How to Hitch a Trailer to Your Bait
What not to trailer-ize.
If it's okay with you, I'd like to kick off this article in a
round-about manner. Let's identify what not to trailer-ize first,
okay? This doesn't mean that you can't lace trailers onto the
following baits, just that it isn't normally done. So here goes.
Trailers are hardly ever used on lipped or lipless crankbaits or
on hard jerkbaits. Soft plastic lure bodies (worms, grubs,
spiders, craws, lizards, tubes, shads, soft stickbaits) are used
on jigheads, Texas rig in cover, Carolina rig on structure, or
weightless on or near the surface. No one I know puts extra
trailers on soft plastics, do you? Jigging spoons, blade baits
and tail spinners typically go deep, cold and unadorned. Hard
topwaters - poppers, walk-the-dogs, and twitching minnows - do
work well with sparse hackle trailers on their tail trebles. You
can get more info about this by listening in to Topwater Talk.
Hitch your wagons.
But when we talk about trailers in this article, what we are
going to give you are suggestions for trailers to hitch up to
your weedless bass jigs. By default, we will also easily cover
suggestions for spinnerbait and buzzbait trailers too! Why is
this so? Well, bass jigs, spinnerbaits and buzzbaits are just
three specialized forms of the same basic lure. All three feature
a lead jig head, an upright single hook, and a rubber or silicone
multi-strand skirt. Their specialized uses in bass fishing are as
- First, the weedless bass jig is the specialized
bottom-probing form of this lure, often used in thick cover. This
form sports a fiberguard hook protector to remain weedless and
snagless on bottom or in cover.
- Second, a buzzbait is a specialized topwater form. It is
nothing more than a bass jig that has a bubbly pinwheel propeller
wired onto it that keeps it planing on the surface.
- And of course, a spinnerbait is simply a midwater form of a
bass jig. It is used from just under the surface, to just over
the bottom - and everywhere in between. I liken a spinnerbait to
a "punk rock" version of a jig. It's just your standard
jig with a wire-pierced nose, and an earring or two dangling over
For a basic discussion of jig trailers therefore, we can
easily apply the following suggestions not just to jigs, but to
spinnerbaits and buzzbaits too. Ready? Let's go. Don't trail
Chunks. Uncle Josh and Strike King are the
major national distributors of pork, and there are a few smaller
manufacturers with regional popularity in the South and West. Click here to
learn how pork chunks were originally invented during the summer
of 1920 due to a scarcity of frogs for bait in Wisconsin! Pork's
has a toughness which is both an advantage and a disadvantage.
It's good that bass will not be able to tear the pork off the
hook as they easily do with plastic chunks. It's bad in that when
a bass inhales your jig, chunk and all, the tough pork can cover
the point of the hook, thereby preventing the hook from setting
properly - or at all. End of game. You lose. Nevertheless,
properly softened pork has a supple movement and exudes a
concentrated scent and saltiness fresh out of the jar. This
life-like movement and scent is no illusion to the fish - pork
chunks were alive at one time! Plastic chunks can only imitate
these life-like properties of pork. On a final note, some pork
chunks are too stiff right out of the jar. To soften them, you
can put a few drops of glycerin into the jar a few days prior to
use. But you must then use them soon, because this softening
process also shortens the storage life of the pork.
Plastic chunks are perhaps the most popular of all jig trailers.
Some of the most popular styles of plastic chunks are made by
Zoom Bait Company. Lunker City, Kalin's, and many other national
and regional manufacturers also offer their versions of chunks.
For the longest time, most plastic chunks exactly duplicated the
size and shape of pork frogs. More recently, manufacturers are
starting to promote chunks that have flattened claw-like
appendages rather than the straight "frog legs". Both
bass and anglers are both showing an affinity for the newer
"claw chunk" styles.
Most anglers feel that plastic chunks work as well as pork for
them. Plastic chunks still have the disadvantage that they are
big, bulky, and can cover the hookpoint when a big bass inhales
it, thereby making for a poor hookset that occasionally drives
the point into the chunky plastic rather than into the fish's
mouth. Of course, all the fish that you lose this way are the
biggest ones of the day! Another disadvantage is that most
anglers impale plastic chunks onto the hook in the same manner
that they impale a pork chunk, thereby making it very easy for a
bass to rip the chunk off the hook when it bites or hits short.
To combat this, many anglers insert a short piece of toothpick
into the chunky part in front of the point where the hook sits in
the chunk. In this way, it is not so easy for a bass to tear off
the chunk, but it still can fold over and impede a good hookset
this way. Why not try what I do with chunks? Instead of going in
the bottom and out the top of the chunk like usual, why not
thread the chunk onto the hook shank as if you were starting to
rig a worm? That's right, start rigging front and center like you
do with most soft plastics, but take the hook out the top of the
chunk once it has penetrated about 1/2 inch. The chunk should
still sit well back on the hook shank, just before the bend
starts. Make sure it lies fairly flat. It can even point upwards
slightly. Then, slide it back up, put a shot of superglue on the
hook shank where the pork will sit, and slide it back down into
place. Once dry, the pork will stay in place without getting torn
off as easily, and it will not fold over and interfere with a
good hook set very often either!
Now let's mention some less popular alternatives. Less popular
with anglers, but bass belt 'em good!
tail grubs. To me, this is the best
alternative trailer to a pork or plastic chunk. Why? Because pork
or plastic chunks will eventually cause you to lose something -
BIG BASS. The pork or plastic chunk will ultimately fold over
your hook point, and prevent the hookset from penetrating the maw
of a big one. Trust me, it will happen to you...it's not a matter
of if but when! Not so with the fat, feisty double tail grubs.
You thread them all the way up onto the hook shank, and lock 'em
on with a little shot of superglue. The body is much more compact
than the fleshy chunks, and can't get in the way when a fish
bites. I like these particularly for slowly swimming a buzzbait
or slow rolling a spinnerbait, using a lift/drop spinnerbait
pattern on bottom, or for fishing a short arm spinnerbait just
like a jig. Use grub and skirt color patterns to imitate
crayfish. Most commonly used are either 4" or 5" sizes.
Anglers rarely use the bulkier 6" or 7"
sizes of double tail grubs , which can be pinched down to from a
squat, bulky trailer. Once pinched short, it can be threaded up
onto the hook shank, or impaled like you would a pork chunk,
using a piece of toothpick to help prevent bass from tearing it
off. This option is not at all unlike rigging a pork or plastic
chunk, but without as much risk of losing your bass of a
lifetimel because the grub body is more compact and interferes
less than a bulbous chunk during the hookset.
On the double tails, either threaded or impaled, I rig it
"flat" for the illusion of crayfish claws or for more
"lift" as I swim the lure. Surprisingly, I also rig it
"straight up" which you will rarely see people do with
a double tail. I think it more closely imitates a wide-bodied
shad, shiner or bluegill when the double tail is rigged straight
up, and pinched down really short so the tails barely extend past
the jig skirt strands! Why not try it yourself?
Mister Twister 4" curly tail
worms. I mostly use single tail grubs as
stand-alone lures on unskirted jig heads, or I may remove the
skirt completely from a spinnerbait or buzzbait and replace it
with a single tail grub body. I don't use single tail grubs much
as trailers on rubber or silicone-skirted lures. Sure, they'll
work alright. They just never seemed to produce spectacular
results - at least not for the bass that I catch! But there is
one exception, which is special use of the original Mister
Twister curly tail worm as a deadly spinnerbait trailer in
rivers, tidal waters, and areas of current flow. The extra thick,
strong curly tail produces a heavy rippling vibration that
attracts gamefish in flowing water. Most of the delicate,
thin-tailed curly worms and grubs on the market today just cannot
produce the strong vibrations that stimulate fish to strike like
the Mister Twister does in current flows. Also works well as a
trailer in still waters whenever you are fishing spinnerbaits at
a fast clip to cover lots of water. Another plus is that this
curly tail is durable, so you won't lose your tail to fish or
snags as easily as with other single tail grubs. Try white
twisters and black twisters with skirts the same color. Also
chartreuse twisters on white skirts. By the way, Mister Twisters
are also the best trailer to use on Johnson Silver Minnow spoons
on stout gear in the slop and reeds. The best time for this is at
the beginning and end of the day in early summer...right before
the water gets too hot in mid-summer. The key point about the
Mister Twister is that the curly tail is much thicker than most
other curly-tailed grubs so it creates very strong vibrations as
it wriggles frantically behind the spoon or spinnerbait. Equally
important, the tail is thick enough to drag through heavy cover
all day without being torn off by tough weed stalks. On the
Johnson's you don't just put the grub onto the hook so it lays
straight like on a spinnerbait - instead thread the grub body a
little bit up onto the curvature of the spoon's hook - and secure
it to the butt of the spoon with a little spot of super glue. It
will look a bit odd this way as it kind of points up at an angle.
I use black, white, and chartreuse grubs. The gold spoon/black
grub combo is pretty as a picture, and it is deadly under low
light conditions at dawn, dusk, or in those ion-charged, magical
moments just before a summer squall (act responsibly, and seek a
safe haven before any squall approaches close enough to endanger
you). Use silver spoon/chartreuse grub in turbid or muddy water.
Long, slim plastic
copies of pork chunks. Technically
speaking, these are actually plastic imitations of pork twin tail
eels. During late 1998, Prowler Pro Pitch Lures introduced a
slimmer, longer twin-tailed plastic pork frog chunk than you
usually see in the market. It has a slim plastic chunk up front,
followed by two long, thin, straight "frog legs." Looks
like a typical plastic or pork chunk, but I have never seen one
so narrow and so long in the legs. It is definitely a
great-shaped trailer for spinnerbaits and buzzbaits.
Pork, the other white meats.
Pretty much everyone is familiar with the fleshy pork frog
chunks, but there are other varieties of the white meat that are
largely forgotten, but still effective, bass trailers. Try the
Uncle Josh 4" twin tail eels, particularly on
sparsely-skirted spinnerbaits. Also try the following double
trailer cocktail on a sparsely-skirted jig. First, thin out and
trim down the jig skirt more than normally. Second, pinch down a
craw worm body, one with realistic-looking claws, and thread it
onto the hook shank. Use a bit of superglue to secure it. Now,
slip an Uncle Josh 4" twin tail eel onto the hook. The
shortened, sparser skirt hints at crawfish legs, the realistic
claws are an obvious signal to bass, and the twintail eel legs
top off the illusion of crayfish antennae flicking back and
forth! Remember, we are dealing with an animal driven by
instinct. Imprinted in bass, there is an innate urge to prey upon
anything its instinct recognizes as food. As fishermen, all we
require are colors, shapes, and prey characteristics that create
an impression that "suggests" food. Actual realism is
rarely needed (that would be called shiner fishing). It
does not have to be picture perfect. We simply have to send out
the right signals. We have accomplished that with the legs,
claws, and antennae of the lure we just described here. All we
really have to do is give enough illusion to suggest prey to the
bass and its instinct will take over from there.
Don't use a trailer.
After reading this far, it's probably the last thing you expected
to hear, but I always prefer to fish spinnerbaits and buzzbaits
without trailers. The bass I catch don't seem to care, so why
bother! On bass jigs though, I religiously use trailers. Just the
way I was raised I guess.
THE COLOR GUIDE
Divide your jig, spinnerbait and buzzbait color patterns into two
series: a crayfish series and a baitfish series. In the baitfish
series, always sling a white silicone-skirted jig with a
smoke/silver flake (135) trailer. This combo represents shad,
shiners, minnows and such. Z-man is a silicone skirt manufacturer
that produces a series of semi-translucent white skirts called
“glimmers”. They have overtones like gold, blue, etc.
Sunlight gives a living, vibrant sheen to the glimmer colors.
Also, consider a “rainbow trout” pattern which is green
back/black flakes with white/pink glimmer belly. Works well
everywhere, even where rainbow trout don’t happen. Might want
to toss a “golden shiner” or “shad” pattern too.
On all these skirt patterns, try the smoke trailer with
silver, gold or copper metal flakes to match. What the
smoke-colored trailer gives you is contrast against the
white-bellied skirts. Contrast is an important thing in a lure.
In this case of contrast, the smoke trailer is used to sharpen
the appearance and silhouette of the skirt's white or baitfish
pattern. As far as shaping the skirt's silhouette, I trim both
the front and rear-facing fronds of the skirt to create an
overall willow leaf-shaped "layered look" that presents
the silhouette of either a crayfish or a baitfish body. Also, I
do not leave too much of the skirt trailing out past the hook.
Bottom line, I like the skirt strands to be cut at all different
lengths, forming the overall effect of a gradually tapering body.
Worst to me is when the skirt ends are just cut square.
You can also try a white single tail grub trailer instead of
the twin tail. Many anglers feel strongly that the single tail
grub trailer represents a baitfish better than the twin tail, but
I don't think the bass feel as strongly about this as some
anglers do. And talking about pork, try a white Strike King Bo
Leech, which is a chunky fish-shaped pennant of pork. Or buy a
bottle of Uncle Josh Offshore Bigboys, which comes with two large
pork rinds for marlin and tuna, but that you can cut into 14
bass-sized, fish-shaped pennants. Another baitfish pattern is
fire tiger and its derivatives, which on a jig can represent
yellow perch and sunfish patterns. These gaudy patterns provide
increased visibility in thick cover, in stained water, or for
highly active fish in spring and fall, particularly pre-spawn.
Try white or chartreuse trailers with the fire tiger family.
When bass are on crayfish (and they usually are), match the
color. When crayfish are greenish brown with orange spots, use a
brown/orange skirt with smoke rootbeer/green & copper flake (236)
trailer. When crayfish are black/red, try black/red skirt with
black/red flake (051)
trailer. When they're blackish brown, try the black/red skirt
with watermelon/black & red flake (208)
trailer. In clear water, crayfish are sometimes smoke-colored
with powder blue, bright orange and white accents on their claws
and bellies. A good clear water match is a clear crystal/copper
flake skirt with a smoke/copper flake (163)
or clear/bronze flake (200)
trailer. When I make this one, I make a custom matching tri-tone
fiberguard of blue, orange and clear fibers. The colors
referenced here are from Gary Yamamoto's catalog. I am using them
because you can click on the color codes to go to that web site
to see a large image of that color.
In dark or dingy water, I like a black skirt with an orange
trailer for contrast. You can use a black laundry marker to spot
and mottle the orange trailer. At night, start right off with
some contrast in the skirt itself - use a black/chartreuse skirt.
Then add more contrast by sweetening it with a light brown
trailer such as amber honey/copper flake (182)
or root beer/gold flake (149).
Zoom Colors. As
mentioned above, the Zoom jig trailers are good choices that are
popular with both anglers and bass! My favorite Zoom picks are
basic blacks and blues such as Black/\Red Glitter (01), Red Shad
(25), Black/ Blue Glitter (72), Flippin' Blue (66), and Sapphire
Blue (110). In the browns and greens, look into: Watermelon Seed
(19) which is similar but clearer than Green Pumpkin (25),
Watermelon/Red Glitter (54), Crawdad (92), and Brown (117). Also,
there are two newer colors that are good: Blue Olive, Green
Hitch 'em up. Hope to see ya out on the trail-er!