Matt Arey’s Trick for Finicky Topwater Schooling Bass

Few scenes in all of freshwater fishing spur a greater rush of adrenalin than the sight of bass schooling in a surface feeding frenzy. Except sometimes their appetites seem tougher to please than verbally abusive Master Chef Gordon Ramsay in an episode of the television cooking show “Hell’s Kitchen.”

Fact is, the weather during practice at Eastern Oklahoma’s Lake Tenkiller, sight of 2019’s final regular season Bassmaster Elite Series tournament, served up temperatures that felt like hell’s kitchen – which also seemed to send tons of bass to the surface to bust up shad.

“It seems like there are schooling fish everywhere you look all day long here. But they’re super tough to catch because they’re feeding on tiny little threadfin shad, versus larger gizzard shad,” says Matt Arey, winner of more than $1 Million in career prize money.

Temperamental bass bring out Arey’s little bag of tricks. Actually it’s not a bag, but instead a single tackle tray stocked full of tiny grubs and jig heads meant for catching crappie.

“It’s all about matching the hatch. And if they’re gonna eat little threadfin shad like peanut M & M’s, then I’ll give ‘em what they want in the form of 2 ½ to 3 ½ crappie grubs,” says the North Carolina State grad, and proud daddy of two sweet girls.

Arey throws a variety of both curly tail grubs and paddle tails too. The 1/8 and 3/16 ounce lead heads he pairs them with come from a mold he inherited from Arnold Ledford, a treasured fishing buddy who passed away in 2018 in their hometown of Shelby, NC. He uses 6-pound P Line Fluoroclear line on a long 7’ 4” spinning rod to maximize casting distance.

Obviously the greatest benefit to Arey’s use of small crappie lures is getting topwater schooling bass to bite when they seem to refuse more standard lures designed for largemouth and smallmouth. However, at Tenkiller, largemouth and smallmouth have to measure at least 16” to weigh-in – and that will be an even bigger challenge than simply getting surface schoolers to bite.

If Arey succeeds, you can grin knowing he is catching them on the equivalent of tiny candy-coated peanut sized lures … actually made for crappie.