Fishing With Kenny: Before there was ever a Sweet Beaver, There was the Bass n’Eel
article by Kenny Covington
I can still smell the odor. Melting plastic has a stench all its own. There were times I would swear my father and uncle were addicted to the aroma, because it seemed to me they were always melting plastic worms down to a liquid form. Plaster of Paris was easier to find in our kitchen than a salt shaker. Bass fishing enthusiasts turned mad scientists in their own laboratories.
The time was the early 1980s. I remember my father having a small bag of soft plastic lures and guarding them as if they were made of gold. “What are those?” I asked, as I took one from the bag. I heard a stern, “You need to put that back!” Without question, I did. This was my introduction to the Bass n’ Eel.
It was my uncle who came up with the idea of making his own soft plastic baits. He and my father had identical molds that they made using the cut out bottom of a 2 liter coke bottle filled with the aforementioned Plaster of Paris. Each mold had three impressions of this new lure called the “Bass n’Eel” or as they simply called it, “the eel.” A few nights each week the process of making new “eels” would take place. Once they were poured, to the zip lock bags there were placed, where they were sprayed with a new stuff called “Fish Formula.”
The “eel” was a four inch paddle tailed soft plastic. When Texas rigged, it was deadly when flipped/pitched around cypress trees. It was in the spring and early summer when the “eel” shined. The twisting/spinning fall that happened when fished with a light slip sinker and offset hook made it the perfect bait for vertical presentation. The spinning action looked like a dying bream or shad to the fish. The only drawback was the line twist due to how the lure worked, but considering the fish being caught, it was just a necessary evil.
The late great Allen Butler of Winnsboro was to me, and always will be, the man behind the Bass n’Eel. Over the years, when I would talk fishing with Allen, I would always pick his brain about the eel and how he fished it. The when’s, where’s, why’s and how’s were always questions and being the character that he was, the answers and the stories were never ending. There seemed to always be a plug about “the eel.” I can still hear his voice in my head. “What you wanna do with that eel is use as light a sinker as you can. Make that thang fall; make that tail spin. Baby, they can’t stand it.”
Hmmmm, small compact lure. Added scent. Flipping and Pitching. Great jig trailer. Sound familiar? Now let’s fast forward thirty some odd years…
The number of small, compact soft plastics designed now for flipping and pitching are too numerous to name. Back then, the best colors for a Bass n’Eel were black neon, Christmas tree and Watermelon/red. Those are probably some of the most popular colors purchased for soft plastics now. I’m not saying the whole innovation of the small creature bait craze started with the Bass n’Eel but in our area, it surely did.
I am quickly reminded that not only does history repeat itself, but sometimes we get this idea that newer is better, and that’s not always the case.
February can be an in-between month in bass fishing. In some lakes, depending on the weather cycles, a few fish will already be spawning. On some lakes, there will be a strong pre-spawn bite, and still you will have some fish in their winter hideouts and haven’t even thought of moving shallow.
I have a five lure approach to February bass fishing. These lures will allow you to cover 95% of the fishing applications for this month. When you have fish in all three stages, you have to use lures that will effectively allow you to cover each stage. These lures are: a jig, a Carolina rig, a Rat L Trap, a spinnerbait and a crankbait.
The jig will allow you to flip trees and bushes, as well as fish deeper areas where fish haven’t moved up yet. Texas craw and black/blue are the best color choices.
A Carolina rig will allow you to fish from 1 foot down to 20 foot effectively, allowing you to catch fish in all stages this time of year. Most of the time, a lizard is my lure of choice this time of year.
A Rat L Trap is great for covering water and finding aggressive fish that are ready to bite. This lure is especially good on windy days, because it allows you to present a lure that its action isn’t hindered by the wind. Red is always a great pre-spawn color, but don’t overlook shad patterns either.
Spinnerbaits, much like a Rat L Trap, are excellent for covering water, but overall is probably a better big fish bait. Chartreuse/white is always a great color, but early in the year is the best time to use a bigger blade, like a #6 willow leaf.
Crankbaits, especially squarebills, usually shine in stained to muddy water conditions. Crawfish patterns usually are good choices but firetiger can be a great choice, as the water continues to warm.
Well, it looks like we have run out of space for this month. Please be extra careful in the woods and on the water. Take care and catch one for me. See you next month!