Fishermen in general and bass anglers in particular, have a well-deserved reputation for being tight-lipped when it comes to their information. After all, for those who are making their living on the tournament trail; an oddball technique, special bait or unique color may be all that is needed to tip the competitive balance. At the highest level of the sport if you look closely or listen carefully perhaps you can catch a glimpse or mention about a new technique known as Spybaiting.
Spybaiting is a hot new finesse tactic that has its origins in Japan. It is based on light line and the use of a subtle sinking prop bait fished with a methodical slow retrieve.
Join us as Bass Angler Headquarters brings you an exclusive interview with Bassmaster Elite Series Pro Kevin Hawk as he reveals everything Spybaiting.
For Hawk, Spybaiting represents a new option for targeting suspended fish. “Spybaiting is a great presentation for fish that are suspended and inactive. These are the hardest fish to get to bite, with this presentation I feel like I am catching fish that otherwise I would not be catching,” said Hawk.
In addition, the Elite Series Pro has found Spybaiting to be very effective on schooling fish. “A lot of times when those fish come up and bust and then they go back down and start to corral the baitfish again, the DUO Realis Spinbait 80 is so easy to just reel subsurface,” he explained. “On the very next cast you can let it sink fairly quickly, 10 to 15 feet and get it to where those fish are at again.”
Spybaiting is a very subtle presentation best suited to clear water. Hawk likes to have at least 4 to 5 feet of visibility in order for it to really excel. The Spinbait 80 is very visually oriented bait although it does have a pulsating and wobbling action that the fish can pick up with their lateral line.
On a clear water environment like Smith Lake in Alabama, Hawk concentrates on main lake points that start out shallow and taper out to 25 feet before dropping off into the main river channel. With his boat in deep water he makes his first cast to the point. “On a long cast my bait lands in 15 feet of water, I can adjust my cast length to the depth zone I want to reach and from there I just have to decide where in the water column I want to fish the Spinbait,” explained the Duo Realis Pro. “Usually I like to start high in the water column because those spots are always looking up and feeding up, I think that is just their nature. My first cast as soon as it hits the water I engage my reel and start a slow retrieve, the bait is still going to get down several feet, giving the fish that are most active and up in the water column a chance to look up and eat the bait first. If I don’t get bit I will let the bait sink for a count of say 3 or 4 and then retrieve it, allowing me to work down in the water column. Sometimes the fish aren’t as aggressive as they are at other times, the less aggressive the farther I let it go down in the water column so they don’t have to come up as far to get it.”
Lake Guntersville is one of the finest largemouth fisheries in the nation. Hawk has had good success here with the Spinbait 80 in areas that have a combination of current and baitfish. “Some of the key areas that always have both of these are the causeways,” tipped the Alabama Pro. “I have had my best success on Guntersville aside from fishing for busting or schooling fish in these type of areas. In addition to visible structure like rip rap and concrete bridge pylons, these areas also have really good hard drops and depth changes.”
While there are a number of baits designed for Spybaiting on the market, Hawk relies on the DUO Realis Spinbait 80. His favorite color pattern is Ghost Pearl. “It’s a great all around water clarity color, it works in very clear water and it works in slightly stained water. It’s my go to color,” revealed Hawk. “Morning Dawn is another really good clear water color.”
Hawk likes to throw the Spinbait 80 on an I ROD Air 6102S Spinning Rod with an Abu Garcia Revo SX Spinning Reel. He uses 15lb or 20 lb Seaguar Smackdown Braid with a 5.5′ 8lb. Seaguar InvisixX Fluorocarbon leader.
Hawk cautioned aspiring spybaiters to not over work the bait. “Cast it out there and let it sink to the desired depth you want. Very slowly reel it back to the boat. If you think you are reeling slow you need to reel it a little slower. Let the built-in action of the bait do its thing. Just do a slow steady retrieve,” he advised. “A lot of times they will come up and hit it without getting hooked up. In that situation you need to do what I call ‘reel through the bite’. Don’t alter your retrieve. Don’t jerk the rod, just keep reeling as if you never got bit, because a lot of times they will come back and get it.”
Follow Kevin Hawk next year as he competes again on the Bassmaster Elite Series.