For every rule there’s an exception. That’s why every spring, Bassmaster pro Brandon Palaniuk loads his boat with bass on Storm Original Wiggle Warts. “The action of that bait goes against everything that we’re told we’re supposed to do in the springtime,” says Palaniuk, a Storm, Rapala and VMC pro-staffer. “You’re normally supposed to throw smaller, tight-wiggling, tight-running baits. But the Wiggle Wart has a wide-wobbling action.”
The Wiggle Wart’s inimitable wide-wobbling action is superb in the spring, Palaniuk says, because it mimics crayfish movement. In the spring, crawdads make a better meal for bass because they are bigger than newly hatched minnows and fry baitfish.
Bass instinctively begin feeding more on crawdads than minnows when they begin feeling shallow water warming as the days lengthen. “They’ll start moving that direction and those crawdads, they’ll start coming out of hibernation mode at about the same time,” Palaniuk explains. “When that first batch starts coming out, that’s when those fish will start keying on those crawdad.”
Wiggle Warts’ depth range makes them productive this time of year too. “A lot of spring fish are at the depth they dive to,” Palaniuk says. They’re best in three to 10 feet of water. Lighter line, however, will allow you to run them a little deeper, if need be.
On the final day of the 2013 Bassmaster Classic – in which Palaniuk placed second – he caught four of the five fish he weighed on a Wiggle Wart in the Phantom Green Crayfish pattern.
“I was fishing a little drop from about three foot to six foot, banging in the rocks the whole time,” he recalls. “It allowed me to fish that bait extremely slow and still stay in contact with the bottom. When you’re fishing a Wiggle Wart in the spring, you want to be able to bounce it off the rocks.”
The 2013 Classic was held in late February on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees. South of the Mason-Dixon line, spring begins in February for bass-fishing purposes. Water temps on Grand Lake in the Classic were in the low 40s.
“In cold water, you want to just crawl a Wiggle Wart over the rocks,” Palaniuk says. “When you do that, it looks just like a little crawdad, scooting and scurrying in and out of those rocks. The action and the sound of that bait makes those fish bite.”
This time of year, Palaniuk favors natural, crayfish-color patterns: Phantom Green, Phantom Brown, Naturistic Green, Naturistic Brown and Naturistic Red.
“That’s really about all you need, as far as crawdad colors in the spring,” he says. “You just have to cycle through them to see which ones they eat a little bit better. Most of the times, I’m going to start with Phantom Green.”
The green and brown crayfish patterns are best in clearer water, Palaniuk says. Red crayfish patterns work better in dirtier water. “That red shows out a little bit more, where the fish can track it a little bit better,” he explains.
Although some anglers search far and wide for antique Wiggle Warts, Palaniuk has found plenty of success with modern models, which are made from Storm’s original molds.
“I’m not one to get too caught up in it,” he says, referring to the practice of paying inflated prices for vintage Wiggle Warts from online sellers. “The new ones have the same action and look exactly the same,” he says. “They catch ‘em!”
If someone tells you different, ask if they ever finished runner-up in the Bassmaster Classic!
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