By John D. Silva
The popularity of soft plastic lures has increased immeasurably among anglers of all pursuits over the last 15 to 20 years, and with good reason. There’s no question that soft plastics have proven themselves deadly-effective for a wide variety of sport fishing applications. Yet, when presented with conditions that stretch beyond what one might consider ideal (mild and calm), some anglers find that they are not quite sure how to utilize their soft plastic arsenal for maximum effectiveness and efficiency.
Rigging up an un-weighted Hogy on a tandem rig or an offset hook for surface or near-surface fishing applications is an easy and deadly-effective method in most situations. But what about those instances when you absolutely have to get the lure down into a precise area where the fish are staging and holding deep? Throw in a strong current and a brisk breeze, and the window of opportunity for getting the bait down into the strike zone shrinks with each descending fathom. Part of the answer includes properly rigging and weighting the Hogy (with a jighead or a swimming tin for example) to get it to sink. But when it comes to technique, some may be surprised to learn that the best and most consistent method is also the simplest.
The dead-stick (or dead-drift) technique is one of the most effective methods for getting your weighted Hogy exactly where it needs to be for consistent success. It’s also a great way to get down below all the lil’ fellas breaking on top and into the main dining room where larger slobs are lurking below. Dead-sticking starts with a soft-plastic bait matched in size with the size/weight jighead required to get down where the fish are-with considerations given to the depth, current strength, the size of available forage that the fish are feeding on, and the best lure color for providing maximum visibility in varying conditions of water clarity and available natural light, (truth be told, the details involved with rigging and bait selection can make up an entire subject all on it’s own). Spooling super-braid line on your reel (and using a clear mono or fluorocarbon leader) is highly recommended and will greatly increase your overall feel and sensitivity, resulting in increased hookup ratios on even the lightest of strikes.
From the shoreline, start by casting the lure slightly up current of the desired target area, be it a rip, hole, a cut bank, or piece of natural or man-made structure. Once it hits the water, lock in and engage the reel, (if unable to cast up-current, try feeding out some extra line to help keep the lure on target). As the lure descends, hold the rod in a stationary (“dead stick”) position of about 10 to 11 o’clock. Be sure to keep the line tight as the lure drifts and free-falls down through the water column, standing ready for any small taps or sudden strikes. As the lure descends, the built-in action of the Hogy soft-plastic bait resembles a fast-diving, darting baitfish, swimming and fluttering as the lure swings with the current. The angler need not provide any action at all, the real work is done by the bait itself. And that’s the beauty in both the design and the technique.
If the lure remains untouched during the fall, continue to dead-stick until the lure hits bottom. Then, depending on the bottom contour, you may continue to dead-stick your lure along the bottom with the current, or begin an active retrieve. In either event, give the lure an occasional twitch (jigging motion) to help attract fish and keep the lure from hanging up. Once it approaches the end of the drift, you can then actively retrieve the lure, lifting and dropping it as you slowly reel in line, feeling your way to the water’s edge.
Using the dead-stick technique allows you to effectively cover large areas of water, both vertically and horizontally, increasing the likelihood of your bait being presented naturally (and consistently) within the strike zone. One vital element that bears repeating is to always keep the line tight, especially when the lure drops. A strike may vary at times from a light tap, to a sudden, jaw-jarring whack, or even a subtle “absence” of weight (as the fish hits the lure and continues toward you). So be sure to get in the habit of setting the hook on any change in feel on the line. And always be on the alert for a strike. Steady concentration will be your final key for dead-sticking success.