Story by Russ Bassdozer
Brian’s Prop Bees are not a big secret anymore. A lot of pros as well as co-anglers now have them.
“I have used a bunch of propbaits over the years and found that this one works much better than the others for me,” says PAA and FLW Tour pro Todd Auten of Lake Wylie, South Carolina.
Going for bass hanging around bream beds is kind of what made this propbait famous, but by late summer, most of the bream beds are about done. No worries though; propbaits during the summer time can be very effective particularly on main lake points after the bream beds are finished.
Here’s How in a Nutshell
Auten’s prime propbait conditions out on the main lake points in summer are windy days when he will usually opt for a bigger, heavier propbait. Auten instructs, “The windier it is, the more I am going to work the bait and the bigger the bait I am going to use. In very windy conditions, I will rip the bait a lot harder to try to make it where it’s causing a lot of noise and action out there; you just have to experiment around a little bit to see what the fish want, and if they’re biting at all, they’ll usually tell you quick. On the windy points, I will pop it to work it hard two or three times, and then I’ll pause it. I’ve found that works best for me. Some people like to wind it and then stop it, and you can catch fish doing that, but for me, I have found it’s just popping it 2-3 times, then pause it and then pop it two or three more times and pause it. It doesn’t really move very far when you pull it, it’s probably moving it about a foot. When you stop it, you just barely twitch it a couple of times after that, and then you pull it again. Nine times out of ten, it is usually when you pause the bait and you’re getting ready to pop it again, and BOOM! They’ll hit it.”
“I’ll always make long casts. Even on the main lake points when it’s windy, I try to keep back and make long distance casts,” Auten advises. “Everybody’s always trying to throw as far away from the boat as one can when fishing any topwater; I feel like you get more bites that way. You’re usually fishing in clear water, and I feel like you need to stay back as far as you can, just like any other topwater.”
By the time Auten works the propbait out 15 or 20 feet from the main part of the point and then once it gets over the deeper water, he will usually wind it in to make another cast. “You want to keep your bait in the strike zone as long as you can to be real effective,” Todd recommends. “By the end of the day, you can burn a lot of time fishing every cast all the way back to the boat – and that’s not to say you can’t catch them like that, it’s just not as effective.”
Through-wired Balsa Construction
One of the distinguishing hallmarks of these custom hand-made baits is they have natural-looking colors. The paint finish holds up for a long time and the baits are made of balsa wood.
A huge difference is Brian’s Prop Bees have a one-piece wire harness in them from head to tail, and they have a wire that comes off the main harness and comes down and attaches to the belly hook. Most other balsa lures typically have screw eyes which can loosen or pull out and cannot handle big hooks. Since Brian’s Prop Bees are through-wired, they can have good-sized hooks so you don’t have a problem with hooks being too light or small here.
“You’ll appreciate that you don’t have to worry about the thing breaking apart on you. Some other propbaits are just screwed together with screw eyes. Overall, between the durable finish and through-wiring, Brian’s Prop Bees really hold up good. Of course, you can’t hit rocks and stuff like that with any balsa baits and expect them not to get damaged,” says Auten. “Evidently he (Brian) has a lot of time in these baits and that’s probably why he charges so much for them. They are a little costly but I think they are well worth the price you pay for them. When it comes to custom baits, you are going to pay a fair price but to me, you get a lot better action and consistency out of the baits.”
Color and Profile Selection
Overall, there are a million different shapes and sizes of propbaits along with all the different colors, but Auten tries to keep it simple and he only uses about 3 or 4 colors. He tends to stick with the natural shad colors and the natural-looking bream colors most of all in clear water. Then he has black colors and dark colors for low visibility conditions. Auten explains, “Even though I have all the colors in the rainbow in the box (as you can probably see in the picture), you have got to let the conditions tell you which colors and what size baits to throw. For instance on windy days, I prefer fishing main lake points with the wind blowing in on them, and I choose to use bigger profile baits. On cloudy days of course I will use dark baits like the black and the dark green perch colors. On sunny days, I tend to do better on the shad colors or the bream colors. On the calm days, I usually scale down to one of the real small sizes and I usually throw a lighter color depending on how bright it is outside.”
If he is fishing a new, unfamiliar lake or one where there is a lot of pressure on the lake, Auten always tries to scale down with his baits to see if that will help, but a lot of times that big profile on the propbait seems to get you the big bites. Auten acknowledges, “It is something you just are going to have to go out and practice and get confidence in the propbait. Some people, they just can’t go out and throw a topwater all day and have any confidence in doing that. It’s something where you have to develop confidence in the propbait. You can throw it all day, and you may only get five bites but they’ll be pretty good fish most of the time. All that depends on where you go and how clear the water. The clear water lakes are definitely better than the dingy lakes for me with the propbaits.”
Auten uses a 7 foot All Star rod model #845 with an old dependable Pflueger Supreme 6.2:1 ratio reel. With a big propbait, he’s usually throwing on 20 lb test Bass Pro Shops monofilament. If he’s throwing the smaller Prop Bee’s, Todd will usually scale down to about 12 lb test clear Bass Pro Shops mono. “You really don’t want to use fluorocarbon with any topwater because you know fluoro sinks,” Auten cautions. He always ties straight to the bait. “I don’t put any snap, split ring or anything on it because if you use a snap, a lot of times it causes your line to get wrapped around the bait’s front prop and it hangs up.”
“Sometimes you can dress them up a little bit and put a feather on the back or a red hook on the belly,” Auten informs us. “Just little things like that can give them a different look. If they’re biting short or missing the bait, I will make that kind of change and put a feather on it or try the red hook to see if I can get a few more bites. Once it gets wet, the feather lays out pretty good behind the bait and doesn’t get stuck in the back prop,” concludes Auten.
For more info on Brian’s Prop Bees, visit their website: http://www.brianscrankbaits.com/
Brian’s Prop Bees and some other products mentioned in this story are available at Tackle Warehouse. Please click here whenever you shop there: