Critter Control

When you’ve tossed traditional enticements to no avail, it might be time to mix it up with some odd looking baits you never thought would get the attention you seek. However, the truth of the matter is that largemouth bass are gluttonous game fish that will feed on a variety of prey items excluding fish. Because forage species like shad are the most prevalent food sources in freshwater habitats they make up a large portion of a largemouth’s diet. However, bass are opportunistic feeders that are capable of attacking and engulfing some truly large prey items—hence the nickname bucketmouth.


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Freshwater game fish survive on a varied diet and nearly everything within reach is fair game. Photo:

Easily swallowing prey nearly as large as themselves, largemouth bass rule freshwater shallows and don’t let many opportunities go to waste. Depending on your location around the state, big bass may be keen on frogs, birds, ducklings, mice, snakes, salamanders and more. Snakeheads are also common throughout our southern coverage zone and are some of the more aggressive predators freshwater anglers will ever encounter. Like largemouth bass, snakeheads don’t let many meals escape. Credentials for making the short list of unique critter-influenced lures may vary from angler to angler, but the following baits definitely qualify as odd and unique, yet highly effective. Don’t hesitate to keep a few of these unusual offerings in your tackle box and don’t be afraid to break them out when you want to fool a finicky fatty.

Next time you are on the water don’t get stuck in a rut throwing the same offerings when there is clearly a whole lot more on the menu.

Initially brought to us by the late Bass Professor Doug Hannon, artificial snakes are increasing in popularity with anglers around the country hunting trophy largemouth. Those with experience fishing freshwater wetlands in Florida know all too well there are many varieties of water snakes one may encounter. With the unmatched topwater action of a lifelike serpent coiling on the surface and slithering across lily pads, snakes draw strikes from big bass. While largemouth may view juvenile snakes as prey items, snakes are actually natural predators of bass since they feed on their fry, so you might also trigger a defensive strike.

When a bass is protecting its fry and attacks a snake the surface strike will be nothing short of legendary. Rigged weedless and snake baits are highly effective when fished in the vicinity of dense cover. Casts that place your snake lure on the bank, on top of lily pads or along downed timber provide natural scenarios where snakes might commonly be encountered. From here, retrieve your snake with intermittent pauses to let the offering coil and vibrate on the surface. One last recommendation is to let your fishing partner know you have fake snakes in the tackle box so they don’t have a heart attack when digging for another soft plastic!

Field mice and rats commonly hunt along shorelines and at times traverse stretches of open water. These vermin aren’t specialized swimmers and certainly appear out of their element in the water. Nothing gets the attention of a largemouth bass greater than a mouse struggling to keep its head out of the water as it attempts to climb on top of a lily pad or steep bank. Koppers Live Target was awarded ICAST Best of Show for their innovative field mouse lure, which can be fished weedless across heavy cover. Taking this small pest’s natural swimming tendencies into consideration, the innovators at Koppers developed their mouse with an up arching head. When presenting a mouse bait you want to fish in a similar manner as you would fish a hollow bodied topwater frog. Cast along areas with emergent vegetation, flooded brush and rotting timber.

If you’ve spent enough time chasing largemouth, then you are well aware they are capable and more than willing to engulf a duckling or small bird that has fallen into the water. Innovative manufacturers understand the fact that bass eat unfortunate birds and have developed a host of effective imitations. These lures typically feature a hollow cavity like a topwater frog, yet the common goal no matter the manufacturer is a slow retrieve highlighted by intermittent twitches to imitate a distressed bird. After you make a cast let your lure settle so the associated ripples dissipate before twitching the bird again. When presenting a bird bait you’ll want to focus your efforts where these prey items might naturally occur. Overhanging branches and trees provide a natural scenario for fledglings to fall from the sky.

The aforementioned prey species understand the dangers of traversing open water and as a result typically stick to areas in the vicinity of dense cover. When working topwater baits for big bass along heavy cover you’ll want a stout rod and a reel with a high-speed retrieve. Without the complete outfit you’ll find it challenging to pull big fish from heavy cover. In addition, no matter what offering you choose you need to be patient on the strike. Don’t swing back and set the hook until you feel the weight of the fish. Next time you are on the water don’t get stuck in a rut throwing the same offerings when there is clearly a whole lot more on the menu. See you on the water.