Sometimes the best lure action is no action

By Babe Winkelman

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[April 18, 2014]  Whether you're jigging, rigging, cranking, spinning, spooning, worming or popping, there are literally infinite ways that you can impart action on your bait. For jigging, you can swim it, drag it, hop it, drop it, twitch it and everything in between. The same thing applies to retrieving soft plastics.

When casting or trolling crankbaits, there's no end to what you can do with those either. Rip 'em fast, slow-roll 'em, wobble 'em at the surface  the list goes on. And with topwater poppers, prop baits or "walkers," you can work them violently or with subtle finesse.

The savvy fisherman is always tinkering with little nuances in the retrieve, to dial in the precise presentation that fish respond to on a given day. Sometimes they want it fast and furious. Other conditions will call for slow and lazy.

However, there's another presentation that I haven't yet mentioned, and it's often the best one. That, my friends, is to do nothing at all. Before I get into ways you can do nothing, let's first consider the creature we're after: the fish.

Fish must eat, that's obvious. And like every other predator on planet Earth (humans included), fish want their meals to be easy. It is a natural instinct to expend as little effort as possible when feeding (or attempting to feed). Survival depends on maintaining body mass and energy levels  because, let's face it, when a fish isn't eating, he's basically trying not to get eaten himself!

With that said, ask yourself: Would the average fish rather chase a racing, zigzagging minnow, or eat one that's just hanging around? Most of the time, they'll take the easy meal. So next time you're fishing, serve up a simple snack.

This is really easy to do when jigging or fishing with soft plastics. In a walleye scenario with a jig and minnow, pitch the jig to your chosen spot (let's say it's 16 feet down on a rocky hump). Let the jig reach bottom and let it just sit there. Assume a walleye has seen it drop and has rushed in to investigate. Maybe he inhales it right away, or maybe he's nosing it and waiting for it to make its next move. During this period, pay very close attention to "feeling" a bite or seeing your fishing line twitch. If nothing happens after 10 seconds or so, give the jig a hop and let it go motionless again. If fish are there, and they're hungry, you will get bit!

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Do-nothing soft plastics for bass can be especially deadly. A lot of bass guys call this "dead-sticking." I remember a particular day on a good bass lake when every largemouth I caught was on a dead-sticked Senko rigged "wacky style." I'd make a cast, reel up the slack and just wait. Sometimes it took several minutes before a roaming bass came upon the bait and sucked it in, even though it was just lying there on the bottom.

Dead-sticking is particularly effective when catching bass and panfish on spawn beds, too. Find a bed, pitch a soft plastic into it, and eventually the fish guarding that piece of real estate will pick up the lure to get it the heck out of there.

To dead-stick crankbaits, there are two lure styles involved: floaters and suspenders. With floaters, simply twitch or retrieve the lure and then stop. Let it float to the surface and sit there for several seconds. You'll be amazed at how many strikes you'll get when it's sitting still. It's the same drill when you're working topwater baits (poppers, prop baits, etc.).

For suspenders (or neutrally-buoyant) crankbaits, retrieve the lure down to its desired depth, stop, and let it hang there. Try this just beyond the outside edges of thick underwater weed lines. Game fish will tuck into those edges for cover, then dart out for unsuspecting bait fish that get caught loafing around.

Even spoons and spinners, especially when fished vertically, can be dead-sticked. And naturally, any type of live bait presentation underneath a bobber (float) is a fairly motionless bait and an easy target for a hungry fish.

Next time you decide to get out there and do something about catching fish, try doing nothing instead. It's a proven method for capitalizing on a fish's tendency to be a lazy, opportunistic predator.

Good fishing.


Babe Winkelman hosts "Good Fishing" and "Outdoor Secrets," the most-watched fishing and hunting programs on television. Tune in on NBC Sports Network, Destination America, Velocity, Time Warner Sports Texas & New York, and many local broadcast channels. Visit Winkelman.com for airtimes and more information. Follow Babe Winkelman on Facebook and Twitter.

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