This time of year one of my favorite baits to use is a Sluggo. This little plastic bait seems to move naturally in the water imitating the bait fish upon which the bass are feeding. When fished correctly, the big bass just suck them up. If you want to give them a try, here are a couple of tricks that might prove to be helpful. I use a very flexible and light rod that will help me cast these very light artificials a good distance. The reel should be filled with no more than 12 lb. test line. Spiderwire seems to work best because of its small diameter and casting characteristics. It can be a pain if you get it tangled up, but it is worth the extra money. If I am going to use a fly rod, I like a long rod with a 5/6 sinking tip line. Although a bit light if you whale into a big fish, it is just perfect for the smaller schoolies. When fishing in water where you need to get down a bit, a full sinking line is a good alternative. If you are going to use a spinning rod, buy the 1/2-3/4 ounce ribbed-headed jigs that Sluggo sells and a couple of packages of the 3” white Sluggos. Although there are other colors that work well like black and purple, if you are going to choose only one, go with the white. Have on hand an open tube of super glue. Take the Sluggo and slide it onto the hook. Just as the head of the plastic reaches the head of the jig, cover both the flat end of the Sluggo and the back of the head of the jig with the glue. Slide the Sluggo up tight against the back of the jig head and hold it for a second or two to let the glue set. The reason for this gluing step is that under normal circumstances when you cast this jig/sluggo combo, the sluggo wants to slip down the hook. But most importantly, stripers are notorious for nipping the Sluggo off the hook with short strikes. By gluing it on, the Sluggo will stay on the hook and you will use a lot less of these worm imitations. In some cases when you are trying to work the rocks along the shoreline, an egg float fished 18 inches or so up the line will keep the Sluggo in the strike zone longer.
Although my purist fly fishing friends make fun of my using a Sluggo on a fly rod, I tell them I will use almost anything that works. Besides, catching schoolies on a small fly rod is a blast. Here I prep my Sluggo before I go out. Take a 3” sluggo and glue it to a #2 stainless steel hook for the same reasons as above. These are easy to prepare and you should make a bunch of them. Casting them takes a little practice, but you can really sail one out there wants you get the hang of it. Think of it as a big white streamer. The Sluggo can be fished in a number of different ways depending upon the conditions. If I am using a spinning rod, I will cast out 90 degrees from the current and let it drop naturally toward the bottom. Once the line has drifted to the back of the boat, I retrieve it slowly with little twitches. This twitching motion lifts the head of the jig and the tail makes it look like the bait is swimming up for a second. It then drops down when the twitch is completed. This makes it look like it is struggling in the water. And you know, predator fish love to take out the easy cripples. If the current is really heavy, the sluggo will often swim by itself and I bring it back to the boat with tiny twitches. In lighter current or at slack tide you will have to impart the movement with the tip of your rod. In most cases you do not want to be in a hurry to reel it in. Let the natural movement of the lure work it’s magic. I have seen some fisherpersons using the Sluggo as a teaser ahead of a bucktail jig. This seems to be a good attractor and can work well where there are a lot of fish. Just tie it on with a short bit of line a few inches ahead of the bucktail. With a fly rod I work the Sluggo without any weight. I cast it out into the current and then twitch it back to the boat. When the fish hit, it is often with authority. At night, in low light or in busting school situations, it is best to fish it weightless. It just seems to be more natural. However, if it is in the middle of the day and you need to get it down a bit, use a small sinker about a foot up the leader. It “ain’t pretty” but it works.