The morning starts out with a fresh, Texas-rigged softbait. After an hour and a half, a cup of coffee, and several bass, tattered baits begin to pile up on the deck. By noon, a few more fish, sardines for brunch, and another handful of torn baits. By day's end, you can barely find the trolling-motor pedal under all the discards. Time to find a garbage bag and tidy up. But wait -- there are ways to breathe new life into old baits and catch a bunch more bass in the process.
For Gregg Meyer, tournament angler and tackle tweaker from Wilsonville, Nebraska, turning old lures into innovative fish-catching packages is nothing new. Over the last decade, his experiments have allowed him to catch lots more bass than with conventionally rigged baits. Bass rigging with tubes, worms, and shad baits in atypical fashion, he creates unique actions bass can't resist.
Meyer developed his methods while brainstorming ways to present lures bass aren't accustomed to seeing, especially on heavily fished waters. "When you think about working baits backwards, sideways, anyways, rather than the usual head-on movement, you expand your presentation option many-fold," Meyer says. "Using worn baits is a cost-effective way to experiment, because you can go through lots of them while trying to create the right action. And it's fun to see how each variation works."
Baits rigged with Meyer's methods duplicate baitfish behaviors that standard riggings can't match. "The basic rigs offer limited presentation options, the ones everyone uses. By getting creative with hook and weight placement, you can make lures act more erratically. You can better imitate feeding minnows, scooting craws, or sickly baitfish that prove highly attractive to bass. It's a blast to demonstrate these rigs in the big tanks at sport shows -- anglers are amazed at how they dance and how bass react to them."
Just when you'd thought all the variations for rigging tubes were exhausted, Meyer came up with a new one, "backward tubin'" -- it works with any size tube and is deadly for any species that craves a tube, from trout to crappies to bass.
In backward tubin', the leadhead jig is inserted with the hook point exposed at the tube's nose, rather than at the tentacle end. The most basic backward tubin' rig involves inserting the hook of a ballhead jig into the tube so that it exits the nose, while the ballhead fits snugly in the tube at the tentacle end. Pop the jig eye out one side.
"It's important that the tube seals tight around the jighead," Meyer says. "Coating the jighead with Vaseline or a viscous fish attractant makes it easier to insert, and the tight seal locks air inside the tube. This buoyancy causes crazy action," he says.
"If the jighead is placed too close to the nose of the tube, its action is compromised and the tube falls more normally. When you achieve the right balance, the tube circles as it falls. When it's retrieved, it looks like a crawdad in motion. If the weight is near the back of the tube, it parachutes on the fall and flares on the pull, much like a retreating crawdad. Crawdad colors are natural," he adds, "but don't be afraid to experiment."
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Meyer's backward tube can be rigged weedless by burying the hook point below the outer surface of the tube. Another variation is to inject liquid scent into the hollow space before the jighead is inserted. "Remember that replacing the air pocket with liquid changes the balance and action of the tube," he explains. "Pierce the tube so the scent can seep out. Another variation is to load one, two, or three steel BBs into the tube before inserting the jig. They shift, constantly changing the tube's action as it falls or is retrieved, and they rattle as they strike each other."
For a super-crazy tube, rig it with a floating jighead rather than with a leadhead. Lube the inside of the tube, add several small ball bearings, and insert a floating jighead. The floating head plugs the cavity and, voilÃ¡ -- crazy tube.
THE INCREDIBLE FEEDING MINNOW
When you watch small minnows feeding on the bottom, they often hover nose-down, descend to pick up a morsel, then rise back up tail-first, repeating the process when they spot another goodie. It's a subtle maneuver that's difficult to reenact with a traditional rig, but Meyer has concocted a plastic trick called the "feeding minnow" that mimics this motion.
"This technique is a lot like backward tubin', but uses slender plastics -- worms, minnows, craw-worms -- to create the illusion of baitfish feeding on the bottom. Imagine," he says, "nose touches bottom, lure gracefully backs up and then noses down again. Curlytail grubs and wider-bodied swimbaits don't work as well for this technique. Try a straight worm 6 inches long or less," he recommends.
"Rigging the feeding minnow can be accomplished two ways," he says. "The first is to thread the mono line inside the plastic bait from the rear, which allows the hook position to be forward and the action and flexibility to be enhanced in the back portion of the plastic."
Meyer begins by inserting a lubricated, thin metal tube into the tail of the worm, then carefully pushes the tube through the middle of the bait, eventually working the tube out the side of the bait where you want the hook point. The Rig'r Probe from Tonka Lures (tonkaluresinc.com), a sewing-style needle designed for threading line through baits, is another handy option. "With the tube still inside the bait, slide the line from the back end of the tube so it exits closer to the head," he instructs, "leaving a 6-inch tag-end. Hold the tag-end and remove the tube so the line remains threaded inside the lure."
He then ties a straight-shank hook to the tag-end, selecting the appropriate style and size to match the bait. Pull the line from the rear to draw the hook shank into the cavity created by the metal tube, leaving the hook point exposed on the outside. The shorter the hook shank used, the more line that's inside the bait and the more supple the rigged lure is.
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Next, he adds weights to the head end of the bait to give it the desired rate of fall for the depth and type of structure being fished. Meyer uses a metal tube to insert BB shot, and a dab of superglue ensures that it stays put. Another weighting option is to use a plain jighead with a thin wire hook. "Just straighten the hook and insert the wire into the nose of the bait. The barb helps hold it in place. You can shove the leadhead up into the nose or leave it exposed. I like this option, because the jig pulls out from the bait if it snags and you don't lose the whole rig."
"Another variation that avoids threading line through the bait substitutes a long-shank hook. Plunge the hook eye into the bait where you want the point to be, pushing the shank up through the rear of the bait until the hook eye is exposed. Baits rigged this way aren't as flexible as when the line is threaded through the bait, but flexible rigs have more unpredictable action," he explains.
Once the rig hits bottom, Meyer imitates a feeding minnow by making smooth 6- to 24-inch lifts and drops of the rod tip. "Lifts may be slow and deliberate or with a popping action, with slight shakes to add a dancing motion just before the return to bottom," he says. "Sometimes I leave the bait on the bottom for 30 seconds or more -- it just depends on what the fish want. I tend to avoid jerk-jerk-jerk retrieves. Work the technique with the rod held at about 11 o'clock, with raises to about 12 o'clock," he says. "This keeps the lure in the strike zone longer."
"Backward rigging helps keep baits in strike zones longer compared to traditionally rigged baits. When you raise a bait from the rear, it works up and down in tight V's. When the line pulls from a lure's nose, it moves in a wider U, creating wide lifts that quickly move it out of narrow strike zones," he explains.
"Watch the line for the slightest movements that might indicate a strike -- Berkley Vanish Transition works well for this method. It's less visible underwater, yet easy to see above. Anyone who has jigged for lake trout can tell you how critical line size and visibility can be. A sensitive rod helps create this subtle action and increases feel."
So, the next time you're faced with a mound of used plastics, choose a few to "erraticize" with the Meyer method. The rigs shown here are only a few examples of how to give new life to your used baits and your old techniques. Experimenting with different shapes and actions can unleash the potential for unlimited backwards, sideways, and anyways riggings that promise you more bass every time out.