Shocking but true
In my opinion, the tougher the conditions the more important bait selection and the order in which it is presented becomes. These are also the situations in which the more fishermen in my boat the better I like it. More baits in the water at one time means I can figure out what’s going on that much quicker besides upping my odds of making contact with an active fish.
Most of the time I’m fishing with a minimum of 2 lots of times 3 plus myself so the first bait in the boat casts smaller, straight tracking quicker moving and natural colored baits lures that typically wouldn’t provoke many follows but perhaps a nip from an otherwise neutral fish. Some of my favorite first baits through are harassers, screamers, showgirls, flashers, spinnerbaits, slammers and big games moved quick, or maybe a top water and cisco kids, depth raiders, musky train mx for deeper edges. The next guy in the boat follows with a more aggressive fish bait like a double 9 or 10, a ripped minnow bait like a grama, big game high rail or a jerk bait like a Squirko or Suick to try and provoke a reactionary strike or opportunistic feeding type strike.
It is important that the first two baits through are picked for covering lots of water and allow quick, repeated casts to likely looking and known fish holding targets. I normally like to move quickly on clear and lightly stained water but when it gets tough, slow down pick apart and hit the sweet spots much more thoroughly like you would in dark or dirty water. Aggravating a fish is the idea here more than thinking you are fishing for a feeding fish. It’s also important that the lures be high percentage hookers because under tough conditions the strikes will typically be more of a nipping, slapping, rolling nature rather than the classic T-bone. If there’s 4 in the boat the 3rd bait through is what the 2nd didn’t pick or a rubber bait in a natural color pattern worked fairly quick and erratically. The last bait thru is what I call the “shocker” and what I normally throw. Not only is it the slowest and relatively to what your fishing the deepest running bait but it’s also the biggest, brightest, ugliest looking bait in the set. If a fish eats it under these conditions behind 2-3 other baits, it’s a bonus. Its sole purpose basically is as a locator to find fish for those fishing with me to come back on later in the day or trip under more favorable conditions.
Some of my favorite shockers are magnum and pounder Bulldawgs especially those with bright contrasting tails, big slow moving weighted jerk baits, double 10’s with bright blades and or skirt colors with a large rubber tail slow rolled, loud or big zig zag top waters. Water color does not seem to matter. As a matter of fact, the clearer the water the better these bright colors seem to work in this application. Surprisingly, these same baits moved quicker are many times the best big fish catching baits in more natural colors under low light and/or more favorable conditions when they are aggressive and chasing hard.
I don’t want the big obnoxious baits being cast over the spot first because many times under tough conditions the followers are what I call “one time Charlies” – you will only get them to move once at that time and I’d rather have them see the smaller, more natural, quicker baits first and perhaps get a shot at them. If they don’t rush and grab the first sets of baits through they will many times still, follow the shocker and expose their location. It’s possible to even still catch a fish on the shocker if the bigger brighter bait happens to aggravate them but throw the shocker first and the other baits have a little chance under these conditions and you’ll just end up with some follows and stories.
Do not underestimate the advantage of “one in the hand is better than two in the bush” theory when it comes to being ready to make your milk run at dusk or an approaching front during a tough day. The shocker is playing an ever increasing role in my arsenal as a viable tool with a purpose and many times positive end result. While casting the shocker works best as a locator coming thru last but when trolling a shocker seems to work best and catches fish coming thru as the first bait closest to the boat/prop and positioned in the bottom of the edge of the prop wash.