By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer
The array of hundreds of shapes, sizes and colors on display in the bass lure aisles of any tackle store can be overwhelming to a beginner, but breaking the offering into seven basic patterns lets the lures speak for themselves.
By thinking of a lure as a way to locate fish and determine what depth they’re in, rather than simply a way to attract a single fish, the lure styles answer the questions of when and where.
Once they’re past the yearling stage, bass tend to swim in schools with other bass of a similar size. The larger the bass, the smaller the school. Truly large bass may be loners, or may be found in schools of two or three, but studies indicate that, in any given body of water, only a small percentage of the available habitat will have the characteristics all bass are seeking at any given time in terms of depth, temperature, cover and other factors.
The majority of all the bass in that body of water will be located in those zones, so if bass can be found between six and 10 feet deep in stumps and laydowns in one spot, there’s an excellent chance they’ll be at that depth in similar cover throughout the lake at that time.
Outfitting a tackle box to cover these possibilities, then, means you’ll want to be able to fish shallow, deep and in between.
Topwater lures provoke surface strikes and are especially effective when the bass are actively feeding. Since bass are very sensitive to light, topwater lures tend to work best very early and very late in the day, and under very overcast skies. Lures like the topwater popper, which works on the water’s surface, and the floating minnow, which works at the surface and just below, will locate fish in the top of the water column.
Two of the best lures for locating fish quickly are crankbaits and spinnerbaits, both of which specialize in fishing the middle depths. The first gets its action from the shape of the lure, the second from the spinning of its blades, and either can be fished at a variety of depths depending on the speed of retrieve. Either can be worked in a variety of cover and conditions and, while not producing the visual drama of their topwater cousins, a strike on either of these is pretty unmistakable.
Find and catch
Jigs and spoons imitate crawfish and wounded baitfish and provoke strikes in the deeper reaches, and each also offers a specialty application. Jigs, especially with a pork rind trailer, can be cast into the thickest of cover and worked through. Spoons are very effective in open water situations where bass are hitting a school of shad and are suspended at random depths below.
Finally, the plastic worm, in all its many configurations, accounts for more bass every year than any other technique. Bumped methodically along the bottom or rigged to float a few feet behind a weight, the plastic worm is the go-to lure of choice for the most intense bass hunters on the water. They work when anything else will and when nothing else will. They require more attention to detect strikes and a careful, slow retrieve, but they’ll produce in almost any condition.
Together, these seven elements form a firm foundation for any tackle box.