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Stan Fagerstrom

Stan Fagerstrom is a member of both the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame as well as the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame. Stan is also known internationally for his casting skills. Stan welcomes your e-mail comments at [email protected]

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January 30, 2015

An Expert Picks His Products - Part 4

by Stan Fagerstrom

Allan Ranson's third lure choice is probably going to surprise you as much as it did me.

If you've read my past three columns you know they've been devoted to sharing certain thoughts of one of the country's top experts on bass fishing and the building of the baits that catch ‘em.

That man, Allan Ranson, is one of the top executives of the Strike King Lure Company. Strike King needs no introduction to knowledgeable bass anglers. For years the company has been producing some of the most consistently productive baits you can hang on a rod.

I got Ranson to agree to name the three lures his company markets that he'd select if they were the only ones he could use on his own next three fishing trips. One of the reasons I asked Ranson that question wasn't just because he's been up to his butt in the business of building baits for decades. My primary reason for seeking his response is I knew he was just as deeply involved as a bass angler himself as he is in bringing to market the baits that help you, me---and him---put more bass in the boat.

Few men in this business of fishing have a broader knowledge of lures today's bass anglers are throwing that the man you see here. He's Allan Ranson, a top executive of the Strike King Lure Company and for decades an ardent bass angler himself.

In my last two columns I've named the first two lures Allan selected. Both were specially made Strike King worms. One was the Super Finesse Worm; the second was another type of worm called the Zero. I've also detailed why this Strike King executive named these lures as well as telling you how he uses them.

But like I've indicated, it was his third choice that threw me for a couple of loops. It has been out there but I'd never heard of it. My guess is you might not have either. Something else Ranson had to say indicates I might be right on both counts.

The hard bodied bait he named as his third choice is the Strike King Wake Shad. The lure is a specially designed top water version of the jointed King Shad. Like I said, I didn't know it existed.

The lure you're eyeballing in this picture is a Strike King Wake Shad. Allan Ranson will tell you few lures turn bass on like this ones will do when conditions are right. He maintains it's the next best thing to dynamite when the water is quiet and bass as well as some other species of sports fish spot the interesting wake this lure is leaving on the surface. There are times when those fish seemingly can't resist taking a whack at whatever it is up there that's doing it.

But though I hadn't heard about this specific lure, when Allan detailed for me exactly what this lure is designed to do it kicked my bass fishing memory in the rear big time. Allan's third and final third lure selection reminds me, you see, of one of my own first bass fishing experiences.

It was way back when I was in my early teens and just getting into bass fishing. I lived in the city of Longview, Washington at the time. Longview is located in the southwest portion of the Evergreen State and borders the Columbia River.

One of the kids I went to school with was from Alabama. His dad and his dad's brother were experienced bass fishermen. My classmate asked if I'd like to go along when he and his dad and his dad's brother went to one of the nearby log ponds to do some bass fishing. These ponds were backwaters of the Columbia River and used by local lumber mills for log storage. At the time these ponds contained an abundant population of both bass and panfish.

I was brand new to the Pacific Northwest having just arrived there a year or so before from North Dakota. I didn't know beans about bass fishing but I'd been reading every darn thing I could find about it. I was really interested in how my friend's father and his brother would go about trying to catch a few.

The first lure they both used when we reached the log pond was one called a Heddon Basser. They threw this lure out to the edge of the log pond shoreline and then left it alone for a few seconds before twitching it around a bit. Keep the name of this lure in mind because I'll be mentioning it again.

This picture clearly shows the fish-attracting wake the Strike King Wake Shad leaves on quiet water. That's what it's designed to do and you can still keep your rod in position to set the hook when a fish grabs it.

This is a close up of Strike King's Wake Shad. These interesting and effective lures are presently still available in a variety of different surface shades. This one is a gizzard shad.

It was what the two men did a little later that really got my attention. The water in the log pond as late evening came was completely quiet and flat. Long shadows were moving out from the western side of the pond's shoreline.

The two men changed lures. What they did with these lures was to cast them way out into the pond and just leave their lures alone until all of the disturbance of their splashing down had gone away. Then they started reeling them back ever so slowly. Their lures were just barely wiggling as they started back but that movement was sufficient to leave "V" shaped wakes behind them on the pond's quiet surface.

The lure my friend's father was using was about halfway back to the bank when---Wham! The bass that had smashed it turned out to be just a tad less than 4-pounds. That fish branded a memory into my brain that's every darn bit as clear today as it was all those years ago.

I made sure to find out the name of those wake-leaving lures those men were both throwing. Both turned out to be those called Heddon Vamp Spooks. You won't find either the Heddon Basser or the Heddon Vamp Spooks being marketed today.

There's a reason, of course, why I've shared these memories. Even as new to bass fishing as I was at the time I knew it had to be the wake those large Heddon lures were making that had gotten the attention of the pond's bass.

Just listen to what Allan Ranson has to say about why the new Wake Shad was developed by Strike King. "Using a wake creating lure," Allan says, "is a neat technique used most often during the post spawn period on deeper lakes around the country. On a calm day the wake the lure leaves spreads out on a lake's surface and can attract bass from a long way off.

"The problem with lures used for this purpose in the past was that they had to be reeled excruciatingly slow while holding your rod tip up to keep them from diving and losing the fish attracting wake. We designed the Wake Shad for the angler to be able to do this at faster speeds without having to hold his rod tip up and not getting a good hook set as a result."

See why I shared that little bit of my own memory of my early day bass fishing? I saw exactly what Allan Ranson is talking about actually happen. I've used a technique similar to what I'd witnessed so long ago off and on down through the years. I've not used it often because as Allan says the lures I tried to do it with were usually next to impossible to get to perform in a fashion that would give me exactly the results I was after.

Now I'll be danged if Strike King hasn't come up with a lure especially designed to get that job done. Let me also share a couple of Allan's other comments in this regard. "Stan," he told me, "my own use of this lure has caused me to fall in love with it. I've learned there are times when the fish simply go wild over it. I've seen largemouth, smallmouth and hybrid stripers go absolutely crazy over it and this was after they wouldn't hit other topwater baits fished in a normal fashion. I've found it is also great sometimes to fish it fast like a buzzbait over flooded grass and other cover."

It's another statement Allan also made that brought about some action on my part. You may recall that I mentioned this in an earlier column. I don't care how good a lure might be in the hands of someone who knows how to use it, the company marketing it won't continue to do so unless it sells. I've had to deal with this myself more than once in my own bass fishing lifetime. Listen to what Allan Ranson has to say about this.

"Our Wake Shad has not been discovered by bass fishermen and our sales of it are so low we may have to drop it, but that would crush my heart! It's too bad so few guys know about it and the ones that do are trying so hard to keep it a secret. Rest assured that if we do have to discontinue making it I will have plenty for my own use before it happens."

Remember that Heddon Basser I saw in action for the first time all those years ago at the long pond? When I lived on the actual shoreline of Washington State's best bass lake for 35 years a Heddon Basser in a perch finish was the most effective lure I owned. It had to be fished just right, of course, but once you learned how to do that it was tough to beat.

But what did the Heddon Company which brought that lure to market do? They dropped it! I couldn't wait to find out just why in the hell a company would quit making the best bait I had in my tackle box. My longtime friend, the late Homer Circle, was handling public relations for Heddon at the time. The answer he provided was simple and to the point: "It's just not selling well. We drop those lures that don't."

As I've already mentioned a couple of times in previous columns Allan Ranson is my friend. I know what he stands for and I'm aware of the integrity and experience he has brought into the building of bass baits. He tells it like it is. Strike King may one day have to drop their new Wake Shad. Like Allan says he's going to have a few in event that does have to happen. So will I. As a matter of fact, I already have.

If you fail to do the same it won't be because I've not told you about what might happen. And if you know Allan Ranson as I do you won't waste any time getting a couple for yourself.

January 09, 2015

An Expert Picks His Products – Part 3

by Stan Fagerstrom

There's no mystery why one of the most knowledgeable "Behind the Scenes" bass fishermen I've ever met selects the lures he does whenever he climbs in his bass boat.

That man is the friend I've told you about in my past two columns. Allan Ranson is a top executive of the Strike King Lure Company. For years, he has helped develop and direct the activities of this record setting Tennessee based lure building operation.

I called Ranson a "Behind the Scenes" bass fishing expert because I like to think I know one when I see them. My qualifications? Well, for starters I began writing about bass fishing way back in 1946. I've covered professional fishing events all over the United States for decades.

You're looking at a man who has a whole lot to do with producing some of the lures you probably use in your own bass fishing. He's Allan Ranson, one of the top executives of Tennessee based Strike King Lures.

It all started when I covered the first bass Bassmasters Classic on Lake Mead in 1971. Among other things, I covered all but two of the first 30 Bassmasters Classics and for most of these events, I was actually in the boat with one of the Classic qualifiers as he did his best to walk away this most wanted to all bass tournament trophies.

I've also had the good fortune to witness the competitive events of other bass fishing organizations ranging from the former Red Man operation to Bassin' Gal and Lady Bass a number of others.

And finally, at the risk of being accused of thumping my own tub, you'll find I've been voted into the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame as well as the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame. So I like to think I do know my bass from a hole in the ground and that I really know bassin' expertise when I see it.

Allan Ranson himself neatly sums up why I pin that knowledgeable expert label on his Strike King shirt. "I love to catch fish as much or more than the next guy," he says, "so I am always trying to increase the odds in my favor every way I can. Certain lures have a knack for catching more fish than others and those are the ones I like to be using.
Three of the lures Strike King makes are my favorites because they are unique and deadly at tricking fish into biting. Each of these three lures has proven over and over to me to be really special."

If you've read my last two columns, you're aware that I've managed to get my friend Allan to name the three Strike King Lures he'd select if they were the only baits he could use on his next three bass fishing trips. That's a darn tough question for someone in his position, but he has managed to do it.

The first of the three lures Allan named was the Strike King Super Finesse Worm. In my last column I detailed why he had made this choice. In this, the third column in this series, let's look closely at his second selection.

What three lures would Allan Ranson select if that's all he could use for his next few fishing trips? These Zero Worms would be one of them.

"The second of the three baits I'd pick," he says, "is the Strike King Zero. The Zero is a Senko style stick worm that is made out of our ElaZtech material. What makes these baits so good is that when they are falling to the bottom on a slack line they shimmy or shake along the way. Each end of the lure is wiggling back and forth as it falls.

"To make a plastic bait do this, they need to be really soft and contain lots of salt. The more salt you put into such baits the faster they sink. The problem with so many of these baits you see on the market is that they tear up so easily as a result of being so soft and having so much salt. The ElaZtech material of the Zero is certainly more durable."

Ranson will tell you he loves to fish this worm Texas Style. He fishes it weightless and gets the rate of fall he wants by changing the size of the hook he uses with it. The larger the hook, the faster the bait drops.

Allan Ranson has spent a whole lot of time in a bass boat himself. He has fished all over the place with a huge variety of lures.

He often uses a 6-foot, 9-inch fairly heavy action spinning rod with 20- to 30-pound braided line to skip cast the Zero up under bushes, piers and docks. "It's a ‘Killer Technique", he says. "If I'm fishing around grass, I'll rig it Wacky Style."

Ranson says Strike King considered calling this bait the "Census Taker" when they first introduced it. "It's one of those baits," he says, "that you feel like if a bass just sees it they're going to hit it."

"You'll find that the more you throw one of these Zeros," Allan says, "that it's going to eventually lose some of its salt. It's still not going to tear up on you, but you may want to change if it's not dropping as fast as you want."

Allan Ranson often fishes these Zero Worms Wacky Style. He also likes to cast them up under potential bass holding cover.

In one of my earlier columns, I mentioned that one of the lures Ranson had picked as one of his favorite three caused some action on my part and that you might feel the same way. Keep an eye out for my next column. I'll tell you what that third lure Allan Ranson named is and why I feel as I do about it.

It's something you might not be using in your own approach to bass fishing – and you're missing one heck of a great technique if you aren't. You'll find all the details right here beginning Feb. 1.

-To Be Continued-
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