May 12, 2014
By Ned Kehde
Recently a veteran Midwest finesse angler told us about Crock-O-Gator Bait Company's three-inch Swamp Bug. In this finesse angler's eyes, it looked to be an ideal bait to rig on a 1/16-ounce mushroom-style jig, and when we examined a photograph of it, we agreed. And after several behests from this finesse angler, we contacted James Dill of Sunrise Beach, Missouri.
Dill is the proprietor of the Crock-O-Gator Bait Company, which Don Carroll of Farmington, Missouri, started in 1984. Dill, who is a longtime and noted fishing guide on the Lake of the Ozarks, purchased it in 2010.
We talked with him on May 8 about the history of the Swamp Bug.
According to Dill, he and his brother Dan Dill of Cole Camp, Missouri, began developing and field-testing the Swamp Bug three winters ago. His goal was to create a bait to catch largemouth and spotted bass at the Lake of the Ozarks when the water temperature ranged from 38 to 44 degrees. What's more, he wanted a bait that replicated some of the characteristics of a gizzard shad and a crayfish.
Six pairs of ribs encircle its torso, and six appendages radiate from both sides of the torso. Each appendage is seven-eighths of an inch long, and they emanate from between each pair of ribs. It isn't endowed with a head; so, when it is attached to a jig, the head of the jig becomes its head.
Its tail is curly and similar to a traditional grub tail.
In the cold-water months, Dill likes to employ the Swamp Bug on Crock-O-Gator's 1/4-ounce Shakey Football Head Jig with casting outfits and fishing in the upper sections of the Lake of the Ozarks. He prefers to slowly drag it along the bottom, moving at a pace that allows the tail to subtly undulate and throb and its 12 appendages to twitch alluringly. He often deadsticks it, and Dill says its tail and appendages are so flexible that they will delicately gyrate during every deadstick presentation.
Even though it was created as a wintertime bait, Dill and other anglers have discovered that it inveigles largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass throughout the calendar year. It is especially affective during the prespawn, spawn, and post-spawn periods. Once the cold-water season ends, Dill will ply nearly every nook and cranny of the Lake of the Ozarks' 55,000 acres and 1,150 miles of shorelines.
Of course, most Midwest finesse anglers will wield it on spinning tackle and affix it to a 1/16-ounce Gopher Tackle Mushroom Head Jig or similar jig, and the hook will be exposed. At times, depending on the disposition and location of the largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass, they might use it on either a 1/32- or 3/32-ounce Gopher jig. And they determine which one of the six standard Midwest finesse retrieves is the most effective during each outing.
Dill also makes a six-inch Swamp Bug, and except for its size, it is identical to the three-incher.
Dill says that other anglers find that it works well on drop-shot rigs, Carolina rigs, split-shot rigs, as well as a trailer on a skirted jig. It looks as if it would work well on a swing jig similar to Gene Larew Lures' HardHead Jighead that Tommy Biffle of Wagoner, Oklahoma, uses.
It is available in seven colors: Black & Blue, Green Pumpkin, Green Pumpkin Candy, Green Pumpkin Orange Flake, Moss Candy, Plum, and Smoke Shad.
A package of 10 three-inchers can be purchased for $3.80. A package of five-inchers sells for $3.80.
Anglers can contact Dill about his baits or a guide trip at 573-204-9005 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anglers can also examine Crock-O-Gator's website at http://www.crockogatorbaitcompany.com/home.html .