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Chalk Talk: Ike’s 'panic box'

Chalk Talk: Ike’s 'panic box'

(Editor's note: The following is the latest installment in a series of fishing tips presented by The Bass University. Check back each Friday for a new tip.)

When bass are eating reaction baits and you can call your shots, fishing is an absolute joy, but those moments of being “in the zone” are few and far between. More often than not, fish need to be tricked and cajoled into striking artificial lures, and when they’re in a negative mood one way to accomplish that goal is to utilize downsized or more subtle lures.

That’s why Bass University founder Mike Iaconelli never gets in the boat without a “panic box,” a last-ditch set of lures that will eke out bites when times are tough. Those little lures have saved him on more than one occasion.

This guiding principle of his “panic” strategy is to recognize that for each power-fishing presentation, there’s a finesse corollary. The alternate bait or technique may require different tackle and different angler actions, but it enables him to save the day. He rarely goes to weigh-in with an empty livewell, even when other pros are confused by changing conditions.

For example, he loves to cover water and make fish react with crankbaits, but when that bite turns off, he’ll turn to a simple grub on a lead-head jig in its place. He’ll employ either a curl tail-style or a tab tail, the former when the water is in the high 50s or above, or in stained water, and the latter when the water temperature is in the mid 50s or below, or when there’s greater visibility.
He’ll rarely just retrieve his grubs directly back to the boat. While a crankbait uses its bill to deflect, an angler needs to effect the same action from a grub. “I throw twitches and pauses into the bait,” he said.

Grubs are incredibly versatile, because by changing color, the size or style of the jighead, or even rod angle, “You can really control the bait in different zones.”

Another one of his panic box staples is a finesse jerkbait like a small Rapala X-Rap. “It’s such an easy meal and it saves the day,” he said. With an 8-pound braided main line and a leader composed of 6-pound fluorocarbon, he can cast it a country mile. The natural action and universal baitfish profile will elicit a “feeding response from the fish, even when it’s not feeding.”

As with the grub, Iaconelli consistently works to dial in the retrieve or cadence that the fish may prefer on any given day. He’ll change up every five or 10 casts until he finds what they want, and manufactured deflection remains the name of the game. Straight retrieves need not apply in most circumstances.

“I’m always trying to change the direction of that bait, trying to do something different,” he said.

If you want to learn some of the additional elements of Ike’s panic box, and his tricks for getting the most out of them, including how he adjusts colors to match the hatch, check out his full video, available only by subscribing to The Bass University TV.

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