Leap’ in Lizards
Written By: Cal Kellogg, March 12, 2012
Before swimbaits, before computer designed crankbaits and before high tinsel alloy spinnerbaits bass anglers were using lizards to tempt big fish. A good number of today’s young bass addicts have never had a lizard attached to one of their rods, despite the fact that lizards are just as effective now as they were when they first hit the market decades ago.
As near as I can tell the history of the plastic lizard is sketchy. I haven’t been able to find out who first came up with the concept, but that isn’t really important. I don’t know who invented the Band Aid either, but that’s what I go looking for when I cut my finger.
The thing to remember about lizards is that they catch bass in a variety of situations and they often do so when the bass are reluctant to hit other offerings. In other words they tend to be great icebreakers when the bass develop a case of lockjaw.
Spring is the classic time to reach for a lizard. Since spring is looming right around the corner, let’s look at spring applications for these fantastic four legged creature baits.
Now there are a lot of theories about why bass, particularly spring bass hit lizards. The most popular assertion is that bass hate lizards or salamanders because salamanders love to eat bass eggs, thus representing a big threat to spawning fish. I’m not so sure.
This belief probably came about when someone dragged a lizard into the bed of a spawning bass and the bass inhaled it. Truth be told in the right situation, you could drag a stick of Juicy Fruit gum impaled on a hook into to a spawner’s bed and the bass would hit that too. Not exactly compelling testimony that bass have an instinctive hatred of Juicy Fruit.
I suspect that the appeal of lizards is multifaceted. First they are bulky baits that displace a lot of water. Since they have four wiggly legs plus a wiggly tail they are a bait that creates a lot of movement and vibration, yet is capable of staying the strike zone for an extended period of time.
Think about it, early in the spring, during the prespawn period bass are often lethargic due to temperature and weather change, yet they are looking for big meals as they pack on weight for the spawn. A lizard certainly fits the bill of a belly filler that doesn’t look particularly hard to catch.
When it comes to bedded fish the same attributes come into play. The bass, while not lethargic are relatively immobile. Here comes this hefty spastic looking water disturbing bait that hangs around and hangs around and the next thing you know, it’s fish on!
When the post spawn period rolls around, the bass pull off the beds, move deeper and spread out on structure. These fish need to feed, but are often not inclined to chase. Once again a lizard represents a large easy to capture meal, but in this situation you can fish it faster than you would a conventional worms. This allows you to cover water efficiently, since the bass are spread out you want a bait you can fish fairly fast, but you aren’t presenting them with an offering like a crankbait that they would have to expend a lot of energy to capture.
Lizards come in a plethora of sizes and colors, but let’s cut to the chase and talk about the models that are most effective. You’ll want a SMALL selection of 4 and 6 inch baits. Natural greenish and brownish colors are a must. For situations where the water is clear, toss in a few in a smoke/flake color. My favorite for clear water is a clearish smoke color with blue flakes. For situations when the water is stained, have a bottled of chartreuse bait dye on hand for dying the rear quarter of your lizards.
Being in the same family as the plastic worm, lizards can be rigged in more ways than we could cover in a half dozen articles. In fact, how ever you typically rig your 6 inch plastic worms, is the same way you’ll likely want to rig your lizards…generally speaking.
I use two basic approaches. If the water I’m fishing is shallow, say 10 feet deep or less, I rig my lizards Texas style on a split shot rig. When working deeper I go with a traditional Carolina rig. When the bass are bedded, I’m generally throwing the split shot rig, while during the pre and post spawn periods the Carolina rig get the nod. If you are a Delta angler, you’ll probably be pitching and flipping and Texas rigged lizard with a pegged weight.
Fishing strategy in lakes and reservoirs is simple when employing lizards and that’s why I like them. During the pre spawn, I like to focus on the outside edges adjacent to areas where fish are likely to spawn. These are the areas where large females stage before committing to shallow water. In this situation, cast a Carolina rigged lizard up into 8 or 10 feet of water and slowly drag it down the contour until it is in 25 to 30 feet of water.
Working spawning fish couldn’t get much simpler. Cast the lizard shallow, move it slow and pause it often.
Fishing for post spawn fish is a lot like targeting fish during the prespawn, with a couple of important differences. Rather than working the outside edges of spawning flats, I like to probe long sloping points. Instead of working my Carolina rigged baits across the point, I work parallel, first working down one side and then down the top before working down the far side.
In this situation, I keep the lizard moving at a fairly brisk pace, at least for a soft plastic bait with no stops or pauses. If I’m not getting hit I won’t stick with any given point very long. For me working post spawn fish with a lizard is a seek and destroy mission. Basically, I’m using the lizard to work offshore structure fairly aggressively, while employing a bait that won’t intimidate fish that are not in an active feeding mode. Yet the bait is bulky enough and clumsy enough that the bass have a hard time passing it up.
It’s like presenting an off duty mugger with a staggering drunk that has hundred dollar bills sticking out of his pockets. Mr. Mugger isn’t on the clock, but...