The Forgotten Lizard and The Springtime Blues
article by Kenny Covington
The fishing industry is all about the “what’s new and what’s hot.” What is the hottest new lure, the newest technique or even technology? Sometimes the best lure in your tackle box is one that has been put on standby, having been replaced by the newest fad. Bass fishing is an ever-evolving sport but sometimes newer is not always better. This is the case when fishing in the springtime with a soft plastic lizard.
The soft plastic lizard has been around for decades. I won a tournament at Bayou Bartholomew in 1987 swimming a weightless 8-inch black/blue croc tailed lizard over grass. Glynn Blankenship and I won numerous events at Darbonne Lake in March and April with a black/blue lizard being our key lure. It has been a deadly springtime choice of soft plastic for many years but for whatever reason, people just do not use them like they used to. In this month’s Bayou Life article, I would like to reintroduce you to the soft plastic lizard.
While there are many companies that manufacture soft plastic lizards, there are two versions that I use more than others. When throwing the four inch or eight-inch variety, I use the Zoom Lizard. When using the standard six-inch version, I prefer the Big Bite Baits Pro Lizard. While I do believe any lizard will work when the fish are keyed in on this soft plastic, my reasons for choosing these companies are nothing more than the confidence I have developed from using these products.
Each size has its own situations or techniques I associate with. This is not to say that the sizes are not interchangeable because, based on the fishery, they can be. As a rule, I use the four-inch version when the fish first pull up shallow to spawn, after cold fronts or in heavily pressured fishing situations. I like to use the eight-inch version on lakes with a heavier stain in the water, fishing in and around grass or if I am targeting larger fish. The six-inch version is the standard size that is easily the most popular and is usually my first choice when flipping or pitching Cypress trees.
When it comes to using a lizard, one of the things many people do not realize is just how versatile it is for catching bass. When I use the Zoom four-inch version my favorite way to fish is to rig it Texas style, weightless and use a spinning rod to skip it around flooded bushes and cypress trees. Pre-spawn fish that have just moved up are extremely skittish, but I have done very well with this technique. The biggest key is to be accurate when skipping the lure; spooling up your spinning rod with 20lb. braided line makes this much easier.
Another good pre-spawn/spawning technique is to Caroline rig the four-inch lizard. I have found if I scale down my tackle and use a 15 lb. main line with a 10-12 lb. leader, I catch more bass in the early spring and after a major cold front that takes place during the spring, than using the traditional Carolina rig set up. Another key to this technique is to use a thin wire, wide gap hook; this allows for better hook penetration.
The six-inch Big Bite Baits Pro Lizard is a highly effective choice regardless of the lake or body of water you fish and it will catch both size and numbers of bass. The ways in which to use this size lizard effectively are numerous but there are some that have proven to be more effective than others. It is still my favorite size lizard when throwing the standard sized Carolina Rig. It is also my first choice when I am flipping and pitching to shallow targets during the spring of the year.
For years one of the staples for anglers was using a white lizard when fishing for bass locked in on beds. The white lizard is easier for the angler to see even when fishing beds found in deeper water. The base white color also allows the use of dyes to change the appearance of the lizard, making it more appealing to the fish. The lizard is also a great alternative for the anglers who prefer using a Zoom Brush Hog. Fish become conditioned to certain lures and since they do not see lizards as much as they used to, it is a great alternative when fishing behind someone or if you are on a heavily pressured lake.
While I do admit the six-inch version of the lizard is the most popular size, it is the one size I use the least. My preference has always been the Zoom eight-inch version simply because I have found I catch a better-quality fish when using it. The eight-inch is the perfect size for swimming over and around flooded bushes and grass. Because of the lures bulk, it works well in stained to even the muddiest of waters. Even without a weight, this size lizard is easy to control and cast in the worst springtime winds.
When using the larger lizard, my preference is to use a 5/0 offset VMC Worm Hook, 25 lb. line and an eight-foot flipping stick. When I set the hook into a bass with this set up, the only place he is going is into my boat! One thing I do change is when swimming the larger lizard, I have found using a 40lb. braided line with the same 5/0 hook, increases my catch ratio. This is due to throwing the lure over longer distances and getting more strikes on the longer end of a cast.
Naturally when using soft plastics, the conversation soon turns to, “what colors do you like?” This is an interesting question because I have found certain colors to work better on certain lakes. On Caney Lake for example, I have done better using a Junebug color. On the Mississippi River Oxbows such as Lake Providence, I have had good success using the South African Special. On Lake Claiborne I have done well with Watermelon/chartreuse tail. Each lake is different but if I were only allowed to pick three colors it would be: black/blue, SA Special and Watermelon, regardless of the size lizard I am throwing. Some other good lizard tips that might help you put more fish in your boat this spring:
1) When fishing extremely muddy water, a good color choice is cotton candy/chartreuse.
2) Always use the lightest slip sinker as you can get away with. To compensate for using heavier line, use a heavier slip sinker.
3) A weightless Texas rigged lizard is a great follow-up lure for fish that miss other presentations.
4) Never use an EWG style hook when lizard fishing, always use a straight shank or an offset style hook.
Once bass have begun their springtime spawning rituals, the further into the process they get, the harder than can be to catch. Once bass complete their spawning cycles many anglers believe these fish will move to deeper water and suspend making them harder to locate and catch. I have found that a lot of fish will stay around in shallower water for quite some time to take advantage of the easier meals that are in abundance.
Right around the time most of the bass finish spawning, the bream will begin to spawn in the same shallow areas the bass has used. This is like bringing the canary to the cat. Larger bass, being the lazy creatures they are, did not get to be lazy and the size they are by being dumb. They understand what is about to take place and they eagerly await the opportunity to pay back the annoying bream that continually tried to rob their nests of eggs while they were spawning.
`It is this time of year when topwater lures excel. Prop baits such as a Devil’s Horse, Pop R’s and the Bomber Long A are top choices and will catch giant post-spawn bass. The key to each of these lures is patience and lure placement. The better your casting ability and the more patience you have while working these lures, the better your chances of catching these larger, lethargic bass. One thing to remember about this type of topwater fishing, make sure you pay close attention to the lure cadence that got you the initial strike. The more you duplicate it, the better your chances of continued success.