During the late winter of 2007-08 and early spring of 2008, we gathered a lot of information about the wacky jig. Some of it Steve Quinn used in an In-Fisherman story (http://archives.in-fisherman.com/content/wacky-jigwakin-bass).
Back then we and many other anglers and observers thought that the wacky jig was on the threshold of becoming a major tool with finesse anglers. But as of yet, it has not become the lure we thought it would be. One of the factors that has kept its popularity at bay is that it necessitates an extremely slow presentation. In fact, it's so slow that those finesse anglers who want to catch at least 10 bass an hour say that it prevents them reaching that 10-bass-an-hour average. Nevertheless, when the bass are extremely tentative and catching them is a trying ordeal, the wacky jig can be a useful tool.
On those trying outings, several practitioners of the Midwest finesse method have found that the best way to employ the wacky jig is for the angler in the back of the boat to drag and dead stick it. In essence, the angler in the back of the boat is trolling; which is accomplished by using a lot of slack line and allowing the line at times to slow flow off the spool of the reel as the boat moves. While the angler in the back of the boat is trolling, which is sometimes called strolling, the finesse angler in the front of the boat uses another lure and retrieve.
A blog allows us to use a lot of information that can't be wedged onto the printed pages of the magazine. So what follows is a compilation of the notes we gathered on how several finesse anglers used the wacky jig in 2007 and in January and February of 2008. Readers should note that some the tackle these anglers used four years ago might not be the tackle that they use today, and some of it is no longer available.
The Birth of the Wacky Jig Phenomenon
On the major bass tournament circuits in theUnited States, drop-shot rigs and shaky-head jigs have been the dominant tools in the finesse anglers' repertoire since the turn of the century.
But in 2007 a few close-to-the-vest stories about a new finesse tactic began to circulate among some of the anglers who plied the BASS and FLW tournament circuits. Then as the tournament season wound down, Kotaro Kiriyama of Moody, Alabama, Grant Goldbeck of Gaithersburg, Maryland, Fred Roumbanis of Bixby, Oklahoma, David Swendseid of Beaverton, Oregon, and a few other anglers predicted that this method, which is called a wacky jig, would be one of the hottest finesse tactics during the 2008 tournament scene.
The genesis of the wacky jig stems back to Japan and pivots around the ground-breaking efforts of Toshiro Ono of Jackall Bros. and Takuma Hata of Zappu Inc. in 2004.
The first clue of its effectiveness in the U.S. occurred during the BASS Battle on the Border tourney at Lake Amistad, Texas, on March 10, 2007, when Seiji Kato, the noted Japanese lure designer with Jackall Bros., won the co-angler championship by catching 13 largemouth bass that weighed 48 pounds, eight ounces by using Jackall's Flickshake Worm and Wacky Jig Head.
The Flick Shake Worm comes in two sizes: 4.8 inches and 5.8 inches, and they are curved so that they undulate bewitchingly when they are retrieved on the Wacky Jig Head. The jig is manufactured in three sizes: 1/16 ounce, 1/13 ounce and 3/32 ounce, consisting of a tiny round tungsten head and a small short-shank hook. The Jackall Bros. combo is the one that Kiriyama, Goldbeck and Swendseid employ and tout. In fact, at the Bassmaster Classic atLake Hartwell,South Carolina, on February 22-24, 2008, Kiriyama used it to catch several of the bass that propelled him to a seventh-place finish.
Masahiro Yanase perspectives on the difficulties using the wacky work as a
co-angler on the FLW Tour
Since 2004 Masahiro Yanase ofNagoya,Japan, andNashville,Tennessee, has enjoyed scores of fruitful outings by employing a wacky jig for black bass atLakeBiwa and other Japanese waterways. From his vast experiences with a wacky jig, he has determined that it allures black bass galore year-round, and it is especially effective at beguiling tentative bass — even in stained and ice-cold waters.
In 2007, Yanase competed as a co-angler in the FLW Tour Major Division, and throughout the entire FLW season, the professional anglers with whom he was paired moved their boats too fast for Yanase to properly retrieve a wacky jig. Consequently, Yanase didn't make one cast with it during tournament hours, and across the many hours that he was afloat during the practice sessions, he used it for only eight hours and caught only 16 bass.
In essence, Yanase's wacky-jig presentation is an excruciatingly slow one. Therefore, it's crucial that the boat remains virtually stationary during the cast and retrieve.
Yanase always retrieves his wacky jig with a swimming motif, focusing on bass that are foraging off the bottom. It's at its best around such offshore lairs as humps and edges of submergent vegetation, or when bass are suspended.
To fish such environs, Yanase swims the wacky jig in a straight line, focusing on depths from a foot below the surface to a foot above the bottom, and he never probes environs that are deeper than 15 feet. Because he fishes it off the bottom, Yanase says it isn't a substitute for the shaky jigworm.
Yanase regularly uses a 1/16-ounce Zappu Inchi-Wacky i Guard. He finds that Zappu's wire weed guard is a critical element when he probes docks and coverts that contain flooded timber, brush piles, vegetation or other snaggy features. If a covert isn't infested with snags and he has problems getting his wacky jig to swim in 10 to 15 feet of water, Yanase will opt for a 1/13- or 3/32-ounce model that is devoid of a weed guard.
His wacky jig is sported on a six-foot, six-inch, medium-action Quantum Kevin Van Dam Signature Series spinning rod (KVDS664m) and a Daiwa KIX 2506 spinning reel that is spooled with five-pound-test Sunline Super FC Sniper Fluorocarbon. The jig is attached to the line with a uni knot.
Yanase works with a variety of soft-plastic lures, includingBerkley's Powerbait five-inch Fat Dover Crawler and a Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits' Shad Shape Worm.
According to Yanase, the Shad Shape Worm is most effective when the bass are foraging on minnows, and he affixes it to the jig hook in two ways. One way is to run the hook through the belly or flat side and out of the side. Another way is to hook it through the side and push the point of the hook out the belly or flat side. Yanase says that he has to experiment with each rigging to see which one the bass prefer. On both riggings, it is important to place the hook1 ½ inches from the head of the Shad Shape Worm, which is four inches long; this hooking method creates more tail action as Yanase swims the rig across a lair.
To attach a worm like the Fat Dover to the wacky jig, Yanase locates the middle of the worm. Then he inserts the point of the hook into the worm and manipulates the hook so that it emerges at a 90-degree angle from the insertion point. After that he situates the worm so that it lies about 5/16 of an inch from the tip of the point, resting at the spot where the hook begins to bend. This location allows the worm to perform its seductive gyrations.
The color of soft-plastics that Yanase utilizes is based on the clarity of the water and foraging preferences of the bass. For example, if the bass are foraging upon shad, he would opt for a Shad Shape Worm in smoke or silver hues. But day in, day out, he primarily works with watermelon and green-pumpkin tones, selecting watermelon in clear waterways and green-pumpkin in stained ones.
Many anglers assume that clear water is an essential ingredient for fruitful finesse fishing, but Yanase has discovered that the unique wobbles and vibrations that a five-inch worm creates when it's attached to a wacky jig attracts the attention of a surprising number of bass that abide in relatively stained venues. But in clear or stained waters, it's at it best when the bass are concentrated in a confined area and in a tentative mood.
To create that provocative retrieve, Yanase executes a cast that places the wacky jig several yards beyond the area that the bass are inhabiting. Then he allows the jig to fall to the correct depth. Next he begins to rotating the reel handle, making one rotation about every five seconds. As he rotates the reel handle, he gently and constantly shakes his rod, creating a series of subtle S-curves in the line that stretches from the tip of his rod to the spot where the line enters the water. To generate the series of S-curves, he has a few inches of slack in his line. The execution of this task is easiest to accomplish when the rod is at a 45-degree angle from the surface, but when the wind is pesky, Yanase lowers his rod so that the wind doesn't create a bow in the line.
Yanase's favorite presentation at lairs that are graced with submergent vegetation is to swim the wacky jig off the bottom and parallel to the edge of the vegetation. At times, however, Yanase will allow the wacky jig to fall to the bottom or on top of a patch of submergent vegetation, and once the jig stops falling, he starts retrieving it in the swimming motif and well above the bottom. When the jig reaches the edge of the vegetation or a drop-off along a hump, Yanase will allow the jig to plummet to the bottom, and once it hits the bottom, he begins to swim it back to the boat.
Even though Yanase always swims his various wacky-jig combos, he has to retrieve them so slowly that it's not what he uses when he is searching for bass. But when he finds a concentration of bass, it's the lure that he likes to employ, and it is especially valuable after several bass have been caught and the remaining bass have become wary.
Before the start of the 2008 Wal-Mart FLW Tour, Yanase was asked if he thought that he would use the wacky jig during the 2008 season. He replied that he would if he were paired with an angler who didn't move the boat at a fast clip. What's more, he said that if he were on the professional side of the tournament scenario and in control of the boat, he would use it frequently, signifying that boat control is a critical factor for the correct execution of the wacky jig.
Another Co-angler's, Experiences with a Wacky Jig
James Cadell's baptism to the virtues of the wacky jig occurred when he was paired with Morizo Shimizo of Osaka, Japan, at the BASS Clear Lake tournament in late March of 2007, when Shimizu fished slowly and utilized a wacky jig the same way Yanase does with a horizontal-swimming motif. From Shimizo, Cadell of Escalon, California, learned that the wacky jig is a potent lure to employ when the bass are heavily pressured and tentative, and it's always an effective way to garner a limit of bass.
On February 8, 2008, Cadell was matched with Dion Hibdon of Stover,Missouri, at the FLW East-West Fish-off atLake Amistad,Texas. While Cadell was afloat in Hibdon's boat, he primarily used a 1/16-ounce odz Shank Chotto wacky jig and a green-pumpkin 6 ¾- inch Zoom Trick Worm, wielding it on a 702 MLEF Powell spinning rod and Shimano Stradic FI St2500FI reel spooled with eight-pound-test Seaguar INVIZX fluorocarbon line. The jig was tied to the line with a palomar knot. Cadell attached the hook to the Trick Worm immediately below the egg sack, and in his eyes the most important aspect of the rigging was that the worm and jig wasn't tilted to one side as it fell to the bottom; in other words, the tail and head of the worm are on a level plane, being similar to the way a bird glides through the air. The odz wacky jig features a wide gap hook that has a smaller shank that of the Zappu and Jackall jigs.
During this outing, Hibdon used a one-ounce jig to precisely and slowly ply several off-shore lairs, and several of these lairs plummeted into 25 feet of water. And to Hibdon's amazement, Cadell was able to work his 1/16-ounce jig into 25 feet of water. However, when they fished those extremely deep coverts, Hibdon would make as many as five casts to Cadell's one. But most of the time Hibdon and Cadell probed 15 to 20 feet of water.
After Cadell executed a cast, he allowed the wacky jig to slowly drop to the bottom, and he didn't shake it until it reached the bottom. Once it reached the bottom, he would gently lift and shake it, and he would execute that subtle lift and shake for 30 seconds or more. Then he would reel it and make another cast and similar presentation. Ultimately, he caught a limit of bass, and Hibdon remarked that he was impressed with Cadell's results. (Though Hibdon and his father, Guido, are close friends with Shin Fukae — a virtuoso with a wacky jig fromOsaka,Japan, they haven't fished one.)
But if Hibdon hadn't been fishing methodically at a snail's pace, Cadell said that he couldn't have utilized the wacky jig, noting, like Yanase, that the usage of the wacky jig by a co-angler is limited by the way and speed that the professional angler operates the boat. Even though Hibdon's boat- control methods allowed Cadell to periodically probe 25 feet of water, he readily admitted that those depths are often too deep for anglers to efficiently employ a wacky jig.
The Wacky Jig from the Perspective of a Recreational Angler
Ross Evans ofWoodbury,Minnesota, is an ardent and talented recreational angler who has a passion for finesse methods and partakes in some local bass tournaments, often teaming with his wife, Mindy Simons.
Since the first week in June of 2007, Evans and his wife have been tirelessly fishing and experimenting with wacky jigs, and straightaway, they have found it to be a fruitful and delightful technique. Simons finds it to be appreciably easier to master compared a drop-shot rig.
When he is not afloat, Evans works for The Hanson Group, which is in the business of representing fishing tackle companies and others in the outdoor trade. Big Bite Baits is one of the businesses that his firm represents, and they solicited Evans' hand to help design a wacky-jig head and a soft-plastic bait to adorn the jig.
At the start of Evans' quest to become a knowledgeable and skillful wacky-jig angler, he employed a 1/16-ounce Zappu Inchi-Wacky i Guard garnished with soft-plastic lures such as a five-inch Gulp Wacky Crawler, a 4 ½- inch straight-tailed Robo worm and a 4.8-inch FlickShake. In addition, he tested the Big Bite Baits' prototype called the Boring Worm, and occasionally he used all of these soft-plastic items on a 3/32-ounce Inchi-Wacky, which is devoid of a weed guard.
From the post-spawn until ice covered Minnesota's waterways in 2007, Evans made countless casts with his various Inchi-Wacky combos on a seven-foot, light-action Falcon Cendari Saltwater Spinning Rod (Model SSti-7L) fitted with a Shimano Symetre 2500FI reel that was spooled with either five- or six-pound-test Sunline Super FC Sniper Fluorocarbon. During these diverse excursions, he found that the slow and undulating fall of the Zappu combos beguiled an astounding number of largemouth and smallmouth bass.
To the eye of a dyed-in-the-wool finesse angler, like Evans, the compact size and minimalist appearance of a Zappu wacky jig bedecked with a relatively short and thin piece of soft plastic was extremely appealing.
But from his workaday experiences in the tackle trade, Evans knew that the bulk of the bass anglers across theUnited Stateswouldn't appreciate the minute and subtle features that Japanese bass anglers adore about Zappu's wacky jigs. What's more, the compactness of the Zappu wacky jig limits the size and styles of soft-plastic baits that anglers can utilize. For example Evans determined that bulky soft-plastic lures that are more than 5 ½ inches long, such as a six-inch Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits' Senko, aren't suitable for a Zappu.
Thus, Evans began helping Big Bite Baits develop a wacky jig that would appeal to American sensibilities and catch bass on par with the Japanese models. Ultimately Big Bite Baits manufactured their rendition of a wacky jig, which is formed around a Gamakatsu 3/0 EWG hook with a 60-degree-angle line eye and available in five weights: 1/32, 1/16, 1/8, 3/16 and 1/4 of an ounce. In Evans' eyes, the Big Bite wacky jig is a more potent and versatile lure for American waterways than the tiny Japanese jigs .
Upon acquiring his first Big Bite Baits' Wacky Head in late July of 2007, Evans primarily worked with 1/16- and 1/8-ounce jigs bedecked with slim four- to five-inch finesse worms, experimenting only occasionally with bigger soft-plastic baits, such as Big Bite Baits' Trick Stick and six- to eight-inch worms. But whenever he ascertained that the bass were feeding aggressively, he periodically tested a 3/16-ounce model dressed with a six-inch or larger finesse worm. This 3/16-ounce combo fell at quicker pace than the lighter models, causing the worm to wobble dramatically. Furthermore, as the jig fell towards the bottom, Evans said that he "shook it like crazy," and all of that action often provoked the bass to attack the lure with such vigor that it was easy to detect, which is unusual.
There is an adverse factor, however, to employing a heavier jig and larger worm, and according to Evans, these bigger combos generate too much movement, and at times all that under-water commotion will repulse theMinnesotabass that Evans pursues. In contrast, Evans discovered the seductive action of the wacky jig is significantly diminished when he employed a thick-bodied lure that was shorter than four inches; an example of such a bait is Big Bite Baits' three-inch Trick Stick. Consequently, he has a difficult time alluring bass to engulf one of his many three-inch offerings. However, he suspects that a Big Bite Baits' three-inch Trout Worm affixed 1/32-ounce wacky jig will inveigle some extremely tentative bass, and he plans to experiment with them — especially in cold-water periods — in the years to come.
From Evans' perspectives, one reason why anglers seldom feel a bass strike with a traditional 1/16-ounce wacky-jig combo is that they are constantly shaking it on slack line, which doesn't telegraph the telltale signal of a bass engulfing the jig. Moreover, detecting a bass striking a lightweight jig has always been a challenging endeavor. To tackle this strike-detection quandary, Evans recommends that wacky-jig anglers occasionally "need to stop shaking the bait for a few seconds to determine if a bass is swimming around with the bait in its mouth."
Evans has concluded that the best action is created when the wacky jig is moving slowly and the angler is shaking the rod as if he is afflicted with what Evans calls "a nervous coffee twitch." Ideally Evans wants his wacky-jig combo to mimic the subtle pirouettes of a live nightcrawler. It needs to be noted that Evans isn't as persnickety as Yanase about how a worm is affixed to and situated on the hook of a wacky jig.
As for his most productive colors of worms, he has ascertained that various shades of brown and green that match the hue of a nightcrawler and the lake's bottom are the best, and he notes: "I tend to almost never try bright colors as I am a firm believer that finesse fishing is at its best when you are totally natural."
Day in, day out, Evans plies hideaways that lie in five to 15 feet of water, and he commences shaking his rod as soon as the wacky jig hits the water. But on those days, when he has to probe lairs in 20 feet of water, Evans allows the wacky jig to fall about 12 feet before he starts shaking it; this allows the jig to get into the most productive zone of the hideaway at a quicker pace; whereas shaking it slows the pace of the fall noticeably, keeping it in the fishless zone for too much of the descent time. When the bass are in 20 feet of water, Evans has found that they seldom strike a wacky jig as it falls from the surface until it reaches a depth of about 15 feet.
There were, however, several times in 2007 when Evans found that it was best not to shake his wacky-jig combo until it rested on the bottom. For example, on one outing, he located a concentration of largemouth and smallmouth bass abiding on a deep-water rock pile, but these bass were reluctant to strike a drop-shot rig or a wacky jig that was gyrating several feet or even a few inches off the bottom. But when he didn't shake the wacky jig until it contacted the bottom, he quickly tangled with eight hefty bass.
In the nomenclature of contemporary bass anglers, Evans uses the wacky jig as a drop or fall bait, meaning that he allures the bass as the jig drops vertically from the surface to the bottom. The only time that he retrieves it horizontally occurs after it reaches the bottom and he shakes and drags it a few feet or yards across a lair.
Because a wacky jig has to be fished at an extremely slow pace, it is a poor tool for locating a concentration of bass by casting and retrieving it across a great expanse of water. Instead, Evans uses a Humminbird Side Imaging Sonar to locate his best coverts, which have proven to be irregularities along edges of submergent vegetation, unique features on rock piles or humps, and ditches or drop offs on flats. His most fruitful lairs lie in eight to 15 feet of water.
He has tried the wacky jig with only marginal success around boat docks. The problem seems to be that the water is too shallow around most of the boat docks inMinnesotawaterways; therefore, Evans can't get his wacky-jig combo to start its seductive wobbles and twists before it hits the bottom.
Likewise, Evans hasn't fared well in the stained waters of the Mississippi River, and in his mind, theMississippi's bass tend to inhabit shallow water, "and that is not where the wacky jig shines." From his experiences, the wacky jig works best in deep, clear-water venues.
Yet, he hasn't given up on theMississippi Riverand boat docks, hinting that he has plans to develop a horizontal presentation to use around the shallow-water settings.
Moreover, Evans was heartened to learn that the bass that Kiriyama caught at the Classic on a wacky jig were around docks in two to 10 feet of water, employing the same vertical presentation that Evans likes to use. Kiriyama made use of a 1/16-ounce Jackall Wacky Jig Head embellished with either a 4.8 or 5.8 Flick Shake Worm in a either a watermelon or a green pumpkin hue, and he insisted that micro-attentive care was a critical factor in affixing the worm to the jig; so that it exited at a 90-degree angle from the point of insertion and rested on the hook above the bend. He worked it on a six-foot, 10-inch Shimano Final Dimension spinning rod and Stella reel that was spooled with six-pound-test Gamma Fluorocarbon Drop-shot line. He presented the jig by making a cast and allowing it to fall in a straight line to the bottom without shaking the rod. Then as the wacky-jig-and-worm combo slowly drops, it develops a tantalizing tremble; in his words: "let the bait play the game" rather than the angler, which in some ways is reminiscent of the late Charlie Brewer's classic do-nothing retrieve. If a bass didn't engulf on the fall, Kiriyama immediately reeled it in and executed a meticulous cast at another section of the dock. Kiriyama's dock pattern occurred late in the day, and most of the docks that he plied had been recently fished by other contestants.
The Wacky Jig According to Shin Fukae
Soon after Shinichi Fukae ofOsaka,Japan, arrived upon the American bass tournament scene in 2004, tales about his prowess as a finesse angler began to spread. Nowadays he is recognized in many circles as the best and most versatile finesse angler afloat. Thus, it isn't surprising that he has become an expert at wielding a wacky jig, and he employs it in a variety of ways at FLW tournaments at waterways that stretch fromLake Tohopekaliga,FloridatoLake Erieand many others in between.
Some observers, in fact, have anointed him as the master of the wacky, because unlike Evans, Cadell and Kiriyama who employ their wacky jigs only as a fall or drop bait and Yanase who slowly and meticulous swims his wacky jig in a horizontal motif, Fukae has created an assortment presentations with his wacky jigs, working it vertically and horizontally, as well as near the surface and on the bottom and in a variety of in-between zones.
From his experiences, he has ascertained that a wacky jig is at it best when the bass are either looking up or suspended at depths ranging from five to 15 feet. What's more, the wacky jig often shines when conditions are challenging because such problems as heavy fishing pressure or post-cold-front conditions have made the bass become timid and wary.
On the other hand he has found that a shaky-head jigworm is most effective when the bass are situated on or near the bottom and moderately cautious, and an unweighted wacky worm is best when the bass are aggressive, looking up and abiding in shallow water.
Of the three presentations, Fukae's shaky head falls the fastest, and he retrieves it with the quickest pace of the three, which makes it the finesse rig that Fukae uses to probe a wide expanse of water.
Fukae says that his presentation with an unweighted wacky worm is the slowest of the three; thus he employs it only when he has located aggressive bass abiding in shallow water, such as during the various stages of the spawn. Then it is the easiest of the three motifs for Fukae to use and beguile a multitude of bass, but the window for its utilization is quite small.
All three of these lures are effective when Fukae has located several concentrations of relatively aggressive bass, but there are days aplenty when the bass are wary and the fishing is grueling.
When fishing conditions become grueling, Fukae will slow down and replace the shaky-head jig with a wacky jig. Then he will use it as slow-paced search bait as he looks for some cagey and hesitant bass that he can ultimately entice into engulfing his delicate and subtle presentations with a wacky jig.
On April 1, 2006, atBeaver Lake,Arkansas, Fukae revealed to the readers of the 2007 In-Fisherman Bass Guide many details about how he employs the shaky-head jigworm affixed to a Yamamoto Shad Shape Worm, and while he was atBeaverLakeon April 14, 2008, Fukae spent the day exhibiting his methods of working with a wacky jig.
Straightaway Fukae noted that Gamakatsu is one of his sponsors, but to his chagrin none of their wacky jigs have a weed guard, and he finds that a weed guard is a significant factor at most of the lakes that he fishes. Therefore, he uses several brands Japanese wacky jigs that have guards. When he plies lakes like Beaver, Fukae opts for a jig with a wire guard, but at lakes that contain extremely heavy thickets of brush or other snag-infested coverts, Fukae often works with either a 1/16- or 1/8-ounce jig that sports a thick fiber weed guard. He uses a wacky jig devoid of a weed guard only when he plies patches of milfoil, hydrilla and coontail, and then he garners a number of strikes from bass by ripping the jig off a piece of the vegetation when the jig's exposed hook becomes entwined with the vegetation.
In addition, he occasionally uses a wacky jig on which he has tied a silicone skirt; this jig falls at a slower rate than the unskirted models, which makes an effective jig for alluring suspended bass.
Some of his jigs are painted black, but the rest of his jigs are unpainted. He is, however, thinking about using some fingernail polish to paint some of the wacky jigs red.
He works the wacky jig on a 6'6" medium-light, fast-action St. Croix spinning rod and Shimano 2500 F8 Stella spinning reel that is spooled with eight-pound-test fluorocarbon line, but at waterways that are infested with snags, he will work with 10-pound-test braided line with a 10-foot and eight-pound-test fluorocarbon leader.
At times when he plies lakes where humongous bass inhabit aquatic vegetation or brush, such as at Lake Tohopekaliga, Florida, Amistad Reservoir, Texas, and Falcon Reservoir, Texas, he wields a St. Croix EC68MXF casting rod and Shimano Metanium Mg casting reel that is spooled with either 14- or 16-pound-test fluorocarbon line and tied to an 1/8-ounce Gamakatsu wacky jig that is built around a 1/0 wide-gap off-set hook.
The wacky jigs that he uses on his spinning rod are dressed with a five-inch Yamamoto Pro Senko, a five-inch Yamamoto Fall Shaker worm and a 3 ½-inch Castaic Baby Jerky J.
Fukae customizes the Pro Senko and Fall Shaker by placing a quarter-inch piece of shrinkable tubing in the middle of these soft-plastic lures. Then when the shrinkable tubing is centered, Fukae uses the flame of a hand-held lighter to shrink the tubing tightly around the soft plastic. This procedure makes keeps the Pro Senko and Fall Shaker at the proper location on the hook.
On his bait-casting outfit, he employs a 6 ½-inch Yamamoto Kut Tail Worm that is embossed with a piece of shrinkable tubing. In addition to wielding a wacky jig and Kut Tail Worm on his casting outfit, he periodically works with a 3/8-ounce spider jig that is dressed with a four-inch Yamamoto Senko rigged wacky style
Once the shrinkable tubing is properly situated, the jig hook penetrates the tubing and the Pro Senko, Fall Shaker or Kut Tail Worm, and it emerges at a 90-degree angle from its entrance point. Fukae positions the Pro Senko, Fall Shaker or Kut Tail Worm at the bend of the hook, which is about a quarter of an inch farther on the hook than Yanase's worm is impaled.
Fukae doesn't use shrinkable tubing on the 3 ½-inch Castaic Baby Jerky J. Instead the hook penetrates the middle of the pectoral fin that is embossed on the side of this bait and it emerges out of the back directly above the point of entry. When Fukae inserts the jig hook on the left side of this bait, this wacky-jig combo slides and glides to the left during the retrieve, and it swings to the right when the jig hook is affixed to the right side of the bait.
Fukae's retrieving style is a varied and often complex one; sometimes he combines several motifs during a single retrieve.
After executing his cast, Fukae allows the wacky jig to descend on a semi-slack line while holding his rod between the two-and-one-o'clock positions. If the bass are suspended, he elicits more bites by shaking his rod as the jig falls. But if the bass aren't suspended or don't strike the jig during its descent, Fukae doesn't shake his rod because the shaking procedure slows the rate of the fall, preventing the jig from reaching more fruitful environs along the bottom in a timely manner.
When the bass are abiding and feeding in shallow water, they regularly engulf the wacky jig soon after it hits the water and before it reaches the bottom on its initial fall. On these occasions, he doesn't retrieve it horizontally back to his boat. Instead, he merely allows it to fall to the bottom, and if he doesn't hook a bass by the time the jig hits the bottom, he quickly reels it in and makes another cast to a likely looking lair and allows the jig to slowly fall towards the bottom, which is similar to the way Kiriyama fished his wacky jig at the 2008 Bassmaster Classic.
But during those days when the bass are not suspended nor inhabiting and foraging in the shallows, Fukae employs a horizontal retrieve, and it is executed as follows: Once the jig hits the bottom, Fukae immediately commences moving the jig back to the boat by slowly lifting his rod from two to one o'clock. Ideally, he prefers to retrieve the jig so that it doesn't touch the bottom after its initial descent. Thus it glides in a gentle undulating motion about a foot above the bottom.
When he is fishing a small area such as a brush pile or a rock pile with his horizontal retrieve, he imparts scores of tiny twitches to his rod as he slowly lifts it from two o'clock to one o'clock. This tactic slows the speed of the retrieve, and in effect it keeps the jig hovering over the brush or rocks for a spell.
If he is probing a large area, he executes a series of bigger shakes to his rod as it moves from two to one o'clock. This scheme quickens the pace of the retrieve.
He rarely probes lairs that are deeper than 20 feet, and when that occurs, he opts for an 1/8-ounce jig. Most of the time, he rarely works a wacky jig deeper than 15 feet.
There are times during a retrieve — especially when strikes are few and far between — that he will impart tiny twitches on one lift of the rod and during the next lift he will implement the bigger shakes and on the next lift he won't twitch or shake it, and he will continue that alternating scheme until the end of the retrieve as he strives to find the correct retrieve and depth to inveigle some bass.
Even though he prefers not to have the jig touch the bottom, there are spells when the fishing is so trying that he engages such experiments as slowly hopping, twitching and shaking the wacky jig along large swaths of the bottom. He will even drag or stroll a wacky jig for many yards behind the boat, probing the bottom as well as allowing it to undulate a foot or so above the bottom.
Fukae retrieves the 3 ½-inch Castaic Baby Jerky J differently than he retrieves the Pro Senko and Fall Shaker. He has discovered that it is an extremely effective lure on those days when the bass merely slap at a topwater lure; then he retrieves it from a few inches to about a foot under the surface in a erratic swimming-gliding-and-twitching motif that imitates a dying baitfish. Because it will veer to either the left or right, depending on how it is attached to a 1/16-ounce wacky jig, Fukae can retrieve it under floating docks and practically a third of the way around a partially flooded tree, emulating the way Charlie Campbell, the great topwater expert of Forsyth, Missouri, walks a Heddon Zara Spook around a partially submersed cedar tree. It also provides a unique angle to his retrieve when he is paralleling a shoreline.
Day in, day out, a green-pumpkin Pro Senko or Fall Shaker produces the most dividends for Fukae. When the water is stained, he likes to have the green-pumpkin enhanced with red flakes. As for the Castaic Baby Jerky J, the albino hue has been a fruitful one. At some waterways Fukae has found that a wacky jig that is dressed with a white silicone skirt and a white Senko is the most productive shade, and at other waterways, a jig adorned with a brown-and-orange skirt and a green-pumpkin Fall Shaker is the most effective.
In theory, Fukae prefers to hold his rod between two and one o'clock while retrieving a wacky jig, but in the real world, he has to deal with the wind, contend with a variety of obstacles that clutter the water and awkward boat positions. Thus, he often has to hold his rod at the four-o'clock position, where he moves the rod from left to right or vice-versa rather than up and down. When his rod is at the four-o'clock position during the retrieve, he moves the rod about one foot, and then he pauses it for several seconds. As he moves it to the side, he either twitches or shakes size rod.
No matter if his rod is held high or low, Fukae sets the hook on a striking bass rather gently, moving the rod several feet up or to the side while he quickly rotates the reel handle. And since 2004, he has set the hook on untold numbers of bass while wielding a wacky jig.