The Dean of finesse bed fishing

By Mark Hicks Texas immigrant Dean Rojas wields heavy tackle whenever bedding bass will tolerate it, as they did when he caught a Bassmaster record of 108 pounds, 12 ounces in 2001 at Florida's Lake Toho. His primary outfit there was a flippin' rod and 25-pound Izorline.A stout rod and strong line will let you put the wood to a heavy bass and horse it into open water before it can burrow into cover. Rojas typically matches his flippin' rod with a 1/4- to 1/2-ounce sinker and something on the order of a 6-inch lizard with a 5/0 hook. He can easily pitch this size bait for distance and accuracy. It's the best of all worlds. Until, that is, the bass grow fickle.
Rojas doesn't like to talk about it, but he fishes finesse plastics for bedding bass about 70 percent of the time. This shouldn't surprise anyone, considering that Rojas learned how to bed-fish on small, San Diego lakes. Bedding bass in these waters quickly grow timid, due to heavy fishing pressure.

Bitty baits

If you sneak a peek into Rojas' bed-fishing tacklebox when his back is turned, you'll see a variety of little lizards, craws, worms, tubes, and other baits he refuses to discuss. Given the fact that Wave Worms is one of his sponsors, he does admit that the 3 1/2-inch Tiki-Drop (a reaper-type bait), the 3-inch Tiki Grass Craw, and the 4-inch Tiki-Stick regularly produce bedding bass for him.You'll also notice that all of these bitty baits are white, chartreuse and other obvious colors that help Rojas see them beneath the surface. He wants to know exactly where his bait is on a bed and in relation to the bass. When a bass picks up the bright bait by the tail, Rojas can see it.Sometimes a bass has to take a couple of slurps to get the whole bait in its mouth," Rojas says. "If I can see my bait, I won't set the hook too soon."

Rojas fishes his finesse baits with relatively heavy tackle, including a 7-foot medium-heavy Quantum PT baitcasting rod, 12-pound Izorline, and a 2/0 to 3/0 offset wide gap hook. If the bass are bedding in water no deeper than 3 feet, he opts for a 1/8-ounce bullet sinker. In deeper water, he may go as heavy as 1/4 ounce.

"I use the heaviest tackle that lets me fish those little baits efficiently," Rojas says. "I don't feel confident casting to bedding fish with light line and a wimpy rod."Finesse baits have duped bass for Rojas just about everywhere he has fished for them, from California to Florida. He used a "smorgasbord" of small baits when he competed in a Bassmaster MegaBucks event at Lake Murray. A major tournament on Murray the week before had hammered the bass on the beds. The remaining spawners had been hassled to the point that they were lure shy. During the first two days of competition, Rojas caught two limits of bass that weighed just under 28 pounds, and missed the cut by mere ounces.

Those bass were intimidated by regular-size baits," Rojas says. "But when I put something small in their beds, a lot of them would get the attitude that they could take that little runt. Bait and switc In most bed-fishing situations, Rojas employs finesse baits as well as larger baits with heavier tackle. He keeps several rods rigged with different baits in several colors so he can quickly show a bass the various offerings."I usually start out with a flippin' rod and heavy line," Rojas says. "I'd much rather hook the bass on that outfit. If the bass don't bite after five or six casts, I'll switch to a small bait. Sometimes I have to switch back and forth between large and small baits several times to get a bass fired up."

In many instances, it is the larger lure that works the bass into a frenzy and the smaller bait that actually induces the strike. This bait-and-switch approach came through for Rojas when he fished a major tournament on Lake Okeechobee in January 2004. Several other boats were fishing the same spawning flat Rojas was working, which made the bass less inclined to inhale big baits.

Rojas would first tempt these bass with a 6-inch lizard or a 5-inch tube. When they refused, he served up a diminutive offering. A 3-inch craw worm proved especially effective. Enough so, in fact, that it carried Rojas to a seventh place finish that included a 10-pound bass."One advantage with a small bait is that it stays in the bed longer when I'm shaking it," Rojas says. "I could add a heavier weight to a bigger bait to make it stay put, but then, it stirs up a mess down there and might spook the fish."Whatever size bait Rojas works in a bed, he never pegs the sinker. He claims to get more secure hookups when the bass sucks in only the bait. The sinker, he believes, forces the bass' mouth open when the hook is set and interferes with the hook's penetration.

Rojas imparts the same actions to large and small baits when he fishes for bedding bass. He tries shaking the bait in the bed, hopping it, darting it ahead in quick spurts, and other "secret" tricks."Getting a bedding bass to bite is a real cat-and-mouse game," Rojas says. "Every bass is different. I just go through a series of things to try and make the fish react. If I can figure out what trips her trigger, I can get her to bite."More often than not, it's a small bait that does the trick.Size mattersWhen Rojas fishes a lake where the bass average less than 2 pounds, few of the bedding bass he locates weigh more than 3 pounds. In this situation, he knows limits of bass that weigh 2 to 3 pounds each can place him high in the standings."As a general rule, small bass on the beds are more inclined to hit small baits," Rojas says. "However, many of the big bass I've caught wouldn't even look at a little bait. I had to show them something substantial to get their attention."

 

 

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