While you might hope that ever-expanding tackle system you like carry will be filled to capacity with all that’s new and cool, the reality of the matter is, you better save some room for the basics. You know, those things that actually catch fish, not all the things you thought you were going to catch them with when you loaded up at the last sports show.

Bass are pretty basic. And California bass lakes, for the most part, are pretty basic too. There is a lot of rock and often enough, a lot of clear water. But this year, when you factor in a lack of artificial forage (the stocking rainbow trout stocking having been curtailed), trust me, you need to have that jig and worm ready to go.

And if ever there ever was a worthy combination, the dart head jig and worm is one of the best. Fit for bottom dragging, but at its best “on the shake,” the dart head accounts for huge numbers of black bass of every species, depending on where you make your casts. All it takes is a spinning outfit, traditionally matched for 6 or 8-pound line, and just about any likely hard bottom point, ridge or bank.

I say jig and worm, but of course, there are lots of options and pockets of regional favoritism. Still, I find it hard to get too far away from a four-inch “ring” worm like a Yum Ribworm (oops, they don’t make it anymore) on an Owner darthead. What you get with this combination is a bulky offering that works well down to about 20 feet with a one-eighth ounce head and 8-pound test.

NOT ALL HARD STUFF is rocky. It's about fishing to contact, though obviously not in brush or grass.

A fatter worm, however, does certain things you need to consider. In shallow water, it gets down easily enough, yet it falls much slower than a skinny straight tail (or any thinner or shorter offering) because of friction the deeper you go. To overcome this “delay” in getting down, you can switch to 6-pound test or 6-pound fluoro or 12-pound braid with a fluorocarbon leader.

(Yes, you can go to a heavier head, and I have gone with 1/4- or even 3/16-ounce, but that extra weight will exaggerate the sensations up the line, so you’ll probably have to go to a stiffer rod to compensate. If you prefer that approach, just recognize those changes in the relative sensations are ones you need to internalize. Read get used to.)

Obviously, the deeper you fish, the greater the reason for the braided line/fluoro leader approach. But the shallower you go with the same set up, the easier you have to work the rod tip, because there will be no stretch in the line to get the same motion of the bait. Still, if fluoro leaders do nothing else, they really provide better abrasion resistance against that rocky bottom.

In typical shoreline to 20-foot ranges with an eighth-ounce head, I use a 10 or 12-pound test fluoro leader tied to the end of 6- or 8-pound mono. That might be too heavy for some really clear waters, but the break0ffs I have saved in the last two to three years has upped my “fish landed” numbers dramatically.

While some worry about line stretch, I really don’t. Heck, I’m using an exposed hook. And a 7-foot rod (how I wish there was a good one at 7 1/2 feet) I can move a lot of line on the set to drive the point.

OPEN HOOK darts usually make quick penetration.

As for strike detection, it’ still a matter of recognizing a sensation that is different than the “feel” the dart head merely hitting the bottom. For me recognition of the bite is just an issue of balance, not a peck or tap pulsing up the line. But whichever way you perceive bottom contact, that is your baseline: that’s what you pay attention to while shaking the rod tip, pausing periodically for the bait to settle, or tumble down ledges or rubble piles.

From there, the one means that has never let me down is when I encounter a different sensation: something more than or less intense (in the bottom bounce), something lighter or heavier than the baseline feel, that is likely the bite or strike. A bass may catch the lure as it falls, but often it tracks the bait and when motivated, it will corner it on the bottom and do anything from nip at it, such as a spotted bass or smallie, to inhale it all, more common with a largemouth.

With the spot or smallmouth, you may have to tease a strike by letting the bait sit, or resuming the shaking motion, or by lifting the rod tip lightly to make the fish think the “worm” or other offering is attempting to pull away and escape. Because I use open hook darthead (without any weedguard) the only issue with hook-setting is to have a tight line. The tapered jig head can be moved easily in the fish’s mouth so all that is required is to turn the handle until the rod begins to load up and then swing. Still, I know skilled anglers who never swing, feeling their own rapid reeling and the fish trying to escape create enough force to drive the hook point past the barb.

Winter is here now, but very soon fish will be staging and making their way shoreward. And along that rocky path–when you really need a bite–the darthead is made for the job.


4 Responses to “Dart heads on hard stuff: made for the task”

Nice article George. Always good to return to the basics.

I love dart heads. My KILLER bait is a green pumpkin Zoom Fat Albert Twin Tail Grub treaded on a Sure-Set 1/8 or 1/4(for deeper or shallow reaction bite) Barbarian Hook Dart Head. Sometimes it’ll hang in grass a bit, just rip it out like a rattletrap, and THWACK! ==== Shhhh, Conquistador Wired Worms…..SHHHHHHHHH!!! 😉

I misspelled it, it’s Shur Set— http://shur-set.com/ === in grass I just tie direct to the 20lb (8 lb dia) smoke Fireline and use a med-heavy spinning rod. The Barbarian hook pins the bronco bustin’ Smallies quite well.

Texas rig style Hula Grubs on the jighead for a more weedless application