up your cold weather fishing by mastering the heavy-weight bait.....THE SLAB!
hang up their gear as the last few autumn leaves drop from their branches and
the crisp fall air turns to the cold of winter, only to dream about what the
distant spring will bring. For some, however, blustery conditions are not a
signal to stop fishing, but a time to modify tactics. Choose the right one,
and the action will keep you braving the weather all season.
An excellent cold-water technique, and
one that often out-fishes all others during late fall and winter, is
vertically jigging heavy slabs of metal designed to imitate baitfish - better
known in bass fishing circles as slabbing.
have lots of potential when the weather heads south, but haphazardly dropping
one to the bottom is a sure-fire path to frustration. There are several
basics methods, and a few details you must master before you can consider
yourself a proficient slabber. Luckily, it doesn't take long to learn to fish
these molded pieces of steel properly - especially when instructed by one of
the best there is at Slabbing up bass.
1. Know When To Slab
Slabbing is like all other bass fishing
techniques - if you do it long enough you will eventually catch a fish or
two. There are times and situations, however, when specific baits and
approaches out-perform all others. Knowing when to Slab is your first step
Any time the water dips below 60 degrees
is a good rule-of-thumb for pulling out your Slabs, but don't rely completely
on temperature, because schooling fish are the key. "Let the bass tell you
when they want it (Slab), because there are times when they'll school up and
eat Slabs, even when the water is still in the 60s. When scouting for fish,
look for concentrations of bass on points and in the backs of creek channels
– when you find them there, it's time to Slab ‘em up.
2. Proper Gear, Proper Rigging
locate a school of bass, tie on a Slab, drop it to the bottom and catch fish,
right? Maybe. But having the right gear and rigging your Slabs correctly will
increase the odds of filling that livewell.
Start off with a six to seven-foot rod,
and make sure it's ultra-sensitive. Bass seldom whack a Slab, so you will
need to be able to feel the subtlest changes in your bait's action. I would
suggests spooling your reel with 15-pound test fluorocarbon, unless you're
fishing deeper than 60-feet, when braided line will provide a little more
sensitivity. Super sharp treble hooks are also a must - for added action use
one with a bucktail dressing. The bucktail actually slows the action of the
3. Simple Colors
The real attraction when it comes to
Slab fishing, at least to bass, is the flash that these lures produce. For
the most part, White Slabs are a good choice. But at times, fish seem to want
Chartuse - especially whenever clouds are blocking the sun."
There's really no need to be extravagant, but if you want to try , Chrome, or
nickel plated, orange or any other color for that matter, go ahead. The most
important thing when it comes to Slab fishing is confidence, and if it works
for you, use it.
4. Understand Your
You can buy the best electronics in the
world (and you definitely have to own quality equipment for this type of
fishing), but if you don't know how to use your sonar you probably won't
catch many bass. "It's paramount to have top-of-the-line electronics for
Slabbing, because with a good fish-finder you can actually tell if a bass is
looking at your Slab, and you should be able to see them hit it about half of
Set your electronics with the "grayline"
feature turned on and a tight school of bait will show up as a dark splotch
with a gray band running through it. Be ready for fast action if you see
larger fish (bass) hanging below, or to the back of the school. When I have a
big ball of bait go across my graph, I usually get bit after it moves off the
graph. Bass trailing a ball of bait pick-off weak or injured fish as they
drop out of the school - don't crank in your lure just because you don't see
the bait anymore.
5. Find The Bait
Once you're comfortable with your
electronics, it's time to find some baitfish - particularly bait that bass
are corralling into tight balls, and may emhasize the word tight. Don't waste
your time on scattered baitfish, regardless of how big the school, because
there is nothing trying to eat them.
Start your search at major points
leading into creeks, and while keeping an eye on your sonar, crisscrosses the
channel and work toward the back. Try to notice where the bait is holding,
whether they're suspended, on the bottom or right on the bank. If you don't
find bait in the main channel, check secondary points and feeder creeks.
6. Locate Ambush
of baitfish are always on the move, and although it's possible to follow a
ball of bait around, knowing where bass hold to wait for food to come to them
will save you a lot of trouble. This is especially true when fishing several
different areas, or on multiple days - you can go directly to a spot rather
than spending time searching an entire area.
Key ambush points to look for include
break lines, rock piles and submerged brush or trees that lie along creek
channels. Remember that one of my favorite areas is where feeder creeks drop
into main channels. There are times when you have to wait for the bait to
show up, I have waited for the bait to show up for two hours. The bait
finally came through, then the bass came through and I caught ten keepers in
the amount of time it would take you to snap your fingers."
7. Look For Reaction
Even though Slabs are typically used
when the fishing is tough, they are still reaction-type baits that capitalize
on active bass. But dropping your Slab to bass feeding on tight schools of
bait does not guarantee a strike. When fish know there is something wrong
(like this thing isn't real), they get a negative cue and will not eat.
Compare this behavior to bass exposed to countless presentations in casting
tanks at fishing seminars - they may follow the presenters offering closely,
but rarely hit it.
Watch your sonar closely and you may see
a fish move to your Slab on the initial drop, and then disappear. When you
see bass exhibiting this behavior it's time to reel in and try again. I'll
hop it. only a minute or two, but if nothing happens I bring it up, move a
little bit then drop it right down again and hope to get that reaction
strike. A lot of folks over work a slab, looking for that reaction strike,
when just holding the slab a feet off the bottom produces fish!
8. Tune In To Your
Different Slabs have different actions,
dependent on their weight and shape, and it's up to you to rely on the bass
to let you know what they want. The action of Slabs fall into two categories,
Those with a straight drop and ones that have lots of wobble." As examples,
a standard Hopkins Slab sinks fast with a straight drop type of flutter,
while the shape of a Sooner Slab has a very distinctive wobble as it falls
relatively slowly. When bass ignore what you're using, throw them a curve by
changing to a different type of Slab. I change from the Regular Sooner to the
Sooner Sidewinder changing the speed of movement.
Sooner Slab Page
9. Never Lose Contact
for Sucess! Ninety-nine percent of pick-ups come when Slabs are
fluttering to the bottom. And fish don't hold on long! If you don't keep in
contact with your Slab, you may never feel a bass take it. Every Slab has its
own characteristic feel. Be comfortable with each type that you own, so
you'll sense even the slightest change - always set the hook if you
feel anything different.
Even with the most sensitive equipment
and excellent technique, some Slab bites are so light they are undetectable
to the touch. You have to know what depth you're in, and if that Slab stops
six-inches, a foot, even three-inches early and your line starts to coil on
the water, you set that hook." Any delay may cost you a fish.
10. Experiment With
Some anglers claim that the little
things don't make a difference. But bass are finicky, and how you work a
Slab, often times, does matter. Slabs are versatile - work them subtly,
aggressively and every way in between, until the bass tell you what they
want, that day.
The most refined method of Slabbing, and
the one that takes the most faith and patience, is dead-sticking. If the
water is real clear, get the Slab down there, rip it up a couple of times
then let it lie there - the fish know that thing is there and eventually eat
it right off the bottom or hanging a few feet off the bottom!"
There are occasions when bass want a
Slab that is hopping up-and-down only an inch or two, and other times when
fish want it ripped up several feet. A lot of the time I do a double clutch -
jerk, jerk, or I'll jerk a foot and drop it, jerk six-inches and drop it,
then jerk two-feet and drop it." Regardless of the cadence you use, the
important thing is to mix it up until you know what the bass are looking for.
The proof is in the livewell!