Wake baits combine the characteristics of a traditional topwater bait and a diving crankbait to provide a versatile surface or sub surface presentation depending on technique and setup. In this article, we cover wake baits in detail, exploring when, where, and why to use them, and how to fish them effectively.
A wake bait is a hard bait equipped with a treble hook and a downward facing bill. Designed to swim just below the water's surface, it creates an attention-grabbing wake that entices bass. This makes it highly effective for drawing fish out of cover, especially if they are on a surface or sub surface bite.
Wake baits come in a variety of styles. Some are elongated, mimicking minnows, while others take on a more egg-like shape, reminiscent of traditional crankbaits. These different profiles serve to imitate different types of baitfish. Bass don't encounter wake baits as frequently as they do traditional topwaters, making them a less familiar presentation and a deadly secret weapon in an angler’s tackle box.
When & Where to Use a Wake Bait
Wake Baits excel when you are looking to accurately fish a small column of water (0-1.5 feet depth range) above cover, such as submerged grass. They make it possible to fish a narrow lane of water above the cover, without getting snagged.
Wake baits are also highly effective when fish are active and feeding upwards, towards the surface. This behavior is common in warmer water around laydowns, timber, and docks, where suspended fish are likely to be looking up and feeding.
Temperature-wise, wake baits are at their best in water temperatures between 55 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, making them excellent for spring, summer, and fall fishing. They are designed to target active fish and are not really a winter time bait.
Line, Rod, and Reel For Wake Baits
Choosing the right line is crucial for effective wake bait fishing. Since you want the wake bait to stay near the surface, opt for monofilament, which helps keep the bait up in the water column while providing a subtle presentation with minimal line visibility. Fluorocarbon tends to pull your bait too far down, defeating the purpose of a wake bait.
A heavier mono, around 15-17 pounds, is ideal as it will help keep your bait high in the water column. If you need the bait to dive slightly deeper, a lighter 12lb mono will usually do the trick.
Braid, which also floats, can be used too, although a monofilament leader is recommended as braid alone is pretty intrusive and may spook fish, especially in clear water situations.
Wake Baits work well with long casts allowing you to cover a lot of water, so a 7 - 7.6-foot rod is ideal. A medium action is perfect given the treble hooks, providing enough give to ensure good hook sets. Heavier rod actions will often cause you to rip the trebles out of the fish's mouth on the hook set.
A low profile casting reel is ideal. For colder water situations where bass are relatively inactive, slower gear ratios (6.4:1 - 7.0:1) are beneficial as they force you to slow down and adapt to fish behavior. Conversely, a faster ratio (7.0:1 and upwards) is recommended for warmer waters when fish tend to be more active and feeding aggressively.
Alternatively, just stick to one reel for all conditions and adapt your retrieval speed accordingly.
Wake Bait Techniques
Slow On The Surface
Elite Series pro, Mike Iaconelli refers to this method as "bulging". By working the bait slowly along the surface with a high rod tip, you can imitate a baitfish with a natural wobbling action on the surface. This technique is excellent for fishing over submerged cover or fishing parallel to cover such as laydowns or docks, especially when fish are actively feeding on the surface.
For this technique, the bait is made to dive just below the surface. Keeping the rod low and reeling faster allows the bait to dive down a little while still creating a small wake on the surface to attract fish. This approach works well in a narrow water column when you want the bait below the surface, but above submerged cover such as grass or timber.
Wake Bait Cranking
When you want the bait to dive a bit deeper, to about 1-1.5 feet, wake bait cranking is the way to go. A lighter 12lb mono will help get the bait down. Keeping the rod tip down and reeling fast enough achieves the desired depth, making it ideal for situations when fish are suspended but not really looking to take a bait right on the surface.
Wake baits bring a distinctive versatility to surface/sub surface fishing, offering an alternative to traditional topwater techniques. Whether you're fishing over submerged cover, alongside docks, or targeting suspended, upward-feeding fish, wake baits provide a unique presentation, one that is definitely underused among bass anglers. So next time you're out on the water, consider casting a wake bait and watch as the bass rise to the occasion.
Have the latest bass fishing insights and tackle reviews delivered straight to your inbox.