October 14, 2017
By Ned Kehde
A longtime Midwest finesse angler who is constantly in search for new soft-plastic baits that might become part of his and other Midwest finesse anglers' repertoire recently informed us that it is high time for us to publish a gear guide about Gajo Baits.
Across the years, this angler's suggestions have been on the mark. So, at his behest, we conducted a hurried Internet search, and we were quickly convinced that this old-timer is correct once again.
William Clute of Hogansburg, New York, is the proprietor of Gajo Baits. He is also a fishing guide and tournament angler who competes at some of the Bassmaster and FLW events, as well as several other tournament venues. What's more, he manages a construction company.
Clute's creations were not conceived with Midwest finesse anglers in mind. This, of course, is not an unusual phenomenon in the history of angling.
The genesis of his endeavor was spawned in 2013. Its focus revolved around his frugal desires to spend less money on soft-plastic baits, which he furnished to the anglers he guides. His Mohawk Trail Guide Service probes the St. Lawrence River and all of its tributaries from Valleyfield, Quebec, Canada, to the St. Lawrence Seaway Eisenhower Lock at Massena, New York. And the anglers he guides tangle with vast numbers of fish, which tear asunder a plethora of soft-plastic baits on every outing.
He began his money-saving quest by hand-pouring soft-plastic baits. One of them was the early rendition of the Spirit Shad Drop Shots, which replicated a goby. It was designed and made to be affixed to a drop-shot rig. It quickly became a much heralded finesse bait in the drop-shot world in Clute's neck of the woods. He makes a 3.25-inch one and a four-incher.
Clute's second creation is a Senko-style bait, which is called the Gajo Stick Bait. It is 5 1/4 inches long. Clute and his customers used it primarily on a whacky rig.
His third soft-plastic bait is a Gajo 3.25-inch Swim Bait and a Gajo four-inch Swim Bait, which includes a saltwater model, too.
Ultimately, his handiwork and efforts evolved into Gajo Baits, which was born in 2016. Nowadays, his baits are no longer handmade. Instead, he uses an injection mold to manufacture them.
Initially, Gajo's soft-plastic finesse baits were created for the anglers who pursue the black bass that inhabit the waterways in Upstate New York. At that time, Clute was not aware of the baits and tactics that Midwest finesse anglers employ. But recently Clute and a goodly number of anglers who purchase his baits have discovered some of the attributes of Midwest finesse fishing. And they have found that Gajo's soft-plastic baits are effective when they are affixed to a relatively small mushroom-style jig. In fact, by employing Midwest finesse tactics with Gajo's soft-plastic baits, these anglers have inveigled an array of largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass in various waterways across the nation that have eluded them with other piscatorial methods, and these Midwest finesse tactics are even effective at times in the heavy current that courses along the St. Lawrence River. In fact, Gajo Baits has found its way as far south as Alabama, such as at Carava Outdoors in Childersburg, Alabama, which sells Clute's baits to anglers who ply the Coosa River and its reservoirs.
In a telephone conversation on Sept. 18, Clute said he affixes the Spirit Shad to a jig when the smallmouth bass on the St. Lawrence River become persnickety and reluctant to engulf a Spirit Shad affixed to a drop-shot rig. He says these smallmouth bass are incessantly bombarded by anglers who employ drop-shot rigs, and he has found that a jig presentation will cajole a few of those pernickety ones. Depending on the depth of the water and the speed of the current, Clute will affix the Spirit Shad to a 1/16-, 1/8-, 3/16-, or 1/4-ounce jig. He opts for the 1/4-ouncer around lairs that are covered with 25 or more feet of water. These jigs sport a short-shank 1/0 hook. Clute works with the Spirit Shad on a stand-up jig, football-head jig, and ball-head jig; and he has recently begun working with it on a mushroom-style jig, which is the standard-bearer of Midwest finesse anglers. When he affixes the Spirit Shad to a jig, he usually employs a dragging presentation. But if the area that he is fishing is cluttered with rocks and boulders, he switches to a hop-and-bounce presentation, which prevents it from becoming snagged in the rocks and boulders.
Until recently Clute and his fellow anglers primarily employed the 5 1/4-inch Gajo Stick Bait on a whacky rig. But nowadays, they are using a customized or shortened section of it and affixing it to a relatively small mushroom-style jig, which is a traditional Midwest finesse tactic. Most of the sections that they use on the mushroom-style jig are residue of the tail section of a tattered-and-torn Gajo Stick Bait that was used on a whacky rig. Clute affixes his shortened Gajo Stick Bait to a 1/16-, 1/8-ounce, 3/16-ounce, and 1/4-ounce mushroom-style jig that sports a short-shank 1/0 hook. When he uses it on a mushroom-style jig, he utilizes either a dragging presentation or a slow-swimming presentation that travels a few inches above the bottom.
Clute normally rigs the Gajo Swim Bait on either a 1/4-ounce football-head jig or a 1/4-ounce swimbait jig. But if he is probing lairs in 40 to 50 feet of water, he will opt for a 3/4-ounce football-head or 3/4-ounce swimbait jig, and there will be spells when he rigs it on a Carolina rig to probe those deep-water lairs.
When Clute wields the Gajo Swim Bait, he uses two types of presentations.
One is a straight swimming presentation, which is similar to the classic do-nothing retrieve that the late Charlie Brewer of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, made famous many decades ago. To execute this presentation, Clute affixes the Gajo Swim Bait to a jig. After he makes a long cast, he allows the rig to plummet to the bottom. Once it reaches the bottom, he retrieves it at a slow pace and a few inches above the bottom, and occasionally, he will allow it to touch the bottom.
The second presentation revolves around affixing the Gajo Swim Bait Texas-style to a 3/0 wide-gap worm hook and either a 1/8- or a 1/4-ounce bullet-shaped slip sinker. He either drags it across the bottom or uses a hop-and-bounce presentation.
When he uses the Gajo Spirit Shad, Gajo Swim Bait, and Gajo Stick Bait on the St. Lawrence River, he primarily focuses on slack-water areas that are covered with 10 to 25 feet of water. But there are spells when he will work with his baits in one to 10 feet of water, noting that the St. Lawrence River's black bass will spawn in one to 12 feet of water.
He uses two rods: a seven-foot, two-inch and medium-power Enigma Fishing's Aaron's Edge Spin Rod and a six-foot, 10-inch medium-light power Enigma Fishing's Aaron's Edge Spin Rod. His spinning reel is spooled with either eight- or 10-pound-test braided line with a six-pound-test fluorocarbon leader.
The 3.25-inch and four-inch Gajo Spirit Shad Drop Shots are available in the following colors: Ayu, Black, Bone White, Bubblegum, Green Pumpkin-Blue Hilite, Green Pumpkin Purple Fleck, Olive Green Fleck, Perch, Smoke Purple-Blue Highlight, Watermelon Grape, and Watermelon Red. A package of either the 3.25-incher or four-incher costs $5.89.
The 3.25-inch and four-inch Gajo Swim Bait are available in the following colors: Ayu, Black, Blue Back Shiner, Bubblegum, Green Pumpkin-Blue Hilite, Green Pumpkin Purple Fleck, Olive Green Fleck, Perch, and Smoke Purple-Blue Highlight. A package of eight 3.25-inchers costs $6.49. A package of six four-inchers cost $6.49.
The Gajo Stick Bait is available in the following colors: Black-Blue Fleck, Bubblegum, Green Pumpkin-Black Fleck, Green Pumpkin-Blue Hilite, Perch, Watermelon Grape, and Watermelon Red. A package of 10 costs $5.98.
Clute injects all of the baits with a garlic scent, and about 20 percent of their body weight consists of salt.
(1) On the morning of Sept. 15, we talked to Travis Manson of Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, about how, when, and where he uses the Spirit Shad.
Manson is a fishing guide and a tournament angler. He guides in Upstate New York, on the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, and on the Conowingo Reservoir, Maryland. When he resided in De Pere, Wisconsin, he guided in Door County, Wisconsin. He competes on the Bassmaster circuits, FLW circuits, and various other venues.
Manson won the T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League Northeast Division tournament at Thousand Islands, Clayton, New York, on Sept. 9-10. His ten smallmouth bass weighed 44 pounds, two ounces, which garnered $6,437. He also won big-bass honors by catching a six-pound, six-ounce smallmouth bass.
He spent the entire tournament on Lake Ontario. On Sept. 9, he dissected a 50-yard stretch of a ledge, probing water as shallow as 18 feet and as deep as 40 feet. He worked with a four-inch Gajo Baits' smoke-purple-blue-highlight Spirit Shad Drop Shots. He affixed it to a drop-shot rig that consists of a 5/8-ounce sinker that was situated two feet below a No. 2 Gamakatsu Drop-shot hook. His spinning reel is spooled with five-pound-test Power Pro Braided Line, and his sinker and hook are affixed to an eight-pound-test fluorocarbon leader. About an 1/8 of an inch of the tip of the nose of the Spirit Shad was attached to the hook. That ledge, however, was not fruitful on Sept. 10. Therefore, he spent that day burning nearly 47 gallons of gasoline and fishing 15 isolated rock piles.
When he can see the smallmouth bass on his state-of-the-art electronic equipment, he will work the Spirit Shad affixed to a drop-shot rig with a vertical presentation.
If he fails to see them on his electronis equipment, he will employ a long cast-and-retrieve motif. He will retrieve it by executing a drag-and-deadstick presentation. The deadstick phase encompasses about three seconds. At times, such as in the spring, he will ply areas that are as shallow as two feet.
He prefers the two-foot spacing between the sinker and the hook. But when he is probing shallow-water areas in the spring, the spacing can be as short as six inches or less. What's more, when he is afloat on Lake Erie, which is afflicted with massive patches of filamentous algae, the space between Manson's sinker and hook can range from four to eight feet. He suspects that the filamentous algae provokes the smallmouth bass to forage above the massive strands of algae, and therefore, he rigs the sinker and hook on his drop-shot rigs according to the state of the filamentous algae and what he sees as the disposition of the smallmouth bass.
Manson has been using Gajo's Spirit Shad Drop Shots for about two years, and 80 percent of the time he employs it on a drop-shot rig. When he is not wielding it on a drop-shot rig, he affixes it to a football-style jig. The jig sports a 2/0 hook, and it is exposed. The size of the jig ranges from 3/8 to 3/4 of an ounce. He uses it as a deep-water rig, probing lairs in 20 or more feet of water. He retrieves it with either a slow-and-continuous-crawl presentation or a drag-and-deadstick presentation, and the deadstick segment is less than three seconds.
He always begins each outing using the four-inch Spirit Shad. But if the fishing is problematic, he will replace the four-incher with the 3 1/4-inch one.
He primarily uses the Spirit Shad at Oneida Lake, New York; Lake Champlain, New York, and Vermont; St. Lawrence River, New York; and the Great Lakes. But he has used it in Florida, and he caught a four-pound largemouth bass on a spawning bed at Lake Okeechobee.
On his most fruitful eight-hour outings with the Spirit Shad, he has tangled with as many as 200 smallmouth bass. Of course, there are spells and seasons, when it is a struggle to inveigle two to four smallmouth bass an hour, and it is during those problematic outings that he has found the Spirit Shad to be a godsend.
(2) Readers can contact William Clute at P.O. Box 813; Hogansburg, NY, 13655; or at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at (518) 358-4373.
(3) Here is a link to Gajo Baits' website: https://gajobaits.com/. Here is the link to its Facebook site: https://www.facebook.com/GajoBaits/.