Imagine this scenario. You arrive alone to an unfamiliar lake. Where are the bass? What do they eat? What are the best tactics? To cover the most water while using diverse tactics, anglers employ a skill called power fishing.
Competitive angler and blogger Mike McKinstry has used power fishing to learn new water and win bass tournaments. “Like a chameleon, anglers must learn to change their skin to match their surroundings,” McKinstry says.
According to McKinstry, power fishing is aimed at eliciting a reaction strike from aggressive bass. By using large, noisy lures, the angler angers the fish into biting. McKinstry says the tactic is particularly effective when fish are not on the feed, especially after a significant change in weather or water conditions.
The basis for power fishing comes down to three different styles of lure tied on three action-specific rods. McKinstry uses a ChatterBait, square-lipped crankbait, and large, shaky-head jig. “In my home waters in Michigan, our water temperature goes from freezing to 85 degrees in seven months,” he points out. Power fishing gives him versatility to get the fish’s attention, one way or another.
To fish the ChatterBait, McKinstry uses a six-foot, nine-inch, medium-heavy, fast-action casting rod. “I like fast action and heavy backbone to keep pressure on the ChatterBait,” he says. A casting rod is more sensitive, allowing McKinstry to feel if his lure is fouled. An 8:1 retrieve reel keeps the lure moving quickly through the water, begging big bass to attack.
When fishing a ChatterBait, McKinstry suggests covering the top, middle and bottom of the water column by adjusting the speed of his retrieve. “Crank fast and the ChatterBait zips just under the surface,” he says. A slower retrieve mixed with jerks and pauses will cross two to five feet down. Let the lure drop and bounce it across the bottom mixed with enticing pauses.
The second rod hosts a square-bill crankbait. McKinstry chooses a seven-foot, medium-heavy spinning rod to drag the crankbait at a steady pace.
McKinstry fan casts the crankbait covering water 360 degrees around the boat. “The square bill dives four to six feet, about mid water column to just over the grass in lakes where I fish,” he explains.
A steady retrieve swims the crankbait through a prescribed four- to six-foot depth. “I add some quick jerks of the rod tip to thrash the crankbait to make it dive and ascend quickly,” he adds. “Bass are suckers for an easy meal.”
If the crankbait and ChatterBait don’t bring the noise, McKinstry goes with a 3/8-ounce shaky head and four-inch soft plastic. He matches the jig to a seven-foot, medium-heavy spinning rod. “The rod has backbone to pull a fish out of heavy vegetation,” he starts. And the spinning rod improves the light touch needed to work the jig. “Since I’m working the jig slowly on the bottom, the spinning rod allows the line to pull off the guides where I can feel every bump,” he explains.
The shaky jig works best in heavy structure. McKinstry starts twitching the rod tip as soon as the lure hits bottom. “The shaky head fools bass after I’ve thrown the kitchen sink at them,” he laughs. If the fish aren’t in an aggressive mood, the subtle action of the shaky head is too much for them to ignore.
To cover the most territory, McKinstry drifts through prime water changing up tactics as he goes. “The most important skill in power fishing is patience,” McKinstry reminds anglers, adding it is essential to have confidence in the three lures and never stop casting.
Three rods and three lures to cover any lake. | Photo: Roland Jimenez