By Jonathan LePera
Special to BassFan
(Editor's Note: This is part 3 of a three-part series highlighting how some pro bass anglers employ spoons and vertical presentations to trigger bass to bite during the summer and other times of the year. To read part 1 on JT Kenney's summertime tactics, click here. To check out part 2 about how Kevin VanDam uses spoons as a follow up bait, click here.)
Growing up in the upper Midwest, Seth Feider is used to fishing for a mixed bag of bass.
At most any spot he fishes, he’s just as apt to hook up with a largemouth as he is one of the smallmouth variety. Come winter, when those bass school up tightly, Feider has found the most productive technique to be a one-two punch involving vertical presentations.
As a kid, he fished through the ice in Minnesota for crappies and walleyes. As he got older, he’d tag along with a friend to Table Rock Lake in Missouri, where he’d chase bass on soft water during the winter. They’d vertically jig spoons, a technique he brought back home and helped him not only on Minnesota lakes, but also at venues where the Bassmaster Elite Series has taken him.
When they Shine
Especially when bass suspend while feeding on big clouds of bait over deep water, Feider will have a Rapala Jigging Rap tied on. He’ll employ his electronics to determine whether it’s worth dropping on them.
“It’s not a go-down-the-bank thing,” he said. “You are driving around with the side-scan on until you find bait balls and fish under them and then get right over top and drop baits to them.”
If the school is spread out, he’ll make small pitches to them and tight-line it through them. Most times, he’ll be “video-game fishing” by finding fish on his electronics and then dropping down to them.
There can be a small window during the summer when bass will suspend around schools of bait, but it’s largely a late fall pattern.
“For me it’s a cold-water deal, late fall into early winter, until those fish start to move shallow again,” he added.
How to Find Them
Basically, bass will chase bait that congregates over deeper water whether it’s in the middle of a creek or on the main lake.
“On reservoirs, you can drive down the guts of the creeks to see them. You don’t have to get on the points or flats,” he said. “Bass use them as a herding situation where the creek channel gets real tight in one spot. That’s usually a really good spot to look. I think the bass pin them down and hold them put.”
Feider puts natural lakes and highland reservoirs at the top of the list for the winter bite. Any fishery with gin clear water is a big player.
Some of the lakes he fishes, the bait ball covers much of the screen. When he sees those scenarios, he’ll watch for fish streaking through them. If he finds one bait ball in each creek or pocket, he’ll explore further – it all depends on the density of the bait, he says.
Feider isn’t convinced that bass will chase the bait everywhere the pod goes, though.
“That same exact school might hang in that area and wait for another to come through,” he said, “I’ve gone back and caught fish in areas where there were just fish and no bait being present.”
The key to this whole approach is having your electronics dialed in. Before Feider gets down to business, he’ll find the calmest water he can and drop a bait down in front of his transducer and begin fine-tuning the settings, such as sensitivity, on his Humminbird Helix 10. Once he’s confident that it will paint the picture he needs, he’ll go hunting, employing the Down Imaging feature.
“You can almost read the bait and tell where the fish are,” he said. “If it’s just all flat on the bottom or slowly rounded and I saw little divots in the bottom of the school or the top, by using Down Imaging, I found those are typically caused by a fish sitting there. I’ll just drop my bait to those little notches.”
Feider's one-two punch for vertical fishing is a Rapala Jigging Rap and a Damiki Rig, consisting of a VMC Moon Eye Jig with a Damiki Armor Shad.
As soon as he marks a fish on side or down imaging, he’ll drop a waypoint on it and turn around and fish it immediately. The accuracy of the Spot Lock feature on the new Minn Kota Ultrex allows him to stay within five feet of his waypoint, giving him the chance to maximize his time on the spot.
Initially, Feider will pick off the aggressive fish in the school with a 7/8-ounce white Rapala Jigging Rap. It falls quickly and has a great triggering quality on active fish.
“Even when you are in that clear water, depths of 30 to 50 feet of water, there isn’t a lot of light penetration down there,” he said. “I think the white stands out nice.”
If the bite shuts off, Feider will switch to a Damiki Rig, especially when he’s fishing isolated fish not relating to bait.
Feider stresses that the key to the rig is the VMC Moon Eye jig head. As Feider explains it, the jig is poured with the hook shank further back in the head, which helps it to balance horizontally once rigged with a 3-inch shad colored soft-plastic minnow imitator.
“A lot of jig heads sit hook-down from the jighead,” he said. “That big eye gives them something to aim at, too.”
With both baits, he won’t hesitate to set the hook once feeling the bite. He’ll take up the slack quickly with his drag set tighter on the hookset to drive them in but will back it off to tire the fish. If there is cover nearby, he’ll get them into open water to play them out.
Working the Bait
When working the Jigging Rap, Feider will “stroke it up and down as high as I can with my rod. If all the fish are at the same depth, I’ll be pulling it a couple feet above them to a couple of feet below them.”
With the Damiki Rig, he’ll keep it right on top of their head, dead-sticking it almost. He’ll use a very small twitch by vibrating the rod slightly.
As many highland reservoirs have standing timber located in many of the creek channels, he’ll be careful to fish over top of them and try to draw fish out of the cover when he can. He said he’s not targeting the timber to find the bass, he’s looking for the bass, which can sometimes be found hiding in the timber using it as cover.
Rig It Right
When fishing the Damiki Rig, keeping it perfectly horizontal is key. For that reason, Feider will cinch down on his knot on the jig, but then push it toward where the eye of the hook meets the soft-plastic on the jig. It’s unorthodox, but it’s an old ice fishing trick he used to catch bluegills.
On the Rapala Jigging Rap, he’ll add a snap swivel to the top of the bait to prevent it from twisting. He’ll also cut off the factory treble hook on the belly and add a split ring and #6 VMC round-bend treble, as more than 90 percent of the bites come off the treble hook.
Here’s Feider’s preferred tackle for these techniques: 7’1” medium-action Daiwa Tatula Elite Brent Ehrler spinning rod, Daiwa EXIST spinning reel, 10-pound Suffix 832 braided line, 8-pound fluorocarbon line (leader). He’ll upsize to 10- or 12-pound fluorocarbon when fishing around timber.