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Fishing- Expert Advice By Rat-L-Trap

Fishing - Feature Article by Tommy Martin A "Classic" Champ

Fishing- The Rat-L-Trap people and veteran pro Tommy Martin go way back. The popular Louisiana-based fishing lure company has probably gotten as much or more promotional value out of the personable Texas bass pro as they have from any professional angler in the industry.

Martin, a former ’Classics champ and 27-year veteran on the B.A.S.S. tournament trail, is one of the most highly respected anglers in the business. He’s also one of the most articulate when it comes to putting his thoughts into words about fishing.

When asked to reveal some viable instructional tips for springtime bassin’ on Texas waters, the name Rat-L-Trap rolled off his tongue as smoothly as a hot knife slicing through butter. And it’s not a wonder. Martin has been using the lipless crankbaits to catch bass for years. He’s used them successfully on his home waters and on a number of out-of-state impoundments alike, during all four seasons of the year and under just about any fishing condition imaginable.

“There’s something about the Rat-L-Trap that bass can’t resist,” says Martin. “It could be its loud sound chambers, extreme vibration or great flash – maybe a combination of all three. But whatever the case, it catches bass like no other fishing lure out there.”

“Furthermore, it’s one of the most ‘user friendly’ lures around,” adds Martin. “When the fish are on an aggressive bite, anyone who can cast is apt to catch a big stringer on a Rat-L-Trap. That’s why a lot of the pros on the tournament trail wish the fishing bait had never been invented. Some of them refer to it as ‘the idiot bait."

Call it what you will, but any bass angler who doesn’t have ample supply of Traps on hand runs the risk of being made to look like an idiot by someone who does.

What follows is a lesson-plan in springtime ‘Trappin’ taught by one of the foremost believers in the business. Apply the advice and you could piece together a stinger of lunkers to shock the imaginations of the bass fishing gods.

As mentioned earlier, the Rat-L-Trap will catch fish on lakes all over the country. But according to the Nitro fishing pro, it shines especially bright on reservoirs containing an abundance of aquatic vegetation such as hydrilla, milfoil, coontail, and eelgrass.

These are all “submergent” forms of vegetation, meaning they are rooted to the bottom. Some of the grasses, hydrilla in particular, can grow in water as shallow as one foot and as deep as 12-18 feet. While hydrilla will “mat” to the surface during the heat of the summer, spring generally finds main lakebeds submerged well below the surface.

The amount of water between the surface and top of the grass bed can be influenced by a number of factors including water level, both past and present, and the intensity of the previous winter. These factors also dictate the depths at which the inside and outside grasslines will be located and where you should be fishing.

On lakes such as Toledo Bend, Sam Rayburn and Fork—all of which contain an abundance of hydrilla —springtime bass are frequently caught in relation to the top of submerged grassbeds, as well as along inside grasslines. According to Martin, the Rat-L-Trap is an ideal choice when fishing for bass positioned in this manner.

“It’s tailor-made for fishing submerged vegetation,” he said. “It casts extremely well and it’s designed in a manner that it can be dept in the strike zone with very little effort. About all you’ve got to do is cast the fishing bait, then retrieve it at a quick enough pace that it ticks the top of the grass occasionally. If you do that during the pre-spawn, you can’t help but catch bass.”

Sizing it up.

The Rat-L-Trap comes in an assortment of sizes ranging from 1\8 ounce up to 1 ounce. There is a size and presentation for every fishing situation that may come up.

When choosing a lure for pre-spawn bassin’ around submerged vegetation, Martin places the most emphasis on the size or depth of the window between the surface and the top of the hydrilla bed. The idea is to select a fishing bait that will run the same depth as the top of the grass bed when retrieved at a fast rate of speed.

“Bass like the Trap moving fast, especially in clear water,” he said. “A smaller fishing bait won’t sink as quickly as a heavy one, which means it will be more efficient than a heavy fishing lure when fishing around shallow grass beds. It’s just the opposite when fishing around deeper grass. The larger the window, the heavier the bait I’ll use.”

To wit:

The lighter Mini-Trap is the best choice for fishing 2-3 feet of water where the grass is growing a foot off the bottom. Martin says additional “lift” can be achieved by fishing the lure on 14-17 pound line. “But don’t go any heavier than that or you’ll take away from the action of the bait,” he said.

The original Rat-L-Trap works well in the three-foot window that occurs in water five-feet deep with hydrilla growing two feet off the bottom, whereas the heavier Mag-Trap is the best choice for fishing 6-7 feet of water where the grass is protruding 2-3 feet off bottom.

When spring rains push water abnormally high, which is often the case on lakes such as Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend, the window of open water above the grass may be as much as 6-8 feet. According to Martin, this is the ideal situation for fishing the Mag-Force one ounce models using a slower retrieve.

“The one ounce Trap is perfect for big fish” he added. “It’s bigger and heavier, and produces tremendous sound and vibration.”

Gearing Up.

Anyone who is serious about bass fishing has likely heard the terminology “fishing system.” Key elements included in the system are the rod, reel, line and, of course, the lure type and size. Pro anglers devise their fishing systems so as to achieve the highest possible degree of balance between all the elements involved.

Fishing Rods– Martin uses different length fishing rods for different sizes of Rat-L-Traps. A 7-foot medium action Bass Pro Crankin’ Stick accommodates the heavier 3/4 and 1-ounce lures nicely, while a slightly shorter 6 1/2-foot works best in combination with the 1/2-ounce Trap.

Martin will go to an even shorter fishing rod, usually a 6-footer, when probing the shallows with a 1/4-ounce Trap.

Fishing Reels– A quality level wind is the only way to go. Martin says a fishing reel with a 5:1 gear ratio is the best all around choice for fishing Traps over submerged grass. “With that ratio I have the ability to slow down or speed up my retrieve if I need too,” he said.

Line Size – Martin prefers 17-20 clear Trilene XT for baits weighing 3/4-ounce or more. The smaller 1/4-ounce works best with lighter line, say 12-14 pound test.

The Color Chart.

As is the case with other families of fishing lures, the Rat-L-Trap is available in just about every color under the sun. Martin is especially fond of four of them: The chrome/blue Lake Fork special (RT-25Spec), crawfish red (MG-SY8), crawfish brown (MG-460W) and chartreuse/orange belly (MG-24).

“You can’t go wrong fishing with those four basic colors,” he said. “They’ll catch bass in lakes all over the country.”

Martin chooses his color scheme in accordance with the season of the year and water clarity. All the aforementioned colors are deadly this time of year, but the list is whittled down somewhat when faced with a situation where the fishing water is off-color or muddy.

“It’s been my experience that Rat-L-Traps produce as well in dirty water as they do in clear water,” notes Martin. “When I am faced with fishing off-color water , I usually go with larger sizes and brighter colors. The chrome will be most effective when the sun is shining, where the chartreuse is the best choice under overcast skies.”

While no fishing plan is infallible, including the Rat-L-Trap, knowing what size, color, and presentation for this versatile lure can sure improve your chances on your next trip


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