The Sonic BaitFish™ Review
The Sonic BaitFish (SBF), Patent Pending
(Sizes: 1/10, 1/6, 1/4, 1/3, 1/2 & 3/4 oz.)
Review from Mack's Lure Pro Staffer Mike Hall
book can be exclusively devoted to the Sonic BaitFish (SBF) because of
its unsurpassed versatility and multi-species effectiveness, in open
fresh and salt water, and through the ice. Whether it's called a
blade bait, jigging spoon, flutter spoon, metal jig or "Killer Fish",
the Sonic BaitFish alone can replace a tackle box full of different
lures because of its versatility. Its natural baitfish appearance and
lively sonic action have consistently produced impressive catches down
to 80 feet. The purpose of this Tech Guide is to provide you with
basic information to use as a springboard to increase your knowledge,
success, and enjoyment on the water. Critical tips are repeated
throughout this guide. Practice with your SBF in clear water to
become familiar with the action of its many different versions.
No other lure
type has three highly productive line/snap attachment locations on a
single lure back, nose and tail. This quick change conversion system
results in its unique versatility, vibration, and flutter. The blade
bait vibration version (line/snap attached to the balance point insert on top of the back) is designed for vertical jigging. The flutter version includes nose or tail line/snap attachments with the hook on the opposite end�designed for casting, jigging, swimming and trolling.
DON'T FISH BLINDLY:
Whether on land or in a boat, use your vision and/or electronic fish
locator to locate baitfish schools or game fish before fishing. Look
for working birds or "disturbed" water caused by swirling, boiling, or
leaping fish. A boiling fish is a feeding fish and almost a guarantee
of a hook-up immediately after casting a Sonic BaitFish (SBF) directly
to that spot.
LOCATE FISH-ATTRACTING STRUCTURES: Freshwater includes
submerged weedbeds, weedbed edges, weedbed channels, reedbeds,
standing timber, wing dam eddies, rock piles, rocky reefs, navigation
channels, deep water side of no wake or reef-marked buoys, rip-rap,
drop-offs, ledges, any submerged structure including artificial reefs,
pinnacles and wrecks, offshore humps, submerged roadbeds, deep water
points of land & their eddies, deep holes next to pilings off
bridges/piers & docks, power plant water & dam discharges,
shadows around flood-lit water, deep holes at river mouths, active
springs, clean water meeting dirty water and thermoclines. Saltwater substitute
kelpbeds for weedbeds and add tidal rips, color lines, floating
debris, oil rigs, towers and fishing behind working shrimp boats.
THAT IMPACT FISHING: These include strong tides, dead tides, muddy or
contaminated water, excessive wind, shifting winds, poor boat control,
poor line control, full moon phases (fish pm instead of am) and
fast-falling barometric pressure (slowly rising barometers are best for
active fish). Most importantly, avoid any situation that compromises
LINE CONTROL: Line
control is extremely important! Fishing on a tight line maximizes
your sensitivity, lure presentation, and hook-sets. To remedy a bow in
your line, cast directly up or down-wind. Fish with the
lightest braided mainline possible to minimize wind/water resistance and
to increase the feel of your lure over bottom structure! For maximum jigging efficiency, when anchored in fast-moving water (ocean tides or river current),
point your rod tip directly at your line. This is similar to using the
sight on a rifle. It maximizes your line control, feel, and
hook-sets. This can only be accomplished by jigging off the stern end of the boat.
This position gives you a tremendous advantage, by fishing in a
direct line down-current for optimum line control (no slack line), and
the best feel for bottom structure and bite detection. On a drift in deeper water for fish on bottom,
cast directly down-current to maximize the feel of your lure as it's
being jigged over bottom structure. If there is a sideways angle to
your line and the rod tip, your cast is not directly down-current
(down-wind). On a drift for suspended fish near surface,
cast directly up-current and fish with a lighter-weight lure,
depending on drift speed. Remember in most situations fish the smallest
lure to effectively reach your target species. Do not be concerned
with the size of your lure as much as getting it to where the fish are
located. That's more important than "matching the hatch".
HOOKS: The 1/10 and 1/6 oz Sonic BaitFish come factory-equipped, in the blade bait version (snap to the top of the back), with attached self-sleeving double hooks and a duo-lock snap. This is the vertical jigging version but is designed for quick changes to other versions.
The larger sizes are rigged with the snap attached to the nose to accommodate all versions including casting, jigging, swimming, or trolling.
If your state requires the use of single hooks, replace the double,
or treble, hook preferably with a single siwash-type hook (large eye
for a free swinging connection & wide bend to increase hook-ups).
Attach hook with the smallest possible split ring or attach hook
directly to the tail insert by opening the hook eye then fastening it
to the insert. Simply crimp the barb to render the hook barbless.
Suggested single hook sizes: 1/10 oz / # 6; 1/6 oz / # 4; 1/4 oz / #4
or #2; 1/3 oz / #2; 1/2 oz / #2; 3/4 oz / #1. Note: In fast-moving
water and when trolling, changing up to the two larger size hooks will
not impair the action of the SBF. However, when casting and jigging,
changing to larger hooks will proportionately reduce and alter the
lure's lively action.
HOOK FILES: Sharp
hooks dramatically increase hook-ups! If your hook point does not
stick in your fingernail (not your skin) while sliding it over its
surface, then it needs sharpening. The best sharpener is a fine tooth
metal file that is not rusty. Lightly run the file over any roughness
from all three angles. Check for sharpness throughout your day on the
water. To prevent rust, always lubricate any carbon metal file at the
end of your fishing day. A rusted file is useless in achieving a
fast and effective sharp hook point.
SWIVELS: When attaching leader to braid mainline or other
non-monofilament mainline, swivels are not necessary, because line
twist is usually not a problem. However, a swivel attaching
mainline-to-leader creates a stronger connection than a direct
leader-to-line knot. The only exception for using a snap swivel is
when trolling by attaching it directly to the nose insert on the SBF.
Conversely, a swivel is recommended for all monofilament mainline
applications to minimize its chronic line twist problems. Attach the
swivel 2 - to 5 feet between the mainline and leader, depending on
water clarity. Longer rods can accommodate longer leaders, especially
for clearer water. For improved performance monofilament should be
avoided in favor of braided line or limp fluorocarbon mainline. Note:
Maximum lure action is achieved by attaching the wide bend duo-lock
wire snap (enclosed in package) to your lure. Loop knots are better
than direct ties, but "metal-to-metal" is best for the liveliest lure
leader is necessary to increase strikes when cutoffs by sharp teeth
are not a problem. Use longer and thinner diameter leader in clearer
water. Attach leader to mainline with a double uni-knot to minimize
hardware for line-shy fish. Only use wire leader if absolutely
necessary added hardware results in less strikes. Tip:
Highly productive tip from pro Mike Hall, for fishing in ultra-clear
open water and through the ice "From bluegills, to 40 lb lake trout, I
fish with 4 lb Berkley Sensation or fluorocarbon mainline. These are
soft finish and stiff core lines that resist line twist in cold
conditions and will not coil. No leader or swivel is used. Line twist
is diminished by allowing the SBF (in the blade bait version) to spin
free every time upon retrieval. For the best presentation, always use
the wide bend duo-lock snap attached to the end of your line."
No-stretch braided line is superior to monofilament for longer casts,
better hook-sets, reducing line drag, and better sensitivity for
feeling strikes and structure, especially with smaller SBF. Before
each outing, check for leader/line-weakening frays to avoid lost lures
RODS: The most
important feature is a fast action tip for a fast action response to a
strike. Basically, a medium or medium-heavy 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 ft length
spinning rod will cover most applications. When surface skimming
("gurgling") a SBF on the surface, a longer spinning rod works best in
keeping as much line out of the water while fast-retrieving, with the
rod held high. Reducing water-slapping line on the surface minimizes
spooking the fish and increases strikes.
Metallic finishes work best in clear, sunny water. UV, gold and high
fluorescent finishes work best in daylight clear, tea-stained and murky
water. Glow-in-the-dark works in the same water conditions, both day
SCENT: If scent is
necessary, add nightcrawler pieces for yellow perch and walleyes in
open fresh water and minnow/gulp pieces through the ice (also good for
crappie and trout). In salt water, scent is usually not needed. At
times, adding shrimp or squid pieces will increase strikes from snapper
and grouper. A very productive alternative is Pro-Cure high performance gel scents, with its wide variety of effective scents for every species of fresh and salt water fish.
Never overload your SBF with natural bait as it will reduce, or kill, its action.
LURE SIZE: Think
big but use the smallest SBF possible to reach your target. This is
especially effective when the bite goes dead. Going as small as
possible will often beat "matching the hatch". During dead tides,
rapidly-changing wind directions and fluctuating barometric pressure,
most fish will only react to a tiny "snack" and not a large meal.
HOOK-TO-LINE FOULING: a) The blade bait version (line/snap connection to the top of the back) functions on the principle of vibration.
It is the main fish attracting action when vertical jigging. If no
vibration is felt, the lure is fouled (the hook is snagged on the
line). Before retrieving, try 4 to 6 strong rod jerks to correct the
fouling. If successful, the SBF will be reset and vibration restored.
b) The nose or tail line/snap connection versions operate on the principle of flutter. Just the opposite occurs if vibration is felt. Repeat the same reset procedure as above to correct the fouling.
BASIC TECHNIQUES ~ CASTING ~ JIGGING ~ TROLLING
CASTING: Surface to bottom
1A) Surface skimming ("gurgling"): Deadly,
early morning and late evening, near shoreline with calm water. Cast
and fast-retrieve with the rod held high to minimize line-slap in the
water. A "gurgling" sound & action, similar to an Arbogast
"Jitterbug" surface lure, will result when properly retrieved. The
longer the rod, the easier the presentation. 1/10 and 1/6 oz SBF work
best for most fresh water fish. TIP: Switch to technique 1B if 1A is not producing.
1B) Popper / chugger retrieve: By attaching the smallest SBF 14-16 inches behind a popper or two inch popping cork, a very effective and exciting combination is created for fresh or salt water fish near the surface. The 1/10 ounce is especially deadly for largemouth bass. Calm, twilight water is a "magical" time with this technique.
Basically, it is similar to conditions applied to surface skimming
(1A). There are two exceptions a) The SBF is attached to a float with a
concave mouth to create a splashing sound on the surface; the deeper
the nose concavity, the louder the sound. Use a 2 inch popping cork or
popper for the 1/10 & 1/6 ounce SBF.
hooks from the popper since it's the attractor and not the "catcher".
Make certain that the weight of the lure does not sink the float. b)
The fast, continuous popping action is created by working the rod
sideways or straight down. This creates a louder pop vs a vertical rod
lift. A shorter rod works better. This technique creates a wild
darting lure action that results in exciting and explosive
surface-boiling strikes. The sound of the popper attracts fish but
it's the action of the lure that triggers strikes. Unlike conventional poppers, do not pause on the retrieve (a
panicked, fleeing baitfish triggers more strikes). For more positive
hook-ups the size of the tail hook can be increased. As with all SBF
casting and trolling applications, attach your duo-lock snap to the
nose with the hook on the tail.
2) Straight, slow retrieve:
The swimming, fluttering and darting action of the SBF is very
effective on a slow and continuous retrieve. This is a very basic, but
effective, presentation for any depth surface, mid depth and near
bottom. This is deadly whether casting or trolling.
3) Straight, fast retrieve:
Very effective near the surface, especially when casting to working
birds. For suspended fish, fast-retrieve after the SBF hits bottom.
This technique is deadly for triggering strikes from suspended species
such as mackerel, salmon, striped bass, and tuna, as the lure
frantically swims through the intermediate strike zone on its way to
4) Bottom bouncing on the retrieve: When drifting in deeper water, or snaggy shallower water, cast directly into your drift (down-current), not sideways.
This especially increases the amount of time the lure can be jigged
against the bottom in deeper water. For best line & lure control,
lure action, hook-sets and telegraphing bottom structure, always point
your rod tip directly at your line, not sideways. ABSOLUTELY DEADLY: This
is one of the deadliest techniques when casting in snag-filled waters,
such as rock piles and reefs (not ship wrecks) in water 30 feet or
less. By bottom-bouncing a 1/10 or 1/6 ounce
SBF, after the cast, the light weight of the lure easily flutters,
darts & swims through the structure with few, if any, snags. Since
your SBF reaches your target before the boat, fish are not easily
spooked. Also, any snagged lure is easily retrieved as your boat
drifts over the down-current side of the snag. Remember use the very
smallest SBF that still permits you to make an effective cast then
methodically jig it through the structure. Otherwise, cast in
any direction in calm water where current does not adversely affect
line angle. Then, bottom bounce-retrieve until you locate the fish. Note:
Bottom bouncing must be done by vertically lifting then lowering your
rod as gravity creates the downward fish-attracting flutter of your
lure. Never jig your rod sideways because it does not lift the lure to position it for its critical downward flutter. Bottom bouncing is best accomplished by vertical jigging never
sideways jigging. Note: Since your SBFis loaded with lively sonic and
swimming action, finesse jigging is recommended vs hard jerking. The
goal is not to frighten fish with unnatural action but to attract them.
Bottom-bouncing when anchored: Highly effective at
anchor in moving fresh and salt water. Some prime locations include
power plant discharges, under bridges, holes below dams, river &
ocean pass holes, and moving tides over rough bottom. This
presentation is basically the same technique as the previous "bottom
bouncing on the retrieve" technique. The only difference is that the
SBF is moving away from you instead of toward you. The very best
position on your vessel is off the stern. You will be jigging directly
in a straight line, down-current not sideways. Start
by dropping the SBF straight down, next to your engine. Then keep in
contact with the structure by bottom-bouncing the SBF against it.
Retrieve once you no longer can feel bottom. Light baitcasting tackle
works best because a single hand can control the back-bounce best by
thumbing the reel's spool.
snap/line connection options of the SBF offer the most effectiveness
& versatility of any jig or lure type available in sport fishing.
The snap/line connection to the top of the back (blade bait version) results in strong vibration on the lift and fall. The snap/line connection to the nose or tail version results in a wobble on the lift and flutter
on the fall. The lift attracts but it's the fall that triggers
strikes. Always use a vertical, and not sideways, rod lift when
vertical or horizontal jigging. The vertical rod lift causes the SBF to
be positioned for its critical, strike-triggering downward vibration,
or flutter, as the rod is dropped back towards the lure.
This is the most precise and thorough of all techniques for suspended and bottom-positioned fish while fishing from a stationary position or on a slow drift. It is superior to all other techniques in sport fishing because the lure constantly remains in the strike zone.
Only vertical jigging effectively reaches fish in inaccessible
locations such as docks, bridge & pier pilings, oil rigs, towers,
floating debris, weed or kelp pockets and standing timber. Suspended fish
are located with an electronic fish locator and this is critical for
your success! Constantly monitor your screen to remain over the fish.
Turn off the "fish ID" selection as it confuses schools of baitfish
for game fish on some units. As you lower your SBF you should see the
zigzag pattern of the lure as it falls toward the suspended fish marks.
Stop your SBF just above those marks error on the side of being too
high, never below the marks as most fish always look up. This is deadly
for suspended fish such as salmon, kokanee, striped bass and cold
water largemouth bass. When jigging to bottom-positioned fish,
maintain a bouncing action against the bottom structure. Feeling
bottom not only keeps your lure near the strike zone it also triggers
strikes as a result of the lure's sound against bottom and the puffs of
debris it kicks up. At times, holding the lure dead still
(dead-sticking) will result in more strikes than when actively jigging.
By just permitting the water current to slowly move and rotate the
lure (resembling a dying baitfish), negative fish can be triggered to
strike this is especially effective in the blade bait version. Once
your line angles off in the current, speed-retrieve the lure with the
line attached to the nose. At times, this will trigger a strike as the
lure passes through a zone of suspended fish. Vibrating blade bait version:
The simplest way to fish the blade bait version, in open fresh and
salt water, is to vertically drop it to your target fish, whether
suspended or on the bottom. For suspended fish, properly interpreting
marks on your electronic fish locator is critical for your success. For
bottom fish, simply bottom-bounce the SBF, pause then repeat your
vertical jigging. The vibration on the lift attracts fish but strikes
are triggered on the fall (imitates an injured or dying baitfish) or
when holding the SBF still. The SBF is loaded with lively sonic
action. Hard jigging will usually frighten fish and finesse jigging
will trigger strikes. This is very important when jigging during cold
fronts and through the ice. The basic technique during these
conditions is twitching and/or a slow lift
and slow drop then hold the SBF still for up to a minute. Deadly ice jigging technique by pro Mike Hall:
"Always fish with the smallest SBF that effectively reaches your
target fish. I'm ice jigging with a 1/10 ounce SBF in the blade bait
version snap/line attached to the insert on
top of the back. Use both double hooks,
one sleeved on the nose and the other on the tail, with the hooks
pointing outward. This snap placement results in a strong vertical vibration both on the lift and fall. Options:
For different actions on the fall, omit a hook on either end. This
will result in the SBF fluttering and gliding in a more horizontal
direction on the end with the hook. Tip with minnow or Berkley Gulp
pieces. Once the SBF reaches the fish (or slightly above them), just
jiggle or wiggle it (or slow lift and slow fall) then hold the rod
still for up to 60 seconds. The horizontal profile of the SBF, at rest
or barely moving, is deadly with most fish completely inhaling the
lure. Whether day or night fishing, experiences with yellow perch and
crappie raising ten feet off bottom to inspect, then engulfing, a
motionless SBF were common. There were similar experiences with rainbow
and lake trout moving as far as 50 feet in clear water to strike a
REEL TIPS FOR VERTICAL JIGGING TO SUSPENDED FISH: Spinning reels: The
amount of line, wound on the spool with one complete turn of the
handle, usually varies between 24 to 28 inches. If your reel line
uptake measures 24 inches, and fish are suspended 20 feet below the
surface, back-crank 10 full turns to enable the lure to drop to that 20
foot mark where the fish are located. On the other hand, if the fish
are suspended 20 feet off bottom, just reverse this process. Drop your
lure all the way to the bottom then forward-crank your reel 10 full
turns. Levelwind baitcasting reels - One full handle turn of a
6:1 reel is about 26 inches of line wound on the spool. Check your
own reels for the amount of line retrieved on a single full handle
rotation. Also, the levelwind portion can be used as a guide
especially on the drop to suspended fish in deep water. The line that
travels from one end of the levelwind to the other end usually varies
between 8 to 9 feet on the spool. The amount of line traveling per
crank is more precise than the amount of line traveled per levelwind,
but both are very valuable depth guides. Remember, always present your lure slightly above the suspended fish mark where it's more visible to the fish.
Swim-jigging, a SBF
on a drift, is extremely effective throughout the water column. It's
especially efficient for fish near the surface in deeper water, and
near the bottom in shallower water. Attach your snap/line to the nose
insert with the hook attached to the tail. If fishing with
monofilament (mono) main line, attach a swivel 3-4 feet from the lure
to minimize line twist. Always cast up-wind for fish near the surface.
The faster the drift, the heavier the lure, to prevent it from
skipping on the surface. "Dead-stick" the SBF on fast drifts. Jigging
is usually not necessary when the line is stretched and near surface.
The faster the speed of your drift, the livelier the
darting~fluttering~swimming action of the SBF. On slower drifts, cast
the smallest SBF up-wind to keep it near the surface. Jigging
(jig-swimming) the SBF may be necessary to increase its fluttering
action and to compensate for the slower drift. For fish near the bottom in shallower water:
Cast down-wind with a SBF, just heavy enough, to keep it bouncing
along bottom. Jig, using vertical lifts of the rod to maximize the
lure's flutter. In an ideal drift, retrieving is not necessary until a
fish is hooked. Vary your jigging action until the fish react to what
A lure that is
effective when swim-jigging is even more effective when trolled. Troll
the SBF wherever you would use conventional trolling spoons. Unlike
spoons, which troll in a fairly tight pattern, the SBF has a more
frantic sideways darting~fluttering~swimming action, especially on
turns. This erratic, and variable action, results in increased
strikes. Whether slow or speed-trolling, do not run in a straight
line. Strikes dramatically increase by changing the action of your lure through erratic troll patterns or rod pumping.
Examples include speed-trolling in a tight circle around structure
holding fish, slow rod pumping on a slow troll or trolling on a zigzag
course (besides "popping" [1B], trolling is the only other time the rod is worked sideways and not vertically).
All of these patterns cause the SBF to intermittently fall and
flutter as if you were jigging a critical action for triggering
strikes. The same snap/line connections are used, as in swim-jigging,
with one exception. A wide bend snap swivel can be attached
directly to the nose of the SBF. It is very effective in every
trolling application. It can be trolled behind any attractors, off
divers or downriggers. Its most simple application is also its
deadliest flat-line trolling. Flat-line trolling for salt water
species, such as barracuda, mackerel and salmon, is highly effective.
Try circular speed-trolling over wrecks for spectacular barracuda and
mackerel strikes (deadly technique for fish with forked tails).
Equally effective is slower circular trolling for Pacific salmon off
land points and around tide rip edges. At slower speeds, periodically
jig your hand-held rod sideways to cause a backward flutter working
your rod can dramatically increase strikes. This technique is also
deadly for fresh water trout during low light periods. In all
conditions, cast your lure sideways, or ahead, when beginning your
troll. This will cause the lure to sink deeper on a swing. Once line
tension is created on the lure, as your vessel moves beyond your cast,
the lure's action will change from its downward flutter, to darting
forward and upward. Most strikes occur at this critical change in action.
Trolling in a circular pattern almost always results in more strikes
on the rod positioned on the inside of the turn. The inside lure slows,
then flutters downward, while the outside lure conversely speeds-up. Hook upgrade:
When trolling, especially speed-trolling, increasing hook size by up
to two sizes will not adversely affect the lure's action and will
increase hook-ups. Caution: Properly flat line-trolled SBF
will cause your rod tip to constantly pulsate. It's normal for this
rhythm to be interrupted during inside turns when line tension is
momentarily reduced. However, any other change would be caused by
debris fouling your lure fouled lures catch no fish.
Your success is very
important to us at Mack's Lure. We sincerely hope our tips and
techniques go a long way in creating special memories for you and your
family. Understanding the mechanics of the Sonic BaitFish (SBF), water
conditions, and fish behavior will result in your greater success and
enjoyment on the water.
Because of pollution,
and habitat destruction, our fish resources are fragile and need your
help. Please practice catch & release with barbless hooks (crimp
barbs) and remove the hook with a dehooker while the fish remains in
the water. Avoid handling fish with dry hands, towels and coarse
landing nets. They damage the skin's protective mucous layer that
eventually leads to infection and subsequent death. Thank you for your
stewardship and for your confidence in fishing the Sonic BaitFish.