0kay, bass anglers, admit it. You have a tackle box full of lures. Some of these baits you fish with every time you go to the pond, while others just sit in the tackle box collecting dust.
What if you could only take six lures down to the pond?
Which six lures would you pick?
What lure catches the most bass?
A lure is simply a tool anglers have to locate fish. Just like in any large reservoir, river, or pond, fish are going to be located somewhere in the water column depending on season and availability of structure and cover. The tools or lures you select should target either the top, middle, or bottom of the water column.
Here are six "must-have" lures for bass fishing: Topwater popper, floating minnow, tandem willowleaf spinnerbait, medium running crankbait, jig and a 6-inch finesse worm. These baits cover the top of the water column all the way to the bottom.
Depending on the season, one of these lures will catch fish on any given day. Knowing that everyone loves to catch fish on topwater lures, one of the six lures is a topwater popper. A popper has a cupped lip, floats and splits water every time an angler pulls on the lure. Poppers can resemble a frog, shad, bluegill, or a bigger fish chasing a small baitfish. These lures come in color patterns that can match any forage in the lake from bullfrogs, golden shiners, minnows, or shad. Poppers are extremely effective for catching fish around standing timber, boat docks, lay downs, boulders, the edge of aquatic vegetation, or even in open water when fish are schooling.
One of the biggest surprises in the six "must-have" bass lures may be the floating minnow. Often overlooked, these baits excel in shallow water situations and catch surprisingly big bass. The shape and actions of these lures closely represent a minnow or shad found in many lakes. Minnow-shaped lures are available in four different models: floating, suspending, slow sinking, and sinking. The majority of seasoned anglers fish with either the floating or suspending model. The suspending model is particularly effective in colder winter months and early spring in the south when water temperatures are below 58-degrees. A floating model will catch fish from early spring, when fish move shallow, to late fall. Floating minnows are built of balsa wood or molded plastic. Both have their advantages, a floating minnow of balsa wood has a pulsating, darting, lifelike action found only with balsa lures. The first floating minnow was hand carved of wood. The majority of floating minnows do not have rattles. This is important because sometimes fish seem to be wary of lures making "unnatural" sounds.
There are drawbacks to fishing with balsa wood lures. That's why lure companies started making molded plastic floating minnows lures. Molded plastic lures are durable and cost less to produce, making them more affordable in addition to having metal bb's located in the cavity. They are available in numerous sizes to match the forage fish in the lake you are fishing. Floating minnows can be fished from prespawn around spawning areas, through the season where fish spawn around beds. Then, these same baits can be used post-spawn near migration routes where bass suspend to recuperate before moving to their summertime hangouts and into schooling fish on the flats in the fall where schools of baitfish gather before winter months.
The next two "must-have" lures can also be used as search tools for locating fish on unfamiliar lakes. The spinnerbait may be one of the easiest lures that anglers catch fish on in a lake. They can be buzzed back across the surface, slow rolled along the bottom, or just simply reeled in. One of the best techniques for catching fish on a spinnerbait is bumping it into cover then letting it fall. Spinnerbaits resemble forage typically found in lakes including bluegills, sunfish, small bass, or shad. Spinnerbaits can be fished any time, depending on the time of year and water temperature, by just changing how fast you reel it in. The best place to fish a spinnerbait is in and around cover, especially next to isolated stick ups or quickly burned over aquatic vegetation so as not to hang. The majority of spinnerbaits come with single or tandem blades, and a variety of colored skirts to match the forage in the pond you are fishing. Most anglers like to add a trailer hook to their spinnerbaits to catch fish that short strike them. Spinnerbaits have different styles of blades from teardrop to willow-shaped and each is designed to shimmer and flash as it is retrieved through the water.
Another productive search tool for finding and catching fish in lakes is a crankbait. Crankbaits come in a number of models and color patterns to select, depending on the time of year and forage in the lake. Unlike a spinnerbait, a crankbait gets its action from the lure, rather than a blade. The angle of the lip and body shape predetermines how a crankbait runs when retrieved. Some crankbaits are made to have a tight wiggle while others have a wide wobble. A tight wiggling crankbait produces fish after the water temperatures warm up or when fish are wary of unnatural-looking and sounding lures. A large percentage of custom-built handmade balsa wood baits fit into this category. Wide wobbling crankbaits are preferred in colder water temperatures and normally have a crawfish color pattern. A number of these lures have a suspending model to keep them in the strike zone longer. Crankbaits can catch fish from early spring to late fall. Although crankbaits can catch fish in open water, they will catch more fish when bumping into cover or ripping through aquatic vegetation. In general, a medium diving crankbait that runs for 6- to 10-feet deep will catch fish in most lakes. The real bonus of fishing with a crankbait is they will catch any game fish that swim in lakes, from catfish, crappie and sunfish to largemouth bass.
Of all six types of lures, the jig ranks as the number one in catching big bass or hooking up with hefty stringers of crappie. Jigs come in several styles and countless color patterns. Styles range from ultralight life-like crappie jigs to heavy-weight grass punching jigs. For crappie fishing, anglers can use a float to suspend the jig near or next to cover; letting wave action or light tugs on the float make the lure swing back and forth, giving it a life-like appearance. Another technique is to cast out and reel slowly near standing timber or brush where crappies are likely to be located. The easiest time to catch crappie on a jig is when they move shallow to spawn. Otherwise, deeper brush piles or PVC fish attractors draw crappie all year round.
The other popular jig for fishing is a bass jig. Bass jigs come in different styles for jig techniques. A football-head jig is made to be dragged across the bottom of the lake to resemble a crawfish, a swim jig is made for swimming through grass and resembles either a sunfish or crawfish, or a round head finesse jig can catch bass in most situations but excels when fished around boat docks and cover. Different jig heads, different presentations. The one thing bass jigs have in common is, usually, they have a trailer added to them. Trailers can be made of pork rind or soft plastic. The majority of trailers have a crawfish or shad-shaped body. It's common for anglers to have their trailers contrast jig colors to attract bass. Jigs catch fish year round by rocks, spawning beds, aquatic vegetation, brush, standing timber, lay downs, boat docks and any cover or structure in a lake.
Of all six lure styles, no other lure catches more fish than a plastic worm. Plastic worms are available in a number of styles from ribbon-tail to finesse worms. Which worm to use boils down to each anglers preference. In general, big or long ribbon-tail worms are good in summer months when fish are active, or fishing for giant bass, while smaller straight tail finesse worms catch fish when conditions are tough. A worm can be rigged several ways including a Texas rig, Carolina rig, or a wacky rig. A Texas rig can be fished anywhere and anytime of year to catch fish. It excels around cover. A Carolina rig can be used to fish deep water quickly or find offshore deep water honey holes. A wacky worm shines in the springtime when bass are shallow getting ready to spawn and around spawning beds. What color worm should you fish with? Green pumpkin is, by far, the color of worm that catches the most fish; however, certain colors catch more fish in different lakess or areas like Junebug in Florida and PB&J in the Ozarks.
One thing all of these lures have in common is they can all be fished from shore, in a boat, or on a boat dock. That means you only need one small tackle bag to carry your six "must-have" bass lures with you.
Reprinted with permission from Pond Boss Magazine