“Speak softly and carry a big stick.” –President Teddy Roosevelt
Randy Pringle is taking the advice of President Roosevelt to heart. Well, half of it anyway. He’s keeping the big stick at the ready this fall — the Ima Big Stik topwater bait, to be precise — but it’s tough to keep the California guide and fishing educator quiet. He’s so excited to finally have the big lure just the way he wants it that he’s singing its praises to anyone who will listen.
His enthusiasm is contagious, and it’s particularly heightened because this is a lure that he’s dreamed of for no less than eight years. “That’s when I really started getting involved in the big stripers on the California Delta,” he recalled. “I realized that all of the plugs out there were one-dimensional.”
In other words, some would spit but they wouldn’t walk. Some walked well but didn’t push any water. Some were noisy, some were quiet. Others had good paint jobs, but they weren’t durable. He wanted a one-stop shopping experience, so when the folks from Ima came and asked him if he had any ideas for new lures, he was ready to sketch it out.
First and foremost, Pringle wanted a bait that would appeal to big fish. He seems to have found the right one — it’s deadly on saltwater species, peacock bass, stripers (he’s caught them up to 25 pounds on the Big Stik) and of course monster largemouths (his biggest so far was a 13 pound plus specimen from the Delta). That required thru-wire construction. Other manufacturers had tried to make a thru-wire topwater like this one, but the construction compromised the action. He also knew it would have to have top-notch split rings and treble hooks right out of the box.
With guide clients, many of them novices, slinging big baits around his boat, Pringle knew that it would quickly get crowded if each angler had to have both a noisy and a silent version at the ready, so the design team came up with a lure that allows him to have both in one package. “I wanted the loudest plug on the market, so we divided it into eight sections and put in 15 BB’s and two or three big knockers,” he said. “But it can still be quiet if you want it to be subtle. If you had one big long chamber, they’d all move no matter how you retrieved the lure, but by dividing it into eight chambers when you make a smaller motion left or right not all of the BB’s move.”
Perhaps most importantly, the lure combines the best characteristics of a walking bait and a popper into one easy-to-work topwater. “A lot of other lures had a pointed nose, which gave them a tendency to dive,” he stated. “Others move back and forth but they wouldn’t splash water. But the Big Stik shoots water three feet in front of it like a popper. It’s also real simple to walk.”
He varies his tackle depending on the mood of the fish and the retrieve he needs to create as a result of their mood.
“You can fish it on braid and it will go right to left in a drastic pendulum motion,” Pringle explained. “You hit it hard and take your rod back up quickly and it will stay within a one foot radius. With mono, it has a tendency to travel. It slides across the water because of the stiffness and memory of the line.” So if you want to create more flash in a confined space, braid is best. Pringle prefers Spiderwire Stealth because it doesn’t have as much coating on it as other braids, therefore making the line limper. When he wants it to scoot quickly across the water, he prefers 20 pound test Trilene Big Game monofilament.
Regardless of which line he chooses, he wants a heavy backboned rod with a fast tip. “The lure weighs 1.7 ounces but when a fish eats it you need some give to hook him,” Pringle said. He typically uses a Fenwick Elite Tech flipping stick, although he said a swimbait rod will work well too. “It needs that tip so they can suck in the bait. You can’t use a baseball bat like a muskie rod.” He pairs his rod up with a Abu-Garcia Revo Toro, which has ample line capacity so that “you don’t have to worry about going to the bottom of the spool.”
The other aspect of the Big Stik that Pringle raved about are the 10 color schemes that Ima has developed, combining Japanese artistry with a template of American baitfish. “They’re all eye candy,” he said. “Unlike some other lures where it looks like a kid painted it with his crayons.” While all 10 patterns have a place, he said that five general categories should cover most situations. The first is called “Trash Fish.” “I’ve fished from coast to coast and any lake across the country has them. They’re little brown fish with spots and they typically look beat up. That’s a no-brainer.” Second is perch, another coast-to-coast staple. Next he’d add a shad pattern, which can emulate threadfin shad, gizzard shad, herring or any one of a multitude of other baitfish. If you live in California, a trout replica is a must. And if you fish in saltwater, a red-headed lure is a must as well.
One adjustment he makes, particularly when fishing for largemouths, is to use the factory version with a feather on the tail. “They’re hand-wrapped,” he said. “It slows down the bait, so when you don’t want that drastic side-to-side action, that’s the way to go.”
You may be thinking right now that you don’t fish in saltwater, you’ll never go to the Amazon, and that there are few if any ten-pounders in your local lake. Even if that’s the case, Pringle said that the Big Stik should be your go-to lure right now, as fish fatten up for winter.
“Bass can eat something half their size,” he said. “Right now they need a food source and that means bluegill or big shad, so you can throw this anywhere you’re likely to run into a two to five pound fish.”
What are you waiting for? Tie on a Big Stik. Speaking softly is optional, but when the first trophy slams it, you’ll probably be every bit as revved up as Randy Pringle.