"Few" Lures For Every Water Condition

by
MASSIMO ZANETTI
Padua, Italy

accven@iperv.it

The majority of bass fishermen I've met, traveling around the country, often have huge tackle boxes containing all sort of lures in all the colors of the rainbow and more! I've always thought that simplicity is the key, and in bass fishing this statement is particularly true. Normally, the people which carry lot of lures, spend more time selecting and tying and re-tying them than fishing. They have a common character: seems they are in real trouble deciding what is the best lure size and color to fish on a given day. The golden rule states: "when in confusion, stick to the basics". Well, I do that even when I'm not in confusion, even because I difficulty facing indecision with the simple lure assortment I carry on my boat whenever I go fishing, even in big tournaments. I feel comfortable with my few, tested, lures. Before saying that a fish won't bite a given lure I'll try to change my presentation, retrieve, the weight of this one, try to add or remove the trailer and so on. There are many ways to fish a single lure. Take the spinner bait as example: you can burn it on the surface, slow roll it on the depth, pitch it on cover, flip it and fish it in so many ways! This is the same for all the other fishing lures. I've read that our mind is the best lure we have to catch bass (I credit this statement to Jim Porter – Thanks Jim). I'd like to add that in bass fishing we don't have to limit ourselves, we have to use our creativity and give to the lure presentations our personal "Midas" touch. Experience will lead us to achieve great results in what we pursue but without a mental preparation, we'll fail miserably. The main key in my opinion, is believing in the lure you're fishing with or, at least, you have to build confidence in a given lure. If I know a lure is a fish-catcher and I'm not accustomed with it, I'll work with it 'til I learn at least the basics of it. Everyone has an affection for a particular lure or category of lures but it is better to know the basic techniques to catch fish with every lure. If I name Denny Brauer, the first thing which comes to mind are jigs. But really, do you think that Denny is good only when it comes to flipping a jig in thick cover? I believe that when ever the fish elect shallow cover as home, Denny Brauer is hard to beat on locating and catching these fish but I firmly believe that a pro fisherman has to face hundreds of different fishing conditions and has to know the how-to's of every artificial lure. We are not pros and we often haven't much time to spend on the water. So, we rely on our favorite lures and technique whenever we have the opportunity to fish. OK, if the fish are biting we'll really enjoy our outing but, if the fish refuse to bite our old favorites? Be open-minded and you'll put more fish in the boat and more fishing knowledge in your head.

THE FISH HAVE TO NOTICE OUR LURE: IN THE RIGHT WAY

Once I've located the fish (that's the hardest part of the job), the first thing I want from my lure is that it gets the attention of the fish and entices it to bite. To accomplish this not-so-easy task we have to present the right lure (action, size and color) in the right way and in the right moment. For example, a big, bright colored, 12-inch worm will surely draw the attention of a gin-clear water bass but it could easily scare the fish away from the lure rather than stimulate it into striking. On the other hand, a small 4" natural colored finesse worm, fished in muddy waters hardly will be noticed by the bass if we don't put it in front of the nose of the fish. With the couple of simple examples just mentioned we get the conclusion that every lure in the tackle box has its specific function. The lure has the double task to get the fish's curiosity and stimulate the fish to attack. Once it has accomplished this, the rest is history.

Now, to make the fish aware there's free meal, we have to select the proper lure for the proper water/weather condition. It's not easy to list all the water/weather variables a fisherman could face in a whole fishing year but we can write down a simple, schematic list of the lures and their best application, without, of course, considering all the exceptions and variables. Just a trace which shows how small can be our selection if we fish the right lure/technique in the right moment.

MUDDY WATER

Dark, shallow water usually requires big lures with plenty of action and flash. To fish them, the use of stout tackle is mandatory. We're suppose to find the muddy water in spring and summer, when the dark color is caused by the heavy rains (spring) and micro-organism (summer) and the water will be warm enough to keep the bass activity at an acceptable level. One of the big advantages of muddy water is that we can fish close to the obstacle and structure without spooking the fish. Whenever you have COLD and muddy water, it is better for you to find something better to do than bass fishing.

Soft plastics: When it comes to soft-plastics the choice will be obvious: plain black, black/chartreuse, black/blue or fire tail 8" to 12" plastic worms and lizards, 6" craws and grubs. All these lures must have wide curly tails and fat bodies which will displace a great amount of water. Adding some glass rattlers will help the bass to locate the big lure in vegetation or when it is swimming into dense cover.

Jigs: Hats off to the best big bass lure ever made! The oz. to 1 oz. rattling jig really shines in muddy shallow waters and heavy cover. Like for the soft-plastics, our color selection will be addressed to the darker ones. Plain black or plain brown colored jigs are the ticket in muddy waters although black/blue, black/chartreuse and brown/orange are a must in these conditions. The living-rubber jigs are my favorites. We can't to dress the jig with a big twin tail plastic trailer or a fat #1 jumbo frog, with the color matching that of the jig.

Spinner baits: As for the jigs and the soft-plastics, even with spinner baits we are still talking of big lures! In this case we'll vary significantly the color of the lure. For me, the best spinner bait for muddy water is a big oz. or oz. double gold willow leaf bladed and chartreuse skirts, with a big 5" chartreuse grub as trailer. Sometimes I use a painted chartreuse blade with this lure but there's not a remarkable difference in the quality and quantity of the bites.

Crank baits: The choice of the right crank bait will not be the lipped diving plug but on the lipless vibrating plug like the Rat-L-Trap or the Spot. These plugs, because of their remarkable emission of vibrations, are well suited for the low-visibility conditions that muddy water dictates. We'll fish the bigger models - 1 oz. with bright colors like orange or chartreuse to make them more easy to locate from the bass.

Top waters: Big propeller-baits and the cigar-shaped Zara Spook will be the obvious choice, along with a heavy buzz bait with a blade-clacker. Dark colors are better in muddy water because the shade of the lure is more visible from below the surface. If the water is warm enough to give top waters a chance, don't hesitate to try! This is one case in which you can fish top waters at midday and on a sunny day!

STAINED WATER

We have seen in the previous chapter how it is possible to face a given conditions with a small effective lure selection. Stained, colored waters are those which require the widest lure selection. With the word "widest" I don't mean we have to carry and use hundreds of lures, keep always in mind we are speaking of a simple, basic selection. We have a bigger choice but it's our goal to keep in our tackle box the best tools for a given condition. In stained waters we can fish more natural colors and medium sized lures and, like muddy waters, there are shapes, sizes and colors that work better than others.

Soft-plastics: Six to seven inches plastic worms and lizards are the norm in colored waters. The plastic craws and grubs will be downsized to 5" and 4". With an exception: while in muddy waters big baits were the norm, in stained water we can reduce to 4" the size of our worms and lizards when the bass are dormant, in winter and in all cases where she's not so willing to bite a medium size lure. Speaking of the colors, my all time favorites are June bug, purple, pumpkin pepper green, pumpkin chartreuse and brown/orange. With this small assortment of colors I usually fish, and catch bass, in stained waters. The darker colors are well suited whenever there's cloud cover or when the water tends to be a little dirtier but not muddy. The lighter colors are really good when the water tends to be clearer but cannot be defined as clear water.

Jigs: While in muddy water we fished heavy jigs with bulky trailers, in stained water, always considering the obstacles density and the depth of the water, we can rely on lighter jigs such as the 3/8 oz. and smaller trailers (#11 pork frog, 3" grubs etc.) Rattlers are still a great advantage to get the fish to notice the presence of our bait, especially in dense cover so, keep on rattling jigs. Although we can switch to lighter colors in stained waters, I believe that the black or brown lures remain the favorite of mine. I can add to these colors something else like brown/purple or mix the black living rubber with some tinsel strands to add a little flash to the lure. One of my favorites in colored water is the copper/flash, which has a brown skirt with golden tinsel strands. I guess it closely resembles a golden shiner to the eyes of the bass.

Hair Jigs: After the coming of the living rubber skirted jigs, the hair jigs were practically forgotten by most bass anglers, even experienced ones. But the hair jigs really catch fish, specially when times get tough and nothing else seems to work. Like their rubber counterparts, the go-to colors for the hair jigs are black and brown. As for the weight, we'll pick someone in 3/8 – oz. We'll rig them with a #11 pork frog of the same color and we'll be ready to catch those lock-jaw bass!

Spinner baits: White/chartreuse with double gold willow leaf blades is my most productive skirt color in stained water. Chartreuse/blue is another great color combination, with the same blade combination of the white/chartreuse model. Golden shiner color is another productive one and I have to try a spinner bait with flesh colored skirt a friend of mine get to me recently. In colored water we expand our weight selection: we can start with a oz. Spinner bait and go to 1 oz. for really deep water applications. The choice of the blade color is quite simple: gold in overcast and low light conditions and silver when the sun is bright and high in the sky!

Crank baits: The sky is the limit in such conditions! Our crank baits selection could be huge but we have just told that this article's motto is "keep it simple". So, keeping on the vibrating lipless plugs in standard size ( oz.), we should consider the lipped ones. Both flat and fat bodies are mandatory in this selection so we present the fish different profiles and wobbles, just to find which one it prefers at a given moment. We have to have shallow runners, mid runners and deep divers in our tackle box. As for the colors, we can pick some chrome/blue and chrome/black models, crawdad colored and a chartreuse/blue back or fire tiger. With 20-25 lures we are ready to face a wide range of fishing conditions.

Hard & Soft Jerk baits: In the muddy water chapter we didn't speak about hard and soft-jerk baits. Speaking of hard-jerk baits we must have both shallow and suspending models in two basic colors: gold/black back for cloudy days/low-visibility conditions and silver/black back for shiny days. Natural coloration and slim profiles are the triggering qualities of the hard-jerk baits. Four to five and half inches models are recommended.

As for soft-jerk baits, it's one of the hottest lures I've ever fished and one of my favorites. I normally use the 4" size because I believe it's the perfect size for this lure. My color selection is quite simple: golden pepper shiner, silver pepper shiner, fire tiger and black shad. I don't need more colors because these are the colors of the forage in the waters I fish.

Top waters: Mid-sized prop-baits and the spook are still good. We can use a 3/8 oz. Buzz bait instead of the heavier ones and add a couple of weedless frogs like those of Southern Lure and Snag Proof to our top waters selection.

CLEAR WATER

Clear water often spells small lures, slow and subtle retrieves and, the most of the time, deep water presentations. Our lure selection will be oriented to the most natural colors, better if they closely resemble live food for the bass. Let's assemble our lure selection for clear water.

Soft-plastics: Tube jigs, grubs and four to six inches finesse worms are the rage in clear water when we talk about soft-plastic lures. But we have to consider even the "cow tongue" or beaver tail grubs as an excellent clear water bait. Three or four inches are the top sizes for the plastic baits above mentioned. As for the color, we'll select smoke, salt'n pepper watermelon and pumpkinseed hues.

Jigs: Rubber skirted jigs are used more for casting than for every other application in clear water. Our choice will obviously fall into to 3/8 oz. models with light wire hooks. Pumpkinseed, watermelon and crawfish colored skirts are the best, at least in my opinion, when the underwater visibility is great. In these water conditions, I rarely use a trailer and try to offer to the fish as small of profile as I can. For deep water jigging we can switch to an heavier jig, like - 1 oz.

Hair Jigs: We can swim them or shake them in deep water so our hair jigs weight assortment can range from 1/8 to oz. Brown colored hairs are an overall good choice but we can rely with success on lighter colors too.

Spinner baits: oz. for fast retrieves, 3/8 to oz. with silver blades for slow rolling on the bottom. White skirts are a great choice, although I use a skirt color I've created for this purpose (clear water). It is a silver shiner with green tinsel strand and my sponsor, S.O.B. lures, called it the "Massimo Model". I feel the tinsel strands add the touch of "livelihood" to my spinner bait which is really important in clear water.

Crank baits: I believe that, excluding the bright colored models (like chartreuse and fire tiger), the selection will be the same we use in stained water.

Hard & Soft Jerk baits: Like for the crank baits, our choice differs from stained water only for the color selection and we can downsize our hard jerk baits passing from a #11 model to a #9 or #7 (about 3" – 2").

Top waters: Small stick baits like the Zara Puppy and prop baits like the Tiny Torpedo work like champs in low light conditions like dawn and dusk or overcast days.

OK, summing up, we've seen that we don't need a huge selection of lures, but just a good, functional, assortment for every condition. I usually add to the list some new lures to try or local favorites for specific bodies of water. I haven't spoke about techniques, rods, reels, structure and cover because I guess a book will be not enough, maybe an encyclopedia.

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