by Rich Troxler
Been awhile since I've posted anything, this due to my relocation from Long Island to Chesapeake, Virginia. What a long strange road that has been LOL. Anyway, a conversation came up about Bomber lures a while back and seeing as they are one of my long time favorites, I figured I'd offer up some of my views about them.
I have owned and used just about every model Bomber they make and have caught fish on all of them at one time or another. But over time 4 models have shaken out as my favorite Bomber lures. These would be the long-A, the A-salt, and the large jointed model (not sure of the exact model name of this one) and the Windcheater. And I modify all of them.
First the modifications. In my opinion all Bombers ship with hooks that are too small and not strong enough. This is a failing common to many other non-Bomber plugs as well. The latest A-salts seem to be shipping with better hooks than they used to, but I still swap them out. The long-A is the worst offender in this regard.
In my opinion, the hooks do not have a wide enough "bite" radius and are too close to the body to ensure solid hookups. When a bass hits the plug and you set the hook, you're lucky to catch the outer lip of the fish. Coupled with the fact that the hooks are weak to begin with, this gives the fish a lot of leverage to bend the hooks. I can't tell you how many times I used to feel hooks pull when fighting fish. Some I would land because they were hooked with other hooks on the plug also, but many I dropped. Many times the hooks came back mangled.
The obvious solution is to go to larger and stronger hooks and this is what I do. Some guys like to get rid of the split rings and cut and bend larger hooks right to the hanger. I've tried this and have two issues with this method. The first is that the larger diameter wire hook eyes tend to hang up in the smaller long-A hook hangers. You make a cast and the plug feels funny on the retrieve and when you get the plug in and look, you see the hook stuck at a cockeyed angle. The second issue I have is that if you go to a smaller hook to avoid this issue then you are pulling the hook radius in too close to the body, so you wind up with lip hooked hook sets again.
My general rule of thumb is this. If a plug ships with split rings between the hanger and the hook, I don't eliminate the split ring when I do my modifications. So this is what I do to all my long-A Bombers. I eliminate the middle hook. I replace all the split rings with the equivalent size Rasco split rings (not sure of the model numbers) but you can use Wolverine split rings also if you are so inclined. I still tie direct but if you use some sort of snap or clip, you can eliminate the split ring on the nose of the plug. I then hang the next size up VMC 6X trebles off the front and rear. VMC hooks tend to run a little smaller than their Mustad counterparts so I generally use at least one size up any time I replace hooks on most any plug.
The VMC 6X is the strongest treble hook there is, at least ones that are easily available, so they won't bend out. Also, having a strong split ring between the body of the plug and the hook reduces the leverage that a fish might be able to apply if the hook was connected directly to the hanger (body of the plug). And lastly, the larger bite radius of the next size up treble, coupled with the extra distance the split ring gives you from the plug body increases your chances of a good solid hook set. I have found that Bomber plugs are tolerant of going to the next size up VMC 6X hooks, but start to show effects if you try and go larger. With all plugs, always test swim them after mods are done to make sure you don't ruin the action.
As to what color and when / where to fish them, here's my version. First color. You can catch 95% of your fish with black and chicken scratch Bombers, with black on dark nights and chicken scratch any other time. I've also used blue back over silver when mullet are the bait du jour, with good success and if you want to place your belief that blurple is somehow a better color than black, then have at. White is also an effective day color.
Other than the Wincheater, most Bombers don't cast very well. Loading them is one solution, but I don't do this because I've never caught well on loaded Bombers. Maybe it effects the action, maybe it effects the rattles, maybe I just load them wrong, who knows. So they all have to be used under proper conditions. So what are these conditions?
Well the worst casting of the four that I regularly use is the long-A. Under the best conditions it sucks, but in a head wind it's completely useless which means it gets very limited use on the open beach unless the wind is at my back (which is more common in the fall). The A-salt casts a little better, as does the large jointed model and the Windcheater, like it's name implies, casts very well.
The large jointed model is the shallowest diver, the long-A and A-salt dive deeper and the Wincheater dives very deep. This makes the Wincheater a bit of a problem child for the open beach. While it will give you great distance under breezy conditions, it dives so deep even on a slow retrieve, that you wind up dragging in the sand in many locations, even fairly deep troughs. So I've found that I use the Wincheater a lot in the bays when fishing deep channels.
I use the long-A and A-salt in the bay a lot also, but for shallower locations. I will also fish them on the open beach in a tail wind or calm conditions. Two things I do a little different than most people when fishing these two plugs. One is I lower my rod tip down parallel to the water, sometimes lower in a crosswind. This does two things. First it allows the plug to dive deeper then it normally would with the traditional 1 to 2 pm rod angle. The second thing is that it greatly helps to take wind out of the equation. The less line exposed to wind, particularly the aforementioned crosswind, the less wind loop and better contact you maintain with the plug on retrieve and the better hookset you have on a strike.
The second oddity I do when fishing this plug is to impart a tremor to the rod during the retrieve, nothing more than a slight rhythmic shake of my rod hand. As mentioned above I tend to fish Bombers with my rod butt under my arm and the rod tip pointing down to the water's edge which gives me great contact with the plug. I believe the addition of that slight tremor gets those rattles shaking in the plug and seems to drive the fish nuts. And one of the reasons I feel that long-As and A-salts catch so well is those rattles. They really seem to drive bass nuts. The hardest strikes I get seem to be with these plugs. They absolutely hammer them.
The large jointed model is exclusively a bay plug for me. My preference for this plug is dark calm nights and flat, relatively shallow water, like a 6' deep flat. I retrieve it slow so it stays on or near the surface, giving off a nice wake and providing a large profile from below. I will periodically stop the retrieve for a couple seconds after 10 or 12 cranks of the handle. The surface strikes on a calm night usually make me jump lol.
So there you have it. Put a couple in your plug bag and give them a shot. It's one of the few plugs that I use as a "test pattern" when I have no feel for what bait is present and has earned that spot by catching me a lot of fish over the years.