Swimbait Tips and Tactics for Big Spots with "Triton Mike" Bucca
Triton Mike with a
nice 6.2lb Lake Allatoona Spot caught on a
If you hang
around much in not just ours, but any of the online fishing message
boards, youíre bound to have seen the name ďTriton MikeĒ bandied about.
Afterall, heís an Internet addict. But what many may not know or
realize, heís also a trophy spotted bass fisherman. Thatís right, I said
trophy spots. In an era dominated by trophy largemouth bass, the more
aggressive and harder fighting spotted bass is often underappreciated
and is even considered by many bass fisherman a nuisance. Not so here at
TackleTour where we enjoy the hard fighting, aggressive nature of the
largemouthís smaller cousin. To learn more about big spots, we sit down
with Triton Mike Bucca to gain insight of his appreciation for these
feisty fish and learn how he targets what he refers to as the ďSchool
Cal: Hi Mike, thanks for sitting down with us. Let's start off with a little
background. Why not share with our readers a little about yourself and how you
came to be a guide in Georgia?
Awesome to talk with you Cal. Well some may not know this, but my first guide
trip was for redfish and trout when I was like 14-15 years old. My best friendís
dad was a guide in the Louisiana Marsh and had over booked that day with a
corporate trip, so he gave us a boat and used me and my friend to take out the
clients. We spent every summer down there off of school and knew the area and
the fish very well so he had extreme confidence that we would be great in
putting that party on fish. We caught over 20 red fish and 150 trout on my first
guide trip and got paid for it so I was hooked after that!
graduating from college, I moved all around the US working in the restaurant
business and I lived everywhere from Amarillo and Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas to
Jackson, Mississippi to Huntsville, Alabama and finally Atlanta, Georgia. While
in Huntsville I guided on Lake Wheeler briefly and then when I moved to Atlanta
I picked up Lake Allatoona and have been guiding here for Spotted Bass for 8
years. I have actually been fishing for Spotted Bass for over 20 years as we had
an abundance of Spotted Bass in the Pearl River Basin in South Mississippi where
I grew up, so Iím very familiar with spotted bass not only in a lake atmosphere
but also in rivers and creeks as well.
back in 1984 with a small spotted bass caught in the Pearl
River Cypress swamps of South Mississippi. Man, equipment
sure has come along way from Ugly sticks, Abu 5500Cís and
12ft jon boats.
Cal: Are you
strictly guiding now or do you fish tournaments as well? And if you are still
fishing tourneys, how many a year do you average?
I am strictly guiding now but I do fish a tournament every once in a blue moon.
To be honest with you I wasn't born with that Tournament competition gene that
most bass anglers have although I have won 2 boats through my tournament
efforts. I don't think it's a lack of skill but just a lack of motivation in
fishing competitively. My passion has always been teaching (guiding) and being
the best guide that I can be. I honestly get a bigger kick out of teaching
anglers to become better and more successful anglers than I ever did in winning
those 2 boats.
Cal: So let's get
down to it. What are you doing to target trophy sized Spots and how big of a
fish are we talking about here?
In Georgia, a trophy spotted bass is anything over five pounds. Iím targeting
spots that are six pounds and over. Even though our state record is just over
eight pounds, I have only heard of three other fish seven pounds or greater in
Georgia. We just don't have the seven to nine pound spots that some of your
lakes in North California have. A six pound spot here in Georgia is the
equivalent to a seventeen pound largemouth if you do the percentages to the
World Record largemouth. Even Lanier hasn't produced but two fish that I know of
over seven pounds. Here in Georgia we are more known for the real potential of a
five fish sack of Spotted Bass in excess of twenty pounds. Actually, me and my
partner won a boat with 20.3 lbs of Spotted Bass a few years ago. Funny thing
is, I lost a spot in the five to six pound range that could have culled our
for catching them, itís no secret the only way I have consistently caught the
"School Bus" Spots is with big swimbaits. I have been on this swimbait kick for
five years now and it has been a very long learning curve. One of the biggest
things I have learned is to match the forage that the bigger spots are feeding
on. Our primary big bait forage here in Georgia by far is gizzard shad. I like
to call gizzard shad "Our Trout of the South".
A bottom view of a Huddleston
Deluxe Trout that Triton Mike has put a stinger hook on for
fishing in the upper parts of the water column. Notice the hooks
and crimp are painted white to match the white belly of the
forage, but he didnít paint the hook points tips to insure good
consideration with spotted bass is that the smaller spots are extremely
aggressive. No largemouth can compete with the smaller spots when it
comes to their energy level. To give you an idea, I often catch fourteen
inch spots on ten inch Triple Trouts. Having said that the big baits are
still somewhat intimidating to the smaller spots so what I am trying to
do with the big baits is to wean off the smaller spots and give the
bigger spots a chance to get to the bait. Itís not uncommon to see, when
we catch a spots on traditional sized lures, a large wolfpack of other
spots following our hooked fish. A lot of times, I noticed that those
following spots were significantly larger than the fish I was reeling
in. It was definitely frustrating and I had to find a way to reverse
that trend. So that is one reason why BIGGER swimbaits traditionally
work better than the smaller ones when hunting trophy sized spotted
last tip on why swimbaits work so well out here is because nobody throws them.
Even though the swimbait trend is moving very rapidly to the east, we still
don't have many hard core big bait guys here in the South. Being in the Metro
Atlanta area our fish are very very heavily pressured and they have seen every
bait under the sun at least twenty times! So sometimes the key is throwing
something they haven't seen which brings us back to big baits. When things get
tough, most folks downsize their offering. Well, I kinda go the other way.
will say that prior to throwing swimbaits I would average only one or maybe even
two fish five pounds or better per year. Fast forward to today where I average
sometimes over a dozen spots over five or better in that same time frame. There has been a huge
difference between then and now. My largemouth catches have also increased in
size with one going into the nine pound range. Last year I caught three spots
over six pounds on my home lake (Lake Allatoona) all on swimbaits and quite a
few anglers go a lifetime without catching a single five pound spot much less a
six pound spot.
The bottom Huddleston is what
Triton Mike uses for suspended fish or when he is fishing
the upper part of the water column. So when a fish hits the
bait it is usually hitting it from the side or from the
bottom and the first thing it gets is hooks. The top
Huddleston is rigged hooked for bottom bouncing for Spots.
By rigging the hooks on the top your increasing your odds of
hooking up on a fish that is coming down on your bait and of
course by having the hooks on top your preventing from
hanging up and losing your $35.00 bait. Typically he uses a
ROF 5 for suspended fish and a ROF 12 for bouncing the
Cal: What kind of
areas on the lakes and techniques that you fish when you are searching for these
ďSchool Bus SpotsĒ?
As far as areas to fish. That depends on the seasonal migration of the fish.
Usually in Winter, we spend most of our time in the main lake and just inside
the creek arms. As you know we have been in a drought this past year so most of
our lakes are either very low or they are drawn down to winter pool. So this
kind of concentrates alot of our fish in the main lake areas. I do a lot of
bottom dragging with Huddleston type baits. It's a very painful way to fish but
it can be extremely rewarding. When I am in the trophy fish mode that is the
single best way I know of to catch them in the winter. Also, during the winter,
I have found it very key to try to keep your bait coming up hill versus
traditionally casting at the bank.
is why I fish uphill! Big fish, in general are more comfortable moving shallow
to feed. If you're casting shallow and a bass is following your bait; it's
leaving cover to swim to open water. What makes more sense to you? Following
food into the open; or following food into a corner? Food goes into a corner;
it's your's! Food goes into the open; it can go anywhere to get away from you
and it requires using more energy and that is why you sometimes see bass
crashing bait up onto the shoreline itís trapping itís prey. The same thing can
be said about subsurface baits. The bass can trap itís prey on the surface of
the water hence spend less energy chasing. So the theory is a bass will be more
secure if chasing your bait into shallow water than out deeper. It's more
natural. So when you make a long cast out in deep water and you have a big fish
following you from deep to shallow this is a natural occurrence. The fish feels
like itís cornering the bait (your swimbait) in the shallow water or at the
surface. It's all about creating a natural presentation. Also, fishing a bait
uphill allows the angler to cover a variety of water depths in one cast. In one
cast because you're fishing deep and shallow water and you can also hug the
bottom with your baits better by fishing them uphill.
Spring the water rises back up and we start heading into the creek arms. Then
come summer we are back into the main lake bottom dragging again and actually
fishing for suspended fish within the thermocline during mid to late summer. You
think bottom bouncing is challenging try fishing for suspended fish with
swimbaits! Then as fall approaches and the temps start to drop the fish migrate
back to the shallow creek arms. We fish alot of long points, humps and deep
brush. We also starting to have a significant amount of laydowns to fish thanks
to a few DNR/COE projects that I am heavily involved with where we are dropping
over 1500 trees yearly into the water for fish habitat and shoreline
conservation (to prevent erosion).
A Gizzard Shad tail (Trout of the South) sticking out of the
gullet of a nice 4lb spot. Notice the small size of the mouth!!
Cal: What do you
do when you reach a good spot, to maximize your chances of getting these
By FAR the key is BOAT POSITION. Even to this day it has been a constant
struggle to get that perfect boat position to avoid getting too close. It's
easier to do while fishing points and humps but it's still a tough deal. It gets
even harder with visible structure believe it or not.
me explain. Spots are notorious followers and also very notorious for slapping
the bait and playing with it. I honestly believe some of the best topwater
anglers alive are spotted bass anglers because it takes an extreme amount of
patience to watch a five or six pound spot hit a topwater four, five and six
times without getting hooked. If you set the hook on the initial topwater
explosion, you will lose everytime due to their playful nature. So due to the
fact that spots like to follow baits and slap at the bait you need to give them
as much room as possible. So SUPER long and accurate casts are mandatory to give
them room and time to commit to your offering. Lets face it if you get one of
those following and playful %$#*!$* Spots on a short cast youíre going to bring
him right within site of the boat and he's going to see you standing in your
boat and swim away. This is the story of my life! I have honestly seen seven
pound spots following my bait that I might have caught but didnít due to not
having good boat position.
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