Swimbaits have recently caught the attention of Midwest finesse anglers, and Travis Myers of Paw Paw, West Virginia, has become a devotee of River Rock Custom Baits' RR Striker.
Myers is a skillful Midwest finesse angler who plies the rivers and streams in West Virginia and nearby states for smallmouth bass. And for several years, he has been a contributor to the Finesse News Network and In-Fisherman's Midwest Finesse column.
We recently exchanged several emails with Myers about how, when, and where he has employed the Striker.
He uses it on a G. Loomis 902 NRX spinning rod and a Shimano 3000 FG Sustain spinning reel spooled with Hi-Vis Yellow PowerPro Super 8 Slick line, which has the diameter of two-pound-test monofilament line.
He used it for the first time this past March, and he worked with it throughout March and April and into May. He stopped using it when the smallmouth bass were spawning.
He noted that some of the weeks during these months are usually the most unstable times of the year for the rivers in his neck of the woods. In other words, he has to contend with higher than normal flows, and consequently, the water clarity is greatly reduced. In fact, it is not uncommon for the rivers and streams to be nearly in flood stage for a number of days during these months, and that phenomenon followed suit in 2017. But by wielding the RR Striker, which is 3 3/4-inches long, he was able to fish right through some very turbulent conditions and inveigle an array of smallmouth bass.
In March, when the smallmouth bass were abiding in their wintertime haunts, which are in relatively deep-water and cluttered with flooded trees and humongous boulders, he rigs the RR Striker on a black 1/8-ounce River Rock's Crawler Head Jig, which sports a 1/0 hook. He affixed it on the jig Texas-style, which allows him to slowly and methodically dissect these wintertime haunts and not become snagged in the flooded trees and boulders. (Myers notes that River Rock has recently created a Crawler Head Jig that sports a hook that is smaller than a 1/0 hook and slightly bigger than a No. 2 hook, and it fits the RR Striker perfectly.)
To slowly and methodically dissect the cold-water sanctuaries, Myers holds his rod throughout the retrieve as near to the surface of the water as he can, and there are times when the tip is submerged. The low-rod angle prevents the Striker rig from rising up and out of the smallmouth bass' lairs. As he holds his rod in this position, he slowly rotates the handle of the spinning reel, and after three to four feet of line are spooled onto the reel, he will execute a pause and allow the Striker rig to plummet six to eight inches towards the bottom on a slack line. After that fall is executed, he slowly rotates the reel handle again. He will repeat this reel-and-pause presentation until the Striker rig is outside of the lair.
When the water temperature climbs into the upper 50s and lower 60s, the smallmouth bass leave their wintertime lairs and begin to inhabit their shallow-water spawning locales. During their pre-spawn days, they often do a lot of moseying around these shallow-water flats. This change in the location and behavior of the smallmouth bass provokes Myers to modify the way he uses the RR Striker. During this spell in the life of the riverine smallmouth bass, he affixes the Striker to a black 1/16-ounce River Rock's Tactical Finesse Jig, which is a mushroom-style jig that sports a light-wire No. 1 hook. Instead of making relatively short and pinpoint casts and retrieves around boulders and flooded trees in deep water, he executes extremely long casts and retrieves around the shallow and clear-water areas where the smallmouth bass spawn. Some of the shallow-water areas, where the smallmouth bass spawn, can be quite large, and his long casts and retrieves allow him to quickly explore these areas. What's more, the water is often clear, and his long casts and retrieves prevent him from spooking the smallmouth bass. The pace of his retrieve is faster than the one he employs in March. Depending on the terrain and depth of the water that he is fishing, Myers' rod is held from the three to one o'clock positions. During the retrieve, he will execute occasional pauses, but they are what he calls "momentary pauses," and others call it a juke move.
During those three months, he caught more than 600 smallmouth bass on his RR Striker rigs. And he used one color, which is called the bluntnose shiner. According to Myers, that particular color replicates the colors of the shiners and chubs that inhabit the rivers and streams that he fishes.
He also customizes it a tad by affixing a pair of five-millimeter three-dimensional eyes to its head, and he profusely coats it with Pro-Cure Bait Scents' Shad Super Gel.
He suspects that some Midwest finesse anglers are reluctant to use a 3.75-inch swimbait, but he adamantly proclaims that the RR Striker is the ideal size for the Midwest finesse repertoire.
He is anticipating that it will be as effective in November and early December as it was in March. And during the winter of 2017-18, we are hoping that he will provide us with an update that is chock full of insights and details about how, when, and where he used it on those late-fall outings.
It is available in 14 colors. River Rock Custom Baits will create customized colors, too. For information about the customized colors, please contact Robert Shue at 540-414-3293 or email@example.com .
A package of six costs $5.99.
(1) Here is the link to River Rock Custom Baits' website section on the Striker: https://river-rock-custom-baits.myshopify.com/products/3-3-4-rr-striker?variant=9010518211.
(2) In an Aug. 18 email, Myers added a substantial footnote about the way he retrieves his Striker rig in the cold-water sanctuaries.
Myers wrote that he frequently submerges his rod -- except for the rod's handle and reel — into the water. He said it is similar to the way Paul Elias of Laurel, Mississippi, who competes in Bassmaster Elite tournaments, used to employ a kneel-and-reel retrieve with a crankbait. According to Myers, his submerged-rod tactic keeps the gusty March winds from confounding his retrieves. By employing the submerged-rod tactic, Myers retrieves the Striker rig in a straight line, and it travels slightly above the boulders and submerged trees, and it keeps the rig in what he calls the strike zone for a significant amount of time, or in other words, he is presenting it to as many smallmouth bass as he possibly can.
(3) On Aug. 26, Myers sent us an email, saying that he has created another way to rig the RR Striker. He has been experimenting with this rigging since the middle of July, and he has never seen or heard of anglers rigging a swimbait in this fashion. It exhibits an unique three-dimensional rocking motion from its head to its paper-thin tail.
During his afternoon outing on Aug. 26, he used it to catch vast numbers of smallmouth bass in two to three feet of water around lairs that were shaded from the sun. He said his RR Striker rig rarely made it out of the shade without being engulfed by a smallmouth bass. According to Myers, such a phenomenal catch rarely occurs during the middle of the day in August.
This RR Striker rig is unweighted, and it consists of a 1/0 Gamakatsu Aaron Marten's TGW Drop Shot Hook with a medium-sized screw-lock bait keeper, which is 9 1/16 of an inch long. He inserts the screw-lock bait keeper into the nose of the head of the RR Striker. As he inserts the screw-lock bait keeper, he turns it four times. After the fourth turn, the eye of the screw-lock bait keeper is nearly flush with the tip of the RR Striker's nose. Then, he inserts the hook into the eye of the screw-lock and makes another turn with the screw-lock bait keeper. The fifth turn allows the bend of the hook to be completely flush with the tip of the nose of the RR Striker. The entire hook is exposed and situated in front of the nose of the RR Striker. The hook is attached to the eye of screw-lock bait keeper, and it does not penetrate into the RR Striker's head. The eye of the screw-lock bait keeper is closed.
When a smallmouth bass engulfs the RR Striker, it slides up the shank of the exposed hook and towards the eye of the hook. This allows the hook to easily penetrate the flesh in the mouth of the smallmouth bass. And Myers has also found that this rig prevents smallmouth bass from liberating themselves from it when they jump, twist, and turn.
According to Myers, the RR Striker is the softest and most pliable boot-tail swimbait that he has ever used. He has experimented with scores and scores of state-of-the-art and old-time swimbaits, and none of them are as effective as the RR Striker.
What's more, it is an extremely durable soft-plastic rig. Myers has enjoyed as many as 50 donnybrooks with an unweighted RR Striker before it becomes tattered and torn.