Dinner Bell for Schoolin' Bass by Louie Stout

IT WAS MID-AFTERNOON of the Dixie Duel Bassmaster Elite Series event on Wheeler Lake when Kevin VanDam idled up next to Boyd Duckett. "I'd been fishing the same ridge for two hours without a strike," recalls Duckett. "I'd caught them there the previous two days, but it was dead that afternoon." VanDam asked if Duckett would mind if he fished behind him. "Kevin is a good friend trying to lock up the Angler of the Year title," says Duckett. "I hadn't had a bite, but if he wanted to fish it, he was welcome." What happened next left the Alabama pro speechless.

VanDam dropped his trolling motor and bass were schooling around him within minutes. He caught two 4-pounders and a 3-pounder. "He wasn't there 20 minutes and (caught) over 11 pounds, and I haven't caught a fish," Duckett describes. "I knew the fish were there but weren't active — until he showed up." Duckett shared the experience with roommate Kelly Jordon that evening. "It's the HydroWave," Jordon insisted. Duckett bought one the next day. The HydroWave (www.hydrowave.com) is a new generation of the former Biosonix electronic "feeding stimulator" that produces underwater sounds imitating excited baitfish and feeding bass through a speaker attached to the trolling motor. Those sounds are said to fire up nearby bass.

Duckett believes that's what happened when VanDam pulled up next to him. "I'm convinced that unit woke 'em up," he says. "Once bait get excited, bass get excited, and when you catch one, it's game on." The HydroWave utilizes refined sounds and an easier-to-use head unit than its forerunner. It's also less expensive ($389.95). Gerald Swindle, also a non-sponsored HydroWave user, has a similar story from Wheeler. "I was fishing a bridge when Stephen Browning pulled up next to me," he says.

"After we fished for a while, I turned on the HydroWave and we started catching them. Stephen culled three times in the next five minutes." The HydroWave isn't going to draw fish from afar, nor is it going to work in every situation, Duckett says. "I don't think it's going to make a sleepy bass under a dock be more active, nor do I think it's going to enhance every flipping situation," he says. "It's going to shine when bass and bait are schooling and you need to accelerate their feeding activity."

The unit has six sound patterns: shad frenzy, schooling shad, passive shad finesse, fleeing shad, shiner frenzy and bait panic. You can program them to run continuously or with a 30-second delay. Greg Hackney, who also bought a unit, says you must spend time learning how to use settings for various fishing conditions. "It takes a while to determine what works in each situation, and that's done by spending time on the water, adjusting the settings and observing how bait and bass react," he explains.

louie stout of bassmaster magazine VanDam, who joins Elite Series pro Jeff Kriet as part-owner of HydroWave, says he adjusts settings based upon water conditions and the mood of the fish. When multiple bass and shad are in warmer, stained water, he runs the unit with a louder, aggressive pattern. In clear or cold water, with no wind or during a high pressure system, he operates a more natural, quiet pattern. "When bass and bait are nearby but aren't active, the sounds coming from the unit can make the baitfish nervous, and that gets the bass going," VanDam explains. "When baitfish get jumpy, bass get aggressive." Just ask Boyd Duckett.

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