You may have thought I was asking for a heart transplant! Every time I mentioned the word Scrounger to my ‘Elite’ circle of B.A.S.S. professional friends, a sudden silence filled the room, or selective hearing managed to change the subject. Appling my high school knowledge of physics ‘For every action, there is a reaction’ I knew I was unto yet another secret bait of the Pro’s.
Scrounging bits and pieces of information, seasoned with an overdose of annoyance, I finally found someone who would share some Scrounger information. Women’s Bassmaster Trail Professional Angler Michelle Armstrong and her FLW Outdoors bass angling husband Troy were reluctant at first, but finally decided to share their ‘Scrounger Secrets’.
Assembling an arrangement of soft plastic baits on the deck of her Legend Bass Boat, Michelle smiled and replied, “There you are some of my favorite Scrounger baits!” Like a Northern Pike on a chartreuse spinnerbait I jumped all over her smiling statement. “Right…. All I see are YUM baits!” Dingers, Houndini Shads, Ribbontail Worms, Zellamanders and Grande Grubs were among her assortment. (www.YUM3x.com)
Listening to Troy and Michelle they enlightened me to the realization that artificial baits are only as good as their presentation. “Locating bass is of utmost importance, but the key to success is depended upon your ability to present your bait with as much incredulous realistic action possible,” says Troy Armstrong. “And, this is where the Scrounger comes in”, added Michelle.
Thirty-five years ago John Waters of Southern California, an avid angler himself, knew fish would bite just about any bait when they were feeding, but to entice their appetite between feeding frenzy’s required a completely different application. “A single baitfish swimming alone is just to easy a prey for any predatory fish to resist. Rigging anyone of our YUM baits to a Scrounger jig-head transforms it immediately into a Scrounger Swimbait,” suggest the Armstrong’s.
Waters 1970’s invention was an instant success and within a relatively short period of time he and his son sold over 500,000 Scroungers. Unfortunately, by the turn of the century Waters Scrounger was near extinction, and except for a few Western Anglers, the Scrounger Swimbait was kept a secret.
According to Scott Kolbinsky, Managing Partner for Aaron Martens Lures, LLC, Scott, his son Joshua and Professional Bass Angler Aaron Martens were reminiscing their successful ventures on both fresh and saltwater utilizing Waters Scrounger. “John’s Scrounger invention was just to unique to be lost,” says Kolbinsky. In 2006 Aaron Martens Lures LLC was spawned and their first offspring was an updated redesigned, improved Scrounger Swimbait dedicated to John Waters. (www.AaronMartensLures.com)
With over fifteen years of Scrounger on-the-water experience and one year of research and development the Aaron Martens Lures LLC Scrounger made it’s debut at the 2007 Bassmaster Classic featuring several design modifications improving the Scrounger’s horizontal presentation. “Some of our first modifications included redesigning the bill, by incorporating multiple bill sizes in various thickness with the utilization of soft surgical plastic,” says Scott Kolbinsky. In addition the newly redesigned Scrounger jighead is equipped with a Gamakatsu O’Shaughnessy jig hook, and is now available in thirteen sizes and bill combinations.
Handing me one of their Scrounger jigheads, Michelle and Troy continued to educate me on the uniqueness of the Scrounger’s design. “One of the features I’m extremely impressed with is the utilization of the Gamakatsu jig hook. Its upright position increases my hook-up ratio and its sharpness assures solid penetration. While the longer O’Shaughnessy style hook makes for an easy application on a large variety of baits and sizes,” pointed out Michelle.
Holding the Scrounger there was no doubt that this was a precision made top quality product. Its simplicity was overwhelming, yet the plastic bill seemed to bend quite easily? Troy explained to me several reasons how the softer surgical plastic bill designed works. “Notice the cupped formation, this allows an angler to reel or troll the Scrounger at any speed without hampering the baits back and forth oscillating motion. And, it’s imperative to always tie your line to the nose clip included with each Scrounger jighead!”
Bending the bill back and forth, the Armstrong’s explained that not only did the plastic bill design act as a weed guard, but its flexibility aids in releasing the bait when reeled into snags such as rocks or rubble. Casting to submerged vegetation just under the surface with a ¼ oz Scrounger jighead rigged with a YUM Houndini Shad, I was totally impressed with the Scroungers ability to swim through the thickest clumps of weeds without tangling, while the upright natural position was consistent at all speeds including stop-go pausing applications!
Questioning ‘Team Armstrong’ as to when and where they utilize the Scrounger jighead, they just looked at each and began laughing, before Troy explained. “Imagine never having to set your rod down all day. “Except for placing a bass into your livewell of course,” interjected Michelle. “The Scrounger’s design allows you to fish at all depths and every type of cover. You can crawl it along the bottom of a point in 28’ of water bumping stumps, and then make your next cast to riprap along the shoreline in 2’ of water.
Michelle revealed how she will target suspending smallmouth or spotted bass around bridge pilling in 15-20 foot depths, before entering a backwater marina where she continues casting for largemouths relating to docks and shallow timber laydowns within lily pads and submerged vegetation. “The only thing I might change is my plastic bait. And, that’s a snap. Bait off bait on and never retie. In tournament competition time is of essence!”
When it comes to balance tackle in Scrounger applications, a lot has to do with the species your chasing, the size of your bait and the weight of your Scrounger jighead. However, the Armstrong’s are competitive bass anglers with a Scrounger history of securing those extra bites needed in big-money tournaments!
“Confidence in a particular bait size and color is obviously important. Our experience has lead us to rely on utilizing the ¼ oz medium short bill Scrounger rigged with a shad style bait such as a Fluke, Fin-S Fish or Houndini Shad 90% of the time. For this application we have found medium action rods in the 6’6” to 7’ lengths work best,” advise Troy. The Armstrong’s choices for rods are American Eagle XE-703, paired with Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris Elite reels spooled with 10lb XPS Fluorocarbon line.
“Seriously, structure wise you may use the Scrounger anywhere you would throw a crankbait, drag a Carolina Rig or football head jig. The design of the Scrounger allows for extra long cast, while controlling the depth is no more than counting down before retrieving,” claims Troy. Michelle added, “This allows your bait to be in the strike zone for the entire retrieve, where as a crankbaits needs to dive to the appropriate depth!”
The Armstrong’s confidence in the Scrounger has a lot to do with the Scrounger’s extreme sensitively to detect the minutest variation in its oscillating vibration movement. Especially when retrieving the Scrounger jighead at slow speeds making continued bottom contact on changing contours.
“The versatility of the Scrounger jighead is unlimited. And, I almost hate to tell you this, but the Scrounger is just to good a product not to be utilized by serious anglers,” sighed Troy Armstrong. “Michelle and I have been experiencing rigging both YUM Houndini Shads and YUM Dingers wacky style for shallow water presentations. The added action the Scrounger applies to this technique is unbelievable. Simply let it sink or give it a slow pull, quick twitches or a steady crawl, whatever turns the bass on.
Shaking his head with a wry smile Troy Armstrong said, “I can’t tell you the amount of confidence the Scrounger will give you, especially on today’s pressured waters! You really have to fish the Scrounger to appreciate its unbelievable implied natural action for soft plastic baits!”
God Bless and Best Bass’n
Bill Decoteau is an outdoor journalist with a strong passion for pursuing the Black Bass. His activities include covering and photographing professional bass trails, the New England Paralyzed Veterans of America Bass Trail, as well as emceeing benefit tournaments such as Maine’s Special Olympics. Bill may also be found on the water filming his television show The Bass Bureau…………Where the Road meets the Water or in the classroom at many of the regional sportsmen shows holding bass seminars, sharing winning techniques utilized by some of the nationals’ top-bass pro’s.