A rizona pro Josh Bertrand is a self-described “fishing nerd.”
He has mastered multiple niche techniques and seems to know even the most obscure offerings of the tackle trade, but when it comes to the late summer transition into fall in Texas, he’s decidedly old-school.
The dropshot and swimbaits may be in the rod locker, or even on the deck of his boat. However, most of the time he’ll rely on items that Lone Star State anglers have had for decades—and he often beats the local sticks at their own game.
“The biggest thing in Texas is that there are a lot of big fish, so you can comfortably use techniques from the ‘Bubba School,’” he said. “That means slightly bigger baits, bigger lines and slightly dingier water. You’re often not worried about super finesse or super high tech. It can get tough, then you have to do it, but much of the time you don’t have to.”
When true fall conditions are fast approaching on most Texas lakes, “the best stuff will still be offshore at that time of year—rock, brush piles, creek channel bends and humps,” he said. “The fish may be starting to think about transitioning to shallower areas, but most often they’ll still be out in the depths.”
Bertrand will sometimes begin his day without making a cast, instead looking intently at his Garmin 7612 electronics until he finds what he likes. “Shad are a big deal at that time of year,” he said. “You want bait present, and they’ll often be super schooled up.”
He relies heavily on traditional two-dimensional sonar. Although bait is critical, what he really wants to find is the bass that are chasing them. “I don’t stop unless I see actual fish, preferably close to the bottom,” he said.
Just finding the school doesn’t mean they’re catchable, so he typically tries to have multiple groups in close proximity.
“If I locate a school of fish, I’ll usually fish them multiple times during the day,” he said. “They don’t always bite all day long. It’s all about timing, and you only need one spot to fire up in order to have a great day.”
If the school is active and then dies down, but he knows or suspects that they’re still present, Bertrand will often wind a deep diving crankbait directly through them as fast as he can to reinvigorate the bite.
It’s often all about finding the fish and then letting loose on them. Bertrand said he relies upon two categories of lures to get the job done most frequently. Specifically, he likes a big worm and a deep diving crankbait— not a glide bait, a Neko Rig or flutter spoon. These are two categories of lures that no self-respecting Texan basser could live without.They’ll certainly already have them in their boats.
The crankbait is best down to about 22 feet. Although several popular models have been catching bass since before the 29-year-old Bertrand was born, he has recently become enamored of the Berkley Dredger series.
These baits were designed with substantial input from cranking legend David Fritts. In particular, he likes the Dredger 20.5. It has a narrower wobble than many other baits in its class, which means that it can “fool fish even when they’re not active.” Furthermore, with its small profile and heavy weight, it casts a country mile but remains easy to wind all day.
His second key presentation, especially when the bass are deeper than the crankbait will dive, is a plum colored 10-inch Berkley Power Worm, which is good in all water depths.
“It’s simply the best summertime bait you can use in Texas,” he said. Even though all sorts of lizards, creature baits and other multi-appendaged soft plastics have become popular since the worm was introduced, Bertrand believes there are still times when it will out-produce any other offering.
The bass are keying on shad much of the time. Although the worm doesn’t directly represent that type of forage, it does have “more of a swimming action than a creature or a craw.”
He hails from the clear, deep waters of Arizona, but the two-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier has achieved some of his greatest tour-level success in Texas. In fact, three of his seven top ten finishes have come in disparate Texas waters—a second on Lewisville, a fourth on Falcon and a seventh on the Sabine, plus a 19th at Rayburn.
Those four waterways represent vastly different fisheries. The “bass nerd” knows he’s better off keeping it simple, finding the best groups of fish, and sticking with proven winners at the end of his line.
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