California presents a great opportunity to target trophy largemouth and striped bass with oversized lures. The trout stocking program makes this fishery tick. State hatcheries dump thousands of bite-size trout into lakes and reservoirs where largemouth and striped bass are waiting for the easy meal.

The predators grow large and aggressive on this high-protein food source, and anglers dedicated to fishing with 12-inch lures are rewarded with the bass of a lifetime. My brother Sam dialed in his swimbait program for the past seven years resulting in some eye-popping catches. Here are some tips we have discovered.

Super Size: Target Trophy California Bass with Larger Lures


The best weather conditions combine low light with broken or windblown points, bluff walls or shallow flats near deep water. The high-percentage areas occur where trout need to swim around an obstacle or the poor little rainbow is trapped in a dead-end ambush point.

California kayak angler holds up a large bass
Weed out the little ones. | Feature photo: Jeffrey Fortuna

For example, when a trout needs to swim around a rock and expose itself to a deep ledge, the bass will pin the little fish to the rock. This is where I try to place my lure.

Another situation traps a trout in a shallow pocket near deeper water. Trout tend to swim circles once they are trapped. This is a perfect place to use a hitched retrieve with a wider S-action in the lure. Use short snaps of the rod tip with slack line to give the lure an ultra-wide, pivoting action.


Since the key to catching large bass with a large lure is feeling the slightest tap on the line, I start by anchoring my kayak or holding it in position with my trolling motor. I position the kayak so I can make a long cast landing the lure past the ambush point.

Then, I creep the lure along the depth contour allowing the lure to occasionally bump the bottom. When the lure passes through the ambush zone, I speed up and then slow the retrieve to get the fish’s attention.

Large walk-the-dog style lures like the Lunker Punker get bites when the fish want to eat on top, especially during pre-frontal conditions or at night. Best of all, the Lunker Punker is easy to cast into the wind.

Soft swimbaits do it all. I burn them in fast or fish the lure nearly in place punctuated with short rod-tip twitches. To crawl the lure along the bottom, I slow the retrieve until I feel the lure bouncing into structure.

Jointed hard lures, like the Deps 250, swim side to side. Using a twitch and long pause retrieve causes the lure to shoot to the left and right. Some jointed baits, like the Gancraft Jointed Claw, have an add-on bill that converts it into a wake bait. The wake bait option is great for fishing over grass or among stick-ups.

Fishing from a kayak with a trolling motor and Power-Pole Micro anchor makes it easier to hold the boat in position and work the lure through a very specific zone. A stationary boat also allows me to feel the slightest tap on the line indicating contact with the bottom or a big bass.

Top Baits

Use a lure for its intended purpose such as: depth of water, speed of retrieve, gradual versus steep transitions. The same presentations apply to both largemouth and striped bass.

Tackle & Gear


Cover of Kayak Angler Magazine Issue 50, Early Summer 2023This article was first published in the Early Summer 2023 issue of Kayak Angler Magazine. Subscribe to Kayak Angler Magazine’s print and digital editions, or browse the archives.

Weed out the little ones. | Feature photo: Jeffrey Fortuna




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