I‘m a liberal leaning outdoorsman attempting to open the minds of right wingers to the idea that libs fish too. Anglers come from all walks of life, left, right, and center. Not everyone who fishes for bass is a redneck fond of Nascar, country music, and religiosity. Expect posts about largemouth bass fishing, techniques, reviews of lures and other products, but not any condemnable conservative rants. I hope to inspire the online angler community to dial down rhetoric which will do more harm than good to our sport.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

• Twitching Technique

The great thing about fishing is that techniques are very diverse. We are artists in that respect. Our creativity has no bounds. By making subtle variations in rod movement, we change our presentation. Quite often, there is no one right way to fish a particular bait. Twitching happens to be one of those techniques that can be used with numerous lures and approaches. Twitching is a simple technique to master, but it has a lot of untapped potential. It can range from the most subtle of movements to a hellacious rip of the rod. So let me share my thoughts on twitching and show you when it has proven useful for me.

Let's talk about gear first. I'm an advocate of having rigs on board that serve more than one purpose. I won't pigeonhole a combo for one measly technique. While that sort of arsenal might appeal to tourney anglers, I try not to acquire a costly collection. With regard to twitching, so many lures benefit from the technique that the rig you decide to use depends on the weight of the lure in question. For simplicity's sake, a basic 6'6 to 7' medium to medium heavy rod will do fine and the tip can range from stiff to fast. Your height and proximity to the water's surface might determine the length of rod you can accommodate. Use what you find comfortable. Line is also a matter of personal preference, but make sure the properties of that line appeal to the behavior of the lure. For example, fluorocarbon sinks, so you might avoid using it with topwater lures, but prefer it for crankbaits and soft plastics. A higher speed reel might be helpful for taking up slack line in between the twitch-pause cadence. Once you settle on the gear, it's time to work on the technique.

The most basic twitch technique gets used when walking the dog with topwater darters and also with hard and soft jerkbaits. The motions required to achieve the desired action are very similar regardless of the lure in question. Some traditional lures which benefit from the twitch technique include Zara Spooks, Zoom Super Flukes, Senkos, and Smithwick Rogues. There are other lures I use with a twitching technique, but I'll talk about those in a moment.

For the right-handed angler, start in a standing position holding your rod tip down at an angle in front of you and slightly to the right. Imagine you are pointing the tip at 5 o'clock to 5:30 where 6 o'clock is straight down and 12 is straight up. I don't palm my reel, but many anglers do. Palming just feels too awkward to me. My left hand stays on the foregrip. My right hand stays on the crank handle. I've seen some anglers hold their rod and reel sideways, but I find the technique is more manageable with the line guides and reel held upright. Most of the twitching action will come from your left arm and wrist. All it takes is a brisk and repetitive downward movement to set the lure at the other end into motion. You only have to move the rod 6 to 10 inches with each twitch. Then return to the original 5 to 5:30 position and repeat. Make your hookset in the position the rod is in when the fish strikes using a firm and sweeping motion. That's all it really takes. Keep your eyes on the lure and be ready for a bite.

When walking the dog with Zara Spooks, hollow body frogs, and other topwaters, pause between each twitch allowing the like to become slack. When you twitch again, the extra slack will add some snap to the action of the lure as it makes a Z pattern across the water. As the lure approaches a horizontal orientation, twitch again to send the lure zig zagging back in the opposite direction. Keeping the rod tip low helps prevent the lure from jumping as the lure approaches the boat. Be careful not to catch your line in the hooks as you twitch. The correct cadence is something you will learn quickly. It's a rather fixed and slow rhythm and that added sense of patience helps keep your eye on the lure.

When working flukes and stickbaits, the rhythm is not quite as fixed. The idea is to make these lures dart, dive, fall, or rise with every pause depending on the ability of the lure to float. You are encouraged to change the cadence according to what the bass prefer. Experiment and find out what draws out a strike. Sometimes you want to draw out a reaction strike and sometimes you are trying to imitate a dying baitfish. Senko-type baits were designed to fall, so use it to your advantage and let those kinds of baits drop. With soft plastics, I always twitch right next to the boat first to make sure the lure is aligned properly on the hook. Watch how the lure moves. If you notice twisting or other undesirable behavior, you can fix it before making the first cast.

Ah, but as I hinted at in the beginning of this post, a twitch technique has a lot of potential. I use a similar approach to create erratic behavior in lures such as swimblades, lipped crankbaits, buzzbaits, and spinnerbaits. Twitching really is an art.

Swimblades are one of my favorite new lures to twitch. Why? It's kind of like twitching a fluke rigged on a jighead, but the blade has a lot more resistance. The lure will change directions with each twitch. You will feel the blade vibrate as you pull the lure. The extra bulk from the waving skirt and wiggling trailer gives a bass something different to look at after being bombarded by the same boring lures all day. Since a swimblade is nothing more than a trumped up jig, the weight keeps you in direct contact with the lure at all times. The swivel connected to the jighead allows for a wide range of movement in any direction. Your goal is to create the most erratic darting movement you can. It almost reminds me of how a dragonfly moves.

With crankbaits, a twitch can create a very erratic and deliberate action on the retrieve. Lipped crankbaits will dig with a rapid wobble, stirring up all kinds of silt and debris when worked along the bottom. When you pause, the lure stops and may float upward. That might be enough to draw out a good reaction strike. Be careful not to twitch so much that the lure starts twisting in circles. Apply more force to your technique and now you're ripping lipless crankbaits through grass making the beads rattle loudly. As you pause the retrieve with a lipless crank, it will fall and flutter until you twitch again. Sometimes it will resemble a dying baitfish and other times it will behave like a fleeing baitfish. It all depends on the length of the pause.

Topwater lures take on exciting lives through twitching. Topwater poppers and propbaits will dart, spit, and splash. Scumfrogs will bounce with a natural cadence similar to a real frog swimming through the water. Lures that scrounge around at the bottom deserve some attention to. Jigs and weighted plastic craws stir up a lot of silt when yanked across the bottom.

I have already discussed walking the dog, so darters have been covered. Let's look at poppers, chuggers, and propbaits. With poppers and chuggers, twitching is supposed to make the lure spit or pop. Poppers do well with light twitches and chuggers require a little more force to flash and spit. Both require a more significant pause in between each twitch. Sometimes the pause might be so long that the ripples on the water subside before you twitch again. Propbaits like the Heddon Torpedo and Smithwick Devil's Horse churn up water as the propellers turn. Bending the prop can alter the twitch behavior. Bend the blades forward, and you will make the lure twitch over shorter distances. Removing the front prop makes the lure walk side to side more readily. Like topwater darters, line has a tendency to catch on the hooks of these topwater lures, so periodically check your line for damage.

Holding the rod high and twitching up or back can give baits a unique presentation when twitched. In this particular position, what you want to do is lift the line a few inches. This technique is not nearly as wild and erratic as the previous examples, but it's faster than the basic lift technique often used with plastic worms like Senkos. Lures best suited for this approach include all crankbaits, some poppers, jigs, plastic worms, frogs, and even buzzbaits. This rod position makes setting the hook convenient because you are already positioned to pull towards your chest. Using this approach, you can drive lipless crankbaits up the water column, not down. During the pause, the lure falls. This technique has caught me a lot of white bass. Strikes usually occur during the pauses. The same can be said for lipped cranks, especially when you're fishing shallow. With poppers and chuggers, be careful not to lift the lure out of the water. Some poppers require a bit of finesse on your part. A light lifting twitch keeps a popper close to the strike zone, but makes it spit just enough to get some attention. Jigs and plastic worms can be hopped with ease. This is one of my power fishing jig techniques because a twitch only hops the lure a few inches, not a couple of feet. I'm still able to cover a lot of water, but I hit the bottom more often. Weightless worms dart more than when you'd use a more traditional slow lift. I often alternate between a slow lift and a twitch and it's enough of a variation to draw out a few fish. With buzzbaits, the story is a little different. Like poppers and chuggers, be careful not to yank a buzzbait out of the water. If done properly, a buzzbait will spit and splash and then fall under the surface of the water and rise up again. The strike will happen within the first few splashes, so be ready for it. Frogs can be worked slowly because you're lifting the line as you retrieve. Sometimes this draws out more frog blowups than buzzing one across the surface.

For an even more finessed approach, do the work with the reel handle. Hold the rod in any position, high, low, or in between, and tap the front handle knob on your baitcaster with one or two fingers. This subtle tapping only pulls in a small amount of line, but the twitch at the other end is pronounced enough to move the lure. I use this technique when working a Scumfrog or Hula Popper. It creates less of a splash than rod movement does and sometimes bass like that.

So as you can see, twitching can be used for a variety of baits. Bass will tell you what they want and the bite will let you know how active they might be. Once the first bass hits, you'll have a pattern for success. That first bite is very revealing. Don't limit yourself to twitching flukes and walking the dog when other possibilities exist. Get out there and experiment!

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