Mike Iaconelli's Panic Box
I'm often asked what I do when all else fails. When what you have been doing stops working. When a cold front hits. When the fish shut down. When just nothing is working for you.
Well, I have actually created a box especially for these situations. This box has bailed me out so many times, it's really unbelievable! It has salvaged many tournaments for me and has enabled me to make a check or received those critical tournament points. In this Plano 3600 box, which is actually labeled "panic box," I have four types of baits. Incidentally, all of these baits are lures which I used early in my fishing history, when I fished more just to catch fish rather than to catch bass specifically.
The first bait you'll find in my panic box is my favorite hard times bait. It's the 4 inch Finesse Worm. This is probably the most versatile plastic worm ever designed! This small, needle tail type worm can be fished many ways, but I use it in conjunction with a split shot when times are tough. The small split shot, sizes 3 to 7 (approximately 1/16oz. to 1/4oz.), let me use different presentation techniques depending on the conditions. I can use the split shot 8 to 24 inches above the texas rigged worm. Or I can place the shot right above the knot for more in and out cover presentations. Or I can even rig the worm drop shot style and put the split shot on the bottom of the line. The action of this bait is incredible. The best example I can give is even if you just hold the bait between you fingers and then try and keep completely still, you'll see the tail of this bait shaking and quivering . It's really pretty awesome! I keep it real simple as far as colors and just try and carry the basics. I like Junebug, Kudzu, Lavender Shad, and Chartreuse Pumpkinseed. The more natural colors really shine in clearer water. Split shotting the Draggin Worm, most often bails me out when I have been catching them on bottom type baits like larger Carolina Rigged plastics, Stone Jigs, or other larger texas rigged plastics.
The second bait in my panic box is probably the most basic plastic lure ever designed. It's the grub. In these hard times situations I use the small 3 inch model in two tail types, the action or curl tail model and the straight tail model. I use both baits with either an exposed leadhead jig or a v wire guard type jig head in sizes from 1/16oz. to 1/4oz. The conditions dictate which tail type I will choose. Generally in colder water I like the Sting Ray and in warmer water I like the curl tail. These panic baits bail me out when I had been catching them crankbaiting, or swimming a larger Stone Jig, or when I had been slow rolling a spinnerbait. I like three basic colors depending on the forage. White and pearl grubs for when they're feeding on shad or minnows, chartreuse or avocado colors when they're feeding on perch or bluegill, and green pumpkin or amber when they're feeding on crawfish.
The third type of bait in my panic box probably gets the most laughs out of the four. It's the good old in-line spinner. I've used these baits since my trout fishing days as a kid. They are a better bait fish imitator then most lures and will catch everything that swims, INCLUDING BASS! They really shine for me if I have been catching them burning spinnerbaits, or if they stop hitting topwater lures. They are also really key when the smallmouth won't hit anything else. I like several models of spinners and I try and base my selection just as I would when picking a spinnerbait. I like to carry spinners with silver blades, gold blades, and colored blades (chartreuse and white). I also like to carry some with a willow type of blade and some with a Indiana type of blade. I also like to add a split ring to the top of the treble hook if at all possible. OK, I know what you're thinking; what about line twist? Well, that is an inherent problem with this type of bait. All I do is if I've used an inline all day I'll change my line that night. Simple as that.
The last lure you'll find in my panic box is the good old hair jig, which I usually use in conjunction with some type of pork as a trailer. This bait really bails me out when the water temp gets cold. In the winter period if I have been catching them good on a Stone Jig or a jigging spoon and they stop biting, they will usually hit this little jig. I use three basic colors in sizes from 1/16 oz. to 1/4 oz. I like brown, black, and gray or white hair jigs. I also carry them in different types of hair material, but I really favor deer hair. I usually match a similar colored piece of pork frog as a trailer.
All of the baits and techniques we have just talked about naturally cater to using lighter line and slowing down a little. When conditions get tough and the fish stop biting, finesse presentations become very effective. This is when I break out my trusty Team Daiwa spinning rods spooled with lighter Berkley line. I usually opt for a Team Daiwa S-LT spinning rod in a 6'6" or 6'3" size with a medium to medium light action. I couple this with a Team Daiwa Tournament Gold spinning reel in the 2500 or 2000 size. In line, I most often scale down to 6 to 10 pound test green Berkley Line. I also will occasionally use Flora Carbon under other conditions.
When the pressure is on, the 4 baits I carry in my panic box can save your day. All of them can be put in a small box and stored for an emergency situation. Whether you're a tournament angler or a recreational fisherman, you never want to get skunked. These baits will definitely help you put some fish in the boat!