September 14, 2021
Each year at ICast, new baits hit the market that create hype about what might be the next big thing in the fishing world. But the question remains, are they gimmicks just to get anglers to buy more gear? Or an essential add to your tackle arsenal? This spring, I was fortunate enough to get my hands on some new Berkley soft plastics that debuted in July at the fishing industry’s annual trade show. I was excited to put these new profiles to the test to see for myself if they did indeed stand up to the hype.
The question I continually ask myself is: "Do manufacturers really have to keep reinventing the wheel to sell the fishermen? Or are they truly innovative must-have products?
We were about to find out.
My first stop was at local river to target prespawn and spawning smallmouth. Finding fish on rocky structure adjacent to perineal spawning areas was key to locating prespawn bass that were preparing to move up onto the flat to spawn. If you happen to catch a spawning fish, it’s critical to remain conscientious and immediately release it so they can continue to guard eggs or fry. Crawfish or other nest raiders and predators are capable of ravishing a spawning nest in short order.
(As a first consideration, please consider areas adjacent to where the fish are actually spawning to not interrupt the breeding cycle. If it's too early to do this, limit handling.)
I felt it was important to actually watch fish notice, approach, eat and/or react to the lures I was testing. One of the first things I noticed was how long the fish held onto the new Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Lil’ Trooper compared to other presentations I’ve historically used. This profile mimics a small crawfish and depending on depth and current can be rigged on a 1/16- up to 1/4-ounce Ned (Midwest finesse) head. They were grabbing it rapidly to remove it from the bed and then holding onto it much longer than my previous experience with bedded bass.
After the spawn, the smallies moved out to deeper rock structure in the 14 to 18 feet of water. This is when and where these baits really started to shine over the other profiles. Ideally, you want to position the boat to make a long casts—with a medium-light spinning rod—to drop-offs or ledges consisting of rock or gravel with scattered boulders. Once the cast was made, I worked it back slowly hopping it off the bottom with small twitches of the rod tip, which produced a seductive swimming/walking action.
I used equally the MaxScent Lil’ General alongside the Lil’ Trooper. Both produced similar results, but the MaxScent formula is what impressed me the most. You could just tell the bass loved the taste and smell based on how long they’d hold onto it. There is something magical to that stuff.
As summer waned on, the fish started to concentrate on specific boulders close to or on the primary rock piles that we were catching them from earlier in the season. When the fish made the transition, we opted to run drop-shot rigs right over the top of and alongside the boulders.
The largest and high-percentage boulders can be easily located with any sort of side-viewing sonar. I prefer to run a Humminbird Mega SI unit paired with Mega 360 Imaging. It’s amazing what you can learn by literally viewing what’s beneath the water’s surface.
As a general rule of thumb, I like to run a drop shot 12 to 18 inches off the bottom, but I also keep an eye on the graph to see if fish or bait are positioned higher in the water column and I adjust accordingly. Nose hooking or wacky rigging the new Lil’ Trooper or Lil’ General are both productive presentations, but my favorite way was nose hooking the Lil’ Trooper.
So, as far as I’m concerned, the new Berkley Powerbait MaxScent profiles are legit, and certainly worth adding to your bass-fishing arsenal. Both are perfect for rigging on your favorite Ned style jighead.
Most of the time we rigged these on a 1/16-, 3/16- or 1/8-ounce Midwest Finesse jigheads from Do-It Molds. Even though the baits were designed with a Ned-rig style presentation in mind, there are plenty of additional tactics where they’ll shine, including: drop shot, flippin’-style jig, swim jig, Texas rig, and more.
No gimmicks here. I’d highly suggest buying a bunch. But, you’ll have to beat me to the punch, I plan on buying a box full!