BassWestUSA - March/April, 2011, Page 29

Shad swimbaits the “Trout of the South” although every aspect of my baits revolves around shad.

BWU: It’s no secret swimbaits evolved in California, the state that boasts over 20 of the 25 largest bass on record in the USA. Huge swimbaits for huge California bass are common there, but swimbaits took a long, long time - and the true California-sized swimbaits never did eke out into the rest of the country, although 5 to 6 inch swimbaits have. How are swimbaits being used in the South today? Are they being used? Obviously you use them, so much so that you make them, but what about other anglers in the South? It’s been said that 1 in 4 (25%) of all bass anglers live in the South, meaning FL, TN, AL, GA, MS, LA, NC, SC. How are they using swimbaits there today, if at all? Are they underused/over- used? Has the potential not yet been fully recognized? What is the current and future status of swimbait shing in the South, Mike?

MIKE: Here in the south we have a LONG way to go before reaching the cultish caliber of the “Swimbait Mecca” that is Cali- fornia. Although we have some who have awakened to the big bait syndrome, nevertheless the vast majority of anglers in the South are still into the 5 and 6 inch baits and smaller category. These size baits are much more numbers oriented than quality oriented. No matter where, it takes a special person to be able to chuck a 7, 8, 9 inch swimbait for days and sometimes weeks without a bite. We just don’t have that many trophy hunters down South. I can list on one hand how many TRUE trophy hunters who I know of here in the South.

BWU: Obviously you were a pioneer in using swimbaits not only in the South, but as an angler outside California - period. What is it that you saw in swimbaits, Mike? What attracted you to swimbaits at rst and then kept you interested in them? How did you go about learning more about them? Were you totally on your own here? Was anyone else you know doing it? Or anyone doing it with you? Did you have any ties to any persons in California? Did you know of any persons in other parts of the country - northwest, north central, southwest or the heartland who were also doing the same thing as you at the time?

MIKE: This is a great question. I live and guide on Lake Al- latoona here in suburban Atlanta. Allatoona is one of the most pressured Army Corps of Engineers lakes in the WORLD in terms of anglers per square acre due to it’s proximity to metropolitan At- lanta, GA. We have multiple tournaments every night of the week in the summer and every weekend year round on only 13,000 acres. To say our sh have seen every bait under the sun is an understatement. Honestly, before swimbaits I was struggling to gure out how to consistently catch the bigger spotted bass and largemouth in Allatoona. Finally it dawned on me that I needed to be different and throw different baits than everyone else. Most people when things get tough they downsize. I went the other way, went bigger and it panned out in spades!

There are three people that kind of pointed me down the swimbait path. First being Terry Battisti. I have been a fan of Ter- ry’s stories in Bass West USA for years. Terry had written a series on shing for giant bass with Mike Long that was very informative. That got my wheels turning, but what intrigued me the most was a story Terry wrote on the Triple Trout swimbait. Terry has a his- tory with swimbaits from almost the very beginning. My favorite swimbait manufacturers are by far Jerry Rago and Scott Whitmer whom I deem as the pioneers of the resin swimbaits. As it turns

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March/April 2011