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"Light Line Techniques for Lunkers"
By: Chad Morgenthaler

Statistics show that the sport of bass fishing is growing by leaps and bounds and there are more people today enjoying our lakes and river systems than ever before.  People are finding out that with a little bit of practice and perseverance just about anyone can learn how to fish.  While growing numbers is good news for the sport of bass fishing, it can often be bad news for our highly pressured waters.  So, to combat the problem of pressured and stressed fish anglers need to learn and develop new techniques to catch very weary bass.  Some of the tricks Iíve learned while on tour over the past couple of years might surprise you.

One of the biggest misconceptions out there is that large bass can only be caught by power fishing with heavy line and large baits. In my experience this train of thought couldnít be further from the truth.  Many times when anglers use a crank bait or a heavy jig they miss their target by fishing either above or below the fish.  Unfortunately most anglers wonít give lighter line and small baits a chance to work.

In the spring, summer, and fall one of my favorite techniques is to throw a shaky head. Whether anglers are fishing for smallmouth, spots, or largemouth this is a finesse technique thatís fished on the bottom, so itís really effective around brush piles, stumps, points, and drop offs. A shaky head is a ball headed jig Ė around 1/8 oz. with no skirt Ė threaded with a 4Ē finesse worm. Many of the guys on tour use this method to get extra bites as well as catch some very large bass.

Thereís no big secret to fishing a shaky head, but it does require some patience. First, itís very important to make long casts because in most cases anglers are dealing with weary fish.  Not only are they line shy, but boat shy as well.  After a long cast let the bait fall to the bottom then drag slowly or short-hop it along the bottom allowing it to sit on slack line between movements.  Allowing the bait to sit on slack line causes the shaky head to stand straight-up.  The easiest way for angler to understand how it looks while at rest is to check it out in a swimming pool or aquarium. Make sure the line knot is rotated around to the upper side of the eye of the hook.  Keep in mind that although the shaky head falls extremely fast through the water, itís not the type of bait anglers will receive a ton of bites on during decent. The majority of bites will occur while the bait is on the bottom. The shaky head also allows anglers to feel the bottom structure and contours really well. 

However, keep in mind this technique requires the proper equipment in order to work effectively. If the wrong rig is used, many times itís hard to land bites and will become very frustrating. A quality spinning reel is a must. I use a Diawa 2500 series, which seems to be about the right size, matched with a Kistler Helium LTA 7í Medium Action spinning rod.  Kistlerís rods are awesome and this one is no exception.  I specifically pair this rod with a shaky head because the rod will make long casts and is also super sensitive regardless of the depth fished.  The sensitivity of the rod allows me to feel the bite, and the parabolic bend is perfect for a good hook set.

Morgenthaler Prefers
Maxima Fluorocarbon

Next, anglers must consider their line size. A quality fluorocarbon line is essential with this rig.  Anglers can really put the odds in their favor by using the right line.  I know fluorocarbon lines are expensive, but in this case itís well worth the extra cash. In my opinion, Maxima makes one of the most affordable and strongest fluorocarbon lines on the market.  I use Maximaís fluorocarbon line in 6lb. and 8lb. test. Typically I stick with the 8lb. test and will drop down to the 6lb. if Iím fishing in extremely deep clear water.

Another technique to catch pressured fish using light line is a drop shot rig. I use a drop shot rig in much the same areas as the shaky head, but I use it for locating suspended fish instead of fish that are sitting on the bottom.  I use a 1/0 or 2/0 rebarb straight shank thin wire hook made by Gamagatzu. I tie the hook 15Ė20Ē above the drop shot weight using a standard Palomar knot.  Tie the weight to the end of the line and then thread a 4Ē finesse worm onto the hook Ė the exact opposite of a Carolina rig. This is a super sensitive way to fish because anglers will have a direct line with the hook situated above the weight.  Unlike the sensation of the bait floating above the weight like on a Carolina rig. This bait can also be fished on the bottom and the distance of the hook from the weight can also be adjusted to target fish at different depths. This distance should be in direct relation to where the fish are holding, or suspended, so itís directly in their line of sight.  To effectively fish the drop shot I use the same rig that I paired with the shaky head.   Kistler Helium LTA 7í Medium Action spinning rod, a good quality spinning reel and 6-8lb. Maxima fluorocarbon line.

When I drop shot I always have my Lowrance X26C unit on.  This unit is very sensitive and will display the fish hanging suspended on the screen.  When I see suspended fish, I drop the bait right in front of them.  The unit is so sensitive that I can visually follow my bait, my line, and the fishís movements on the screen. 

Regardless of which light line presentation you choose to use, itís safe to say that the majority of big fish wonít have seen them, which is great for catching weary bass.  Remember, the most important thing about using light line techniques is to use the proper equipment. I must also stress the importance of a good quality fluorocarbon line such as Maximaís because of its sensitivity and abrasion resistance. Believe it or not, Iíve landed a lot of very large fish out of very heavy cover situations on 8lb. fluorocarbon line. Keep these tips in mind and Iím sure youíll have success using light line techniques.

Make sure and log onto my web site and signup for my fan club.  E-newsletters are forwarded monthly and one lucky winner each month receives a prize.  Tournament summaries are posted after each tournament and pro tips are updated every two weeks.  Itís a great source of bass fishing information.