The Jig Is Up
Inside Denny Brauer's Tacklebox - Known for flippin’, Brauer opens up on his go-to lures
Article by David A. Brown
Big bass elicite a giant smile from Shaw Grigsby
If you can even spell the word bass, you know that Denny Brauer's career as a top Bassmaster competitor was flippin' awesome. That's largely because of his awesome flippin' skills.
Even in his post-retirement era, the 1998 Bassmaster Classic champ is more likely to found fishing a jig than any other bait. But that's not to say Brauer doesn't appreciate the need for tactical diversity – in fact, he ranks adaptability as one of the top skills that delivered a career with 17 wins and over $2.57 million in B.A.S.S. events alone.
"When I started out fishing, I was a spinnerbait kind of guy, but when I got into professional fishing and I analyzed the sport, I realized that in order to win, you had to have big fish. The creel limits were going down and down and down. In the old days it was 15 (daily), then it went to 10 and seven and finally to five. It became more and more important to weigh-in quality fish rather than numbers.
"Just analyzing the history of tournament fishing, the majority of big fish being caught was on jigs and I just thought that if you could develop the techniques to really get good at jig fishing that your odds of winning would go up. And if you started winning, you would have a great chance of surviving in the sport. That was my main goal – to be able to continue to finance myself and continue professional fishing. I knew the best way to attract sponsors and attain that goal was winning and that's why the jig became my total focus and I certainly have no regrets."
Now that he's off the national touring circuit and permanently settled at his long-beloved Lake Amistad in Del Rio, Brauer finds himself reaching for finesse baits far less often. For clarity, he knows how to tie a dropshot and he knows just what to do with one. But for his now-mostly southern fishing, he keeps close an arsenal of options that'll handle most any scenario he encounters. That heavy thing with the skirt and weed guard won't lose his favor anytime soon, but Brauer makes certain that between jig bites, he has a bunch of proven alternates ready to step in and get the job done.
"It's an absolute a necessity to be able to fish all different lures," Brauer said. "There may be stretches of events where I never fished a jig because the conditions aren't right. My goal is always to fish the technique that I think will lend itself to winning. That's always set up by the lake, whether it's high, low, clear, dirty, windy, calm or different seasonal patterns.
"You have to be versatile if you're doing this for a living. If you're fishing for fun and you like to throw a plastic worm, well go out and throw it every day. There's going to be days when you don't get any bites on it, where you might be able to catch them on a topwater lure. When you're fishing for money, you have to be able to adapt."
Brauer recently gave us a peek at his lineup of go-to baits.
Denny Brauer's Tacklebox
1. Strike King Tour Grade Football Jig - Brauer's first choice for structure fishing as deep as 80 feet, a ¾-ounce his most common size. Trailer options are usually either a Strike King Rage Chunk or a Rage Craw. "If it's sunny and the fishing's tough, I'll use the Chunk because it's a little shorter and more compact. I'll trim the skirt and shorten the trailer. If I'm trying to appeal to the big fish, I'll use the Rage Craw."
2. Strike King Denny Brauer Premier Pro Model Flipping Jig – For most flipping or pitching heavy cover or skipping boat docks, Brauer goes with his signature jig in 3/8- to ½-ounce size. In warm water he likes the action of a Rage Craw, whereas in cold water, the more subtle Chunk is best.
3. Strike King 6XD Crankbait – For all of his deep cranking scenarios where he needs to consistently hit 16-18 feet, the 6XD is Brauer's favorite most anywhere he fishes. With long casts on 12-pound fluorocarbon, he can touch 20 feet deep. Sexy blueback herring is one of his favorite all-around colors.
4. Strike King KVD 2.5 Squarebill Crankbait – In heavy shoreline cover, Brauer likes banging this sturdy squarebill across wood or rock. Colors vary by season and forage, but one of his favorites is the green and orange DB Craw that he designed. In any pattern, Brauer said he feels comfortable that this bait will hold on to whatever bites. "It handles big enough hooks to handle big fish."
5. Strike King Redeye Shad Lipless Crankbait – Grass fishing means this popular lipless bait is always on Brauer's deck – crawfish colors in stained water, shad colors in clear water. Although the ½-ounce size is probably most common Brauer goes big with a ¾-ounce Redeye Shad. "At this point in my life, the challenge for me is catching big fish and that ¾-ounce just appeals to those bigger fish better."
6. Strike King Sexy Dog Topwater – A relatively new bait, this walker fits Brauer's second-favorite style of fishing (behind jigs). A great choice for schooling bass, the Sexy Dog comes in 2-hook and 3-hook models, both with an internal weight for long casts. "The first day I got these baits in, I went out (on Lake Amistad) and tested them and caught 63 fish up to 6 pounds. What a fun bait to fish."
7. Strike King Sexy Frog – When the grass mats up, Brauer loves to work this hollow body bait over the vegetation where vicious strikes are the expectation. White is his favorite color, as it's easily tracked by fish and fisherman. "I was out here (on Amistad) last June and the frog bite was on. This bait (pictured here) got totally abused. You can see it's all torn up."
8. Strike King Premier Plus Spinnerbait – A ½-ounce is his average size for fishing over brush or through hydrilla pockets, but at home on Lake Amistad, Brauer fishes a lot of deep-water scenarios with heavy models up to 1 ¼ ounces. The greenish tint of the Sexy Blueback Herring color is very effective in clear water. "I leave the Premier Plus skirt the full length because I normally fish a trailer hook and the longer skirt hides that trailer hook. If I feel I need to shorten it, I'll cut it off even with the back of the trailer hook. With the vibration of the blades, the skirt actually quivers as it's going through the water."
9. Flipping Baits: During the prespawn through spawn and then during the summer months, Brauer said he gets most of his bites flipping specific targets. When he's not flipping a jig, he likes soft plastics Texas rigged with a Mustad Grip Pin Max Flipping Hook and a Strike King Tour Grade tungsten weight of 3/8- to 1-ounce. His top plastic baits are (L-R): A 4 ½-inch Strike King Flipping Tube for spawning scenarios. "This bait has probably accounted for more numbers of flipping fish over the years for me than all the other baits put together, including the jig. It's a real numbers bait."
When he wants to flip a bait that has a little more action for summer time, he goes with the Strike King Rage Craw. For a more subtle flipping presentation that's more compact than a jig (ideal for prespawn), Brauer throws the Strike King Rodent.