May 4, 2011

Gear Review: Berkley Havoc Soft Baits

The Outdoor Blogger Network did it to me again. Two bass fishing related reviews during what I typically consider the off-season. Maybe April isn't really the off-season, but I never have much luck until bass start the annual spawning ritual.

Berkley Havoc Product Line

Berkley Havoc Soft Baits
The Berkley Havoc line is fairly new to the market and before they arrived at my door I knew very little about them. I didn't do my homework and I had no idea what I was getting into when I threw my name into the hat for a chance to review.

The biggest marketing push for this bait comes from the big names listed as “designers.” Names like Skeet Reese, Bobby Lane, Mike Iaconelli, Steve Klein are plastered all over the brand. I am not sure what it means to “design” a bait but 'tis the info granted. The benefit of the doubt is granted and I assume the pros actually provided creative juice.

The Bags
If you can get past the sales pitch and big names, you'll find a mix of exciting shapes with some more typical and blasé. The density and texture of the material is nothing special and opening a bag reveals just a hint of the classic Powerbait scent. Just enough to alert the missus, but not enough to make her miss her shows. At three dollars for a bag of 6-10 baits I'm willing to ignore the blandness and over-the-top marketing push, the price is right as long as they catch fish.

About a week after winning the OBN contest, the baits arrived and I realized what I was up against. I knew I would be getting eight bags to review but I hadn't though much about what that really meant. Eight bags...each different and demanding some level of individual attention. It was a daunting task to undertake; performing eight product reviews under the guise of just one. I toyed with the idea of trickling out these reviews and covering one bait per shot. However, I've opted instead to lump it into a single authoritative review.

Havoc Soft Bait Details

Berkley Havoc "The Deuce"
The Deuce is a pretty familiar looking soft bait with features we are all familiar with. At three inches long, it features two twister tails and a ribbed and tapered body. This bait was designed by Gary Klein and comes in ten colors, I received “Green Pumpkin” and “Smoke Sparkle,” the silver colored one giving me the most hope.

Right out of the gate, I was least impressed by The snooze fest. In the full Havoc lineup, this is by far the least original and they seem to know it; it comes in a pack of 10 instead of 8. However, every angler worth his salt can stand behind the classic twister tail design as a fish catching machine. I Texas rigged this bait with a 3/0 wide gap worm hook and a 3/16 oz bullet weight. The 3/0 hook was way to large and the bait was barely large enough. A 2/0 or 1/0 hook should work a bit better and the 3/16 oz should be considered a maximum.

Berkley Havoc "Craw Fatty"
The Craw Fatty is an intricate crawdad pattern. It bares the Bobby Lane name, is four inches long and is offered in ten colors. I received “Black Blue Fleck” and “Green Pumpkin.” The body on this bait is extremely wide but flat, a profile offering a bulky appearance without sacrificing hookupability (I learned that word from Jersey Shore.) Claws, antennae, legs, body ribbing and little eyes are also included. The only thing missing is a fan-like tail.

If you know some water where the fishies dine on craw, this is the bait for you. I Texas rigged the Craw Fatty with a 3/0 wide gap worm hook, this hook size seemed to fit great. A 4/0 or 2/0 would probably also work in a pinch. I also used a heavier 1/4 oz bullet weight to get it down quickly. Fishing as a jig trailer would probably also work but I'm always a fan of pork in that set up.

Berkley Havoc "Pit Boss"
The Pit Boss is one of three designs from Skeet Reese. It looks a little like a crawfish but not quite. The body is ribbed and features a small valley for hiding the hook point. Four claw-like appendages follow the body. The bait is four inches long and comes in ten colors, each with a unique name. I was given “California” and “Vampire Orange” for this review – both being kind of red in color.

I rigged and fished the Pit Boss similarly to the Craw Fatty. A 3/0 hook was again a great choice and the 1/4 oz bullet weight took the bait to the bottom. However this bait's design also lends itself to a "cast and retrieve" presentation. The four appendages flutter in low frequency as the bait is pulled through water. “Whoomp, whoomp, whoomp” is the best way I can put the action into words. The whoomp has proven irresistible to at lease one fish.

Berkley Havoc "Devil Spear"
The Devil Spear is most definitely the most unique of the baits I received. It was designed by Mike Iaconelli, is four inches long and comes in ten colors. The body on this bait is massively round and tapers down to almost nothing ahead of the tail. The tail is wide, flat and segmented. I received “Green Pumpkin” and “June Bug” and couldn't wait to get them wet.

From the get-go I couldn't wait to try the Devil Spear. The bait is so far from being like anything I've fished before. If it were not for this bait, I would be totally unimpressed by the Havoc baits I received. I rigged it with a 3/0 hook, which is about the smallest I would use as the fat body will inhibit hookupability. A 4/0 is perhaps a better fit but I like a lighter weight to maximize the amount of time falling. The tail gives great action while falling and reeling.

Field Test

Devil Spear Texas Rig
Winter can do strange things to a bass fisherman. The short days, freezing temperatures and the snow are enough to make a terrible spring day seem like a godsend. To put it mildly, this Illinois April was a little moist and I kept my eye out for a dry weekend. Heck, just a light drizzle would do. The week prior to my field test we had three strong storms blow through and dump a gazillion inches of water. Saturday brought sun, and knowing full well the conditions were terrible for bass fishing, I headed out with Havoc in hand.

Launching the kayak shortly after noon it was evident my favorite lake was high and muddy. Water levels were at least four feet higher than normal and visibility was down to inches. I pulled out my thermometer and took a reading...52F. The conditions would have to do because this particular lake is known by some (mostly me) to contain a healthy crawdad population, and the bass here love 'em.

The plan was to try each bait for thirty minutes. A short length of time to get a feel for each bait, but using this strategy I had four hours of fishing lined up with the baits available. By the end of the day, perhaps thirty minutes each would be enough to reveal the big picture.

Pit Boss Scores First
Two long hours later and I was watching birds. My mind wandered and two vultures were circling (yes really) and I felt numero uno went sixteen inches and was plump with eggs. She fell for the Pit Boss in 4-6 feet of water near some flooded brush. This location is pretty typical for prespawn fish, and I can usually catch there year round but the high water made me think about things a little.

Flash forward about an hour and I was on the opposite bank. This side has a steep slope and the high water pushed the shoreline up into some thick woody cover. The depth falls very quickly to 10-20' and the brush provides shade for some excellent August bassing. Not great prespawn water, but it was shielded from the wind and I was working my way back to the ramp. Having caught a fish and thrown most of the baits, I was ready to get home and eat some steak.

Devil Spear Scores Best
Steep banks like this are pretty common in the strip pits we fish around here, and a favorite technique of mine is to cast near shore and let the bait roll with gravity down the slope. While using this technique (again not paying much attention) I felt number two pick up the Devil Spear. She put up a good fight and even took a little line but tired quickly. At nineteen inches and full of eggs, I was surprised to see the scale only read 3.5 lb – a little skinny for a fish of that length.

With the new year barely underway, I have already surpassed the three pound mark and have something respectable to talk about if anyone asks. But three pounds is not really very tough, and by December I will have had plenty of cracks at something bigger. I am looking forward to adding the Devil Spear to my regular lineup, and for this lake I'll probably bring along the Craw Fatty and Pit Boss too.

Handful of Havoc

Three and a half pounds won't stick as big bass of the year. I have my eye on something closer to six and I now have another bait to help make it happen.

Disclaimer: The Berkley Havoc soft baits I used for this review were provided free of charge in exchange for an honest product review. I've done my best to be honest, and I hope you can tell I'm mostly unimpressed by everything I received but the Devil Spear. The deal was arranged by The Outdoor Blogger Network and I was one of a few blogger selected for the review - so make sure you go read what they think too.



  1. Ah, I'll bet you get a bass closer to 7....yeah? I love the Pitt Boss picture. The arch of the bass and bait is so cool!

  2. Nice review. Excellent use of your newly learned Jersey Shore lingo.

  3. @EE.EM.BEE: your hope is inspiring, i'll see what I can do but it's a tall order in the neck of the woods.

    @J: Quality time with the missus is expanding my vocabulary indeed.

  4. Shame on you for watching Jersey Shore.

  5. I'll probably be writing my Havoc review tonight, but may not publish until next week. I've caught a bunch of fish on all the baits but the Devil Spear which I only caught a couple on and lost a couple of fish. That isn't the DS's fault as I just haven't thrown it much because I like the bait and don't want to use them up before bass season even starts.

  6. Great review! I'm researching Berkley Havoc Baits. Berkley makes very unique baits. The Devil Spear for instance, it is a very unique bait in my opinion. I have not seen a bait with such a tail anywhere else on the market.


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