By Steve Pennaz
The bait designers at Berkley Fishing are a busy lot. They’re constantly picking the brains of the sport’s top pros, emerging months later with unique baits that help anglers catch more fish. Some bait designs are very application-specific, while others seem to work no matter where, when or how they’re fished.
Berkley unveiled several new additions to their berkley powerbait and Havoc lines at the recent 2014 Bassmaster Classic in Birmingham, Alabama. I recently had a chance to fish four of the new baits during a swing through southern waters. Here’s what I found.
Although the new berkley PowerBait Fight’n Bug is only 3.5 inches long, it’s huge on action thanks to thick, heavy claws attached to soft, supple arms. When you drop one on a jig or a Carolina rig, the claws move unlike any craw bait I’ve fished. They rear up in a natural defensive posture that’s incredibly lifelike. The smaller footprint and unique action also make the bait a serious finesse fishing contender.
Rigged Texas style, but with a small, thin-wire EWG hook, 1/16- to 1/4-ounce weight and light line, it’s deadly for finicky largemouths, especially in clear or highly-pressured waters. And I have no doubts smallies are going to love it as well.
The Fight’n Bug comes loaded with PowerBait’s famous scent and flavor, the result of 25 years of research on the water and in the lab. Berkley data suggests that bass hold onto PowerBait soft plastics an average of 18 times longer than non-scent and flavor impregnated baits. Guess that’s why, especially with walleyes, redfish, trout and panfish, I rarely fish live bait anymore.
The Fight’n Bug is a natural fit for sight fishing bass, too. While it depends on water clarity, my color choice is one that offers both visibility and natural forage-matching characteristics like Berkley’s Alabama Craw. However, on many clear waters you can get by with natural colors like variations of green pumpkin. Even if the water’s slightly stained, if I’m getting more bites on a natural color, I will give up visibility for bites.
I hate to admit it, but I haven’t fished lizard-style soft plastics in a number of years, even though my personal best largemouth was caught Carolina rigging one. You don’t hear much about lizards in the angling press lately either, likely due to the focus on trends like the Alabama rig and the widening availability of so many new, deadly creature baits. But this particular lizard profile bait definitely has me rethinking the forgotten champ.
Designed by bass legend Gary Klein, the Boss Dog has a fairly traditional-looking slithering tail, but larger leg and arm appendages than those found on a typical lizard bait. At six inches long, it’s relatively beefy through the body, which means those appendages really get kicking when the bait is moved.
Because the lizard is so rarely fished or talked about these days, it’s one of my 2014 picks for best new bass baits to crack pressured fish. You can bet bass are still hammering living salamanders and other amphibians when they get the chance, so I’m putting the lizard back into rotation this year.
I should add that the Boss Dog takes the beating of multiple fish catches, much like the Havoc Pit Boss, on which I’ve caught as many as nine bass on a single bait before it crashes and burns.