Whether you’re targeting largemouth or smallmouth, a rattle trap is arguably the most effective late Autumn lure choice for loading the boat.
There are a lot of trap models available, and each brings its own unique characteristics. From my experience fishing Ohio waters in the late fall, I’ve found that it’s important to experiment with size, color and even sound.
In clear water scenarios, shad imitating colors such as white, bone, and chrome are good color choices. Pay attention to the shad in the lake you’re fishing, and do your best to match both the color and size of your trap as closely as possible to the forage. Oftentimes a silent or slow knocking trap will outfish a loud rattling one in clear water.
In stained water, I prefer “louder” colors that make the bait easier for the bass to see, such as firetiger or chartreuse. I also choose a bait that creates a loud rattle and vibration under these conditions. I’ve observed that smallmouth seem to prefer loud colors and rattling, regardless of the water color. Here are a couple of big river smallies from Griggs Reservoir that fell for a trap last week.
While a simple cast and wind presentation can be deadly, traps are diverse lures that can be fished at varying speeds around a wide range of cover. Here are some of my favorite ways to fish a trap.
Pump it Down Drop-Offs
When you locate a drop off on a point or off the end of a flat, try casting the trap shallow and working it down the drop off with a pumping motion. Be sure to let the trap fall and settle to the bottom between pumps, mimicking a wounded shad. For this presentation, I prefer a trap that shimmies and flutters as it falls. The Strike King Red Eye Shad or Duo Realis Vibration Lipless Crankbait are great choices.
Burn it Across Flats
Flats in the backs of coves or on the main lake in close vicinity to drop offs are perfect areas to burn a trap along the bottom. For this presentation, nothing beats the original Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap. Cast it out and let it sink to the bottom, then reel as quickly as you can. A high-speed 7:1 gear ratio reel will let you retrieve the bait rapidly, eliciting aggressive strikes that practically rip the rod from your hands. If you can get away with it, upsize your hooks to increase your catch rate.
Rip it Through the Grass
Working a trap along grass lines and over the top of dead or dying grass clumps can trigger strikes. Don’t be afraid to cast up into the grass. As it becomes bogged down in the weeds, snap your rod tip and rip the trap free. Most bites will be reaction strikes, and will come as soon as the bait frees up.