One look into Michelle Armstrong’s Legend Boat rod locker (www.LegendMarine.com) and I knew at first sight, this Professional Bassmaster Women’s Tour Angler, was not only well educated, she was also well prepared for one of the toughest transitional times of the year!
“This time of year can be extremely tough for anglers, as most of the shad forage have made their way into the back of creeks or shallow flats forming large isolated pods or balls of bait,” suggest Armstrong. “However, it is also one of my favorite times of the year for Top-Water………..the main reason I always have a Heddon Spook rigged and ready!”
According to Armstrong, she constantly keeps an eye open for a sudden surge of surface activity. “When schooling bass push these isolated pods of shad to the surface on a feeding frenzy, you don’t want to be on the short end of a miss opportunity!” Adding, “You have to react quickly.”
To increase her reaction time Michele Armstrong, keeps her front deck, well organized. One side of her Legend Boat’s front deck is for her 6’6” Medium Heavy American Eagle Spook Rod (www.AmericanEagleRods.com), paired with a Bass Pro Shops Pro-Elite high-speed baitcaster, spooled with Bass Pro Shops 50lb braided line. While the opposite side harvests another American Eagle Rod with her follow-up bait, a YUM Dinger rigged weightless and secured to fluorocarbon line for missed or short striking bass. (www.YUMbaits.com)
Most Professional Bass Anglers make modifications to their baits, and this Mercury Outboard Pro-Staffer is no different, except for her terminology! “I like to refer to my Spook modifications as a “Make-Over’, laughs Armstrong, known on the WBT as ‘The Nail-Medic’. (Michelle is a manicurist, when not on the water.)
Beginning with the hooks, “I have an enormous amount of confidence in the hook-up power of Gamakatsu EWG treble hooks! In fact all of my hard baits are dressed with Gamakatsu EWG hooks.” To increase her odds of setting an EWG Gamakatsu into a bass that may strike once at her Spook or slash at it to injure it, this Lady Pro has a unique ‘Make-Over’ every bass angler may want to try! “I add an extra split ring, for a total of two split rings,” advises Armstrong.
If your particular Spook has no split ring and is directly attached to the hardware, Michelle suggests cutting off the original packaged hooks and add split rings with Gamakatsu EWG hooks. (www.Gamakatsu.com) “Besides changing the hooks, there are two more ‘Make-Over’ changes I do that I feel are imperative to my presentation! First, I dress the rear treble hook with a feather that I feel is critical in my presentation as it gives the Spook a natural subtle live appearance when motionless on the surface. Second, I never tie my bait directly to the braided line; instead I always utilize a snap, which in turn increases the Spooks side-to-side natural movement, especially during my ‘Walking-the-Dog’ retrieve.”
Michelle claims this set-up paired with braided line connects her bait directly with the most minute movement or reaction to her America Eagle Rod tip. “Due to the limpness of braided line there is a tenacity for the line to become tangled in your Spook’s hooks. I have found that by applying fly-line wax to the first 12-16 inches of braid, your braided line will float thus eliminating this situation.”
Michelle Armstrong’s Heddon Spook inventory is quite impressive, although she claims to have several favorites. “My go-to-Spooks most of the time are the Super Spook Jr. and the SwayBack Spook,” says Michelle. “Both baits have their own inhered differences, which makes alternating them upon the surface so crucial, enticing bass to engulf them.” According to Armstrong her Super Spook Jr. is a 3.5-inch bait equipped with an internal rattle chamber. While, her Heddon SwayBack Spook is slightly longer, measuring 4.5-inches. “The banana shape of the SwayBack Spook allows both the nose and the tail to stick out of the water, creating a lifelike silhouette. This position makes for a slightly higher pull point allowing the SwayBack to ‘Walk’ much easier.” (www.HeddonLures.com)
Regardless of which model Heddon Spook she is casting, Michelle always utilizes the exact same ‘Make-Over’ and presentation. “It’s the ‘Walking-Dog’ retrieve that incorporates all of the Spook’s action when sash-shaying across the surface.” Michelle holds her American Eagle Rod tip towards the water, utilizing the rod tip in a twitching motion, causing her Spook to move only a few inches in a side-to-side retrieve. Michelle cautions anglers not to utilize their reel to move the bait. “Only turn your reel handle to pick-up the slack you have created during the twitching action.”
Michelle’s final suggestion for adding excitement to your Fall Top-Water Heddon Spook presentation is one you should pay particular attention to! “I actually vary from the traditional ‘Walk-The-Dog’ retrieve during the Fall Transition,” claims Armstrong. Adding with a competitive Bass-Eating-Grin and an echoing giggle, “In fact I call it ‘Running-The-Dog’!” By twitching and retrieving her Spook under a very fast cadence, Michelle Armstrong has discovered she entices more bites and covers water much quicker. “I assure you this faster retrieve imparts a much tighter swimming motion, leading to a pattern that has filled my Legend Bass Boat livewells on many occasions.”
God Bless and Best Bass’n
By Billy “Hawkeye” Decoteau