The Wise Master Splinter – Mousing for Bass

“Tonight you have learned the final and greatest truth of the Ninja: that ultimate mastering comes not from the body, but from the mind. ” -Splinter from the 1990 motion picture “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Sometimes it pays to think outside of the box. Most topwater flies used for bass mimic insects or frogs, but there is another animal that sometimes happens to fall in the water: mice. While it is probably a less common occurrence that a mouse will end up in the water than a frog, bass are opportunistic and will attack just about anything they think they can eat. I had heard of people using big mouse flies to target large brown trout at night, but I hadn’t seen too much mention of it in the bass world. Recently, on the Honeyhole Hangout Podcast, I heard some Texas Hillcountry anglers discuss using a sized down Master Splinter fly to target Guadalupe Bass. They also have a YouTube video explaining how to tie their version, which is tied on a size 6 hook, and uses pine squirrel instead of rabbit. After watching the video I immediately ordered a whole zonkered pine squirrel skin and starting filling my fly box. (Quick tying note: I just palmer a zonker strip for the body of the fly, as opposed to Honeyhole’s use of a dubbing loop, its much easier to tie and the fly is still light enough to cast with a 3-weight)

South Louisiana has had some record high temperatures in late February, and the trend has spilled over into early March, so the bass have been very active lately. In the last couple weeks I’ve seen them moving around in the shallow areas of ponds, exhibiting spawning behavior. Usually once the water gets up to spawning temperature you can assume its warm enough to start catching them on topwater flies. I’ve been using the small Master Splinter almost exclusively on my recent outings, and it has certainly produced. I’ve caught several nice Spotted Bass and a couple Largemouth with it, and the strikes have been absolutely explosive. This fly definitely seems to trigger that killer instinct in the bass. A video of my most recent trip is embedded below, with some good footage of the eats, be sure to scroll down and watch.

I believe the effectiveness comes from a couple factors: the “splat” and the swimming motion of the tail. Kelly Galloup often mentions the “splat” his big streamers make when they land hard on the water’s surface, and how fish can sense that from pretty far away, and are instinctually drawn to investigate. Due to the squirrel fur being saturated with water, when you slap this fly down on the water, it makes a really nice splat. I have had success both dead drifting the fly with a slight twitch retrieve, and a more active swimming retrieve. Since the fly is dark colored, and doesn’t have a wing on top for visibility, I tend to fish with a more active retrieve so I can see where the fly is by following its wake on the water. Due to the early success I’ve had with this fly, and considering it is a fast tie (only two materials!), I foresee it becoming a staple in my box.

My 1st spot with the Master Splinter, this was late February, note that the leaves are still off the trees!
Same fish as above, hooked in the roof of the mouth
I threw the mouse near some lily-pads and this bass came out and got it as I swam it away
This fish was holding a little farther off the bank than normal, I was more just making my way upstream and casting to keep my line in front of me as I waded when he absolutely annihilated the mouse. I almost jumped out of the water I was so startled by the take!
This largemouth was staged up to spawn and I could see its wake as it chased things away from its territory. I cast the mouse in its area and it nailed it on the swim, jumping clear out of the water on the attack!

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