well enough throw there offerings upstream and reel quickly to present the lure to trout facing upstream.  This technique is especially deadly at the canal, as it allows you to help negate the affects of the strong current.  Reel’s with higher line retrieve rates are more suitable as depending on location and current you may have to really crank to make the plug dig.  Other times a slower surface presentation from a cast up-current will do the trick.   As you may be realizing as you read this there are quite a few possible methods for using your largest plugs at the canal.

Big swimmers for big bass, seems logical right?  Of course it is!  Striper anglers have been throwing various forms of large swimming plugs for over 40 years, however it seems that many leave the biggest wood at home when they visit the Canal.  This is especially relevant for those who’s fishing preferences or work schedules lead them to fish first light,  a time when the pencil popper seems to be the number one choice.  The purpose of this article is to show you that a bit of out-of-the-box thinking can help you score big when others cast top-water plugs until their arms fall off!

Canal-1

So you may be thinking “big swimmers in all that current, your crazy” and you are  right…most of the time.  However, there are times when you can really take advantage of the Canal Tides to effectively offer the large bass swimming there a big, slow moving, desirable target.  As I mentioned above, the go-to morning lure at the Canal without question is the Pencil Popper.  I have seen many show up with only pencils having made the assumption that it will produce more times than not.  I do not disagree that it is a great fish catching plug for first light action, however they have disadvantages like any other plug.  Namely many simply fish them too fast imparting little to no side to side action.  Some get away with that when the fish are up top in large groups, however as many of us noticed last year it didn’t happen frequently.  Many mornings had sporadic top-water action and often it seemed to be on the opposite bank of where this angler was standing.    So mornings with slim top-water action and a slacking tide made it make sense to run the biggest plugs in my arsenal; and most times with great success.

Canal-2

The best time to utilize the largest plugs in your bag would be any time you can get away with it.  There are some minor considerations that need to be made to ensure your success, mainly that you’re presenting large swimmers in current they can swim well in.  Some plugs run in current better than others and knowing which in your collection are best suited for current will provide you with a major advantage.  Some of the larger eddy’s present an opportunity to offer up large swimmers to the cows that lurk below almost any time.  I have found that one of the most productive times to be on the morning low tides.  When the current is slacking you have an opportunity to cast out and hold large swimmers in the current for a good amount of time before they become parallel to shore.  This is a major advantage while bass ignore the 80 different pencils ripping across the surface.  Once the swimmer is close to parallel to shore you need to take into consideration how much current is working against the plug and pick your retrieve speed accordingly.   Sometimes this will be a dead crawl as any faster will cause the plug to swim incorrectly.  Take into consideration where bait likes to travel in the Canal and you’ll understand why this is so deadly.  Couple that technique with the correct structure such as some of the deeper holes close to the bank, the bridge pilings, and any large swirling eddy’s.

Canal-3

When trout fishing those that know well enough throw their offerings upstream and reel quickly to present the lure to trout facing upstream.  This technique is especially deadly at the canal, as it allows you to help negate the affects of the strong current.  Reel’s with higher line retrieve rates are more suitable as depending on location and current you may have to really crank to make the plug dig.  Other times a slower surface presentation from a cast up-current will do the trick.   You may be realizing as you read this there are quite a few possible methods for using your largest plugs at the canal.

Canal-4

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