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Using Trout Plugs and Oversize Swimbaits for Bass

By Rob BelloniAugust 2, 2001

I don't know about you, but when the AC Plug came out and the reports started coming in of giant bass being caught one after then next on them, I was instantly fascinated. At the time I wasn't even much of a bass fisherman, but the idea of using big plugs to catch bass just plain appealed to me. So somewhere in the early 90's, can't remember exactly when, I bought myself a 7 inch AC Plug made by Arbogast. It went with me to Casitas a half dozen times but I never had so much as a follow up. Then I moved to the Central Coast and started fishing at Santa Margarita Lake. The fish there are just a tad bit easier to catch than at Casitas, but I still had no luck on my little AC Plug for at least 8 or 9 trips. Finally one day I was float tubing in the marina in the middle of winter and I caught a 5 pounder over some submerged sticks. That was my biggest bass at the time and since then I have been permanently bitten with the big wood bug

Along the way I've bought just about every big trout imitating lure on the market and tried them all. I fished Santa Margarita for 3 years and caught somewhere around 200 fish on trout lures of all kinds. Although the fish in Margarita were Northern Strain and not very big, I learned a lot about fishing these types of lures, and about the larger fish in the lake that eat them. In 2000 I moved to the Bay Area in Northern California, an area not known at the time for trout plug fishing. Two months after I moved I took a trip to San Pablo reservoir and through a great stroke of luck landed a 15.8lb giant on a 9" MS Slammer trout plug. Although I have found that the trout plug bite is not as consistent for Florida strain fish as it is for Northern strain, the bites in Northern California have been a lot bigger on average than they were on the Central Coast. I have also come to realize that big bass will eat trout lures whether or not there are any trout in the lake. Lakes like Clear Lake and Calero have demonstrated this quite clearly to me.

Before we continue, I should set the expectation that in all honesty, there is no way to fully explain trout plug fishing for big bass in 5 or 10 pages. What we are going to cover here is the fundamentals. The tackle, the basic retrieves, and some general tips. Hopefully, armed with the basics, you'll be able to go out and learn your own little angles to hooking and landing big bass on trout plugs. Each of the big trout lures has a unique personality that, to truly master, requires hundreds of hours on the water. After trying dozens and dozens of trout plugs, I can still only say that I am very good with fishing a handful of them. If you're just starting out in trout plug fishing, it's probably best to pick a few proven baits and work hard with them. So let's delve in and talk fishin.

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