Lure ModificationLure Modification Here's some simple modifications to lures that can result in differences in both visual appeal as well as enhancement of their action.
By Ronald F. Dodson, Ph.D.
When I was a teenager, (right after the last ice age) a sudden revolution began hitting the realm of bass fishing. A fellow who was originally from Ohio and subsequently had the good sense to move to Tyler, Texas had invented a creature called a plastic worm. Mr. Nick Creme introduced the Scoundrel that was a simple straight worm. It is interesting that after years of changes in soft plastic products, the fad of wacky or "do nothing" worms that struck a couple of years ago reinvented a different use for the same type of straight worm as originally offered by Mr. Creme. Several of the fishing crowd that convoyed together from my hometown to some east Texas lake each weekend began to try to salvage the worms, whose heads had been damaged during a hookset or simply given way to too many casts with a Texas rig. The plan was to heat the plastic to a temperature where it fused but did not melt. This effort led to several of the bass fishing fraternity brotherhood being permanently banned from the kitchen work areas after they created an odor during these experiments that perfumed the entire house (or caused mass evacuation since everyone other than the worm repair specialist believed an electrical fire was in progress). Those hardy souls who found a way to control the rate of melt of the damaged worms soon began to realize they could expand their creativity to more exotic creations. This resulted in worms being produced with multiple tails, small legs being extended from the bodies, and my personal favorite the presence of various chicken feathers extending out from the body of the worm. It ends up these guys were simply ahead of their time since from then to now, soft plastics have been offered in all variations of body forms (except none to my knowledge have had chicken feathers added).
There are some more recent offerings, which give you the chance to add contrasting colors to soft plastics. These "stains" provide permanent color to the worm or lizard with their only limitation being that the color is less evident in the darker soft plastic baits.
A friend who guides was really into "dipping" the tails of lizards or worms into his favorite chartreuse color. After a while a client decided he wanted to try the same technique. Up until then the guide had dodged this issue by doing the dipping for the clients. Before he could respond the client had dipped the tail of the lizard and in his haste to get the creation in the water, kicked the small bottle over in the boat. In case you ever wondered, this dip and dye product also provided permanent stain of the carpet and the gel coat of the boat. My comment of "gee I thought you only stained the backs of things, yet your motor escaped" was not well received.
Another choice for modification of soft plastics is to use one of the "scents" available for spraying on the lures. Some companies have the "odors" embedded within the plastic whereas others have less emphasis on inherent "strike stimulators." There are many spray-on or liquid forms to use on soft plastics. At least some actually do seem to cause the fish to hold on longer whereas some of the other odor additives probably do more to cover the scent of human odors than to give additional food sensations to the fish.
Actually from what we know there are certain chemicals that living things are made of which seem to be repulsive to fish, some are neutral and some are stimulatory as "odors" from desired food. All of the "odor" issues can be minimized as to importance if you are working a bait fast on retrieve or if you are using crankbaits. In such cases the importance of odor is of little value since the strike is triggered in the bass by visual or vibration components created by the bait.
It has always been the case with bass fishermen that an inherent instinct drives them to seek modifications that will make a lure even more desirable by the bass than when it was purchased or made. A simple case in point is the variety of variations you can make in a spinnerbait. The many choices of skirt colors, as well as blade combinations, can make the same bait much different in visibility as well as vibration on retrieve. This translates into increased confidence level in the modified bait by the fisherman, and this often translates into more strikes. The modification of baits is particularly important to the strategy of those bass fishermen who think through all facets of their sport, particularly when it comes to deciding on the choice of baits, colors, and styles of presentation for given fishing condition.
There are some very simple modifications that can be made to lures that can result in differences in both visual appeal as well as enhancement of their action. For example in the case of topwaters, a change of the balance point in chuggers and poppers can be achieved by adding some additional weight to the rear. This can be achieved with the addition of a slightly oversized hook in the rear position. The extra weight makes the bait float in a more upright position and thus when moved forward tends to simply tilt over with minimal forward movement during each time it is worked. This of course plays off of one important strike inducers in a topwater plug in that the bait can be worked more repetitiously in a small area thus tending to agitate a strike reaction instinct in the observing bass.
Another type of action created in topwaters is one of a frightened food fish trying to attempt "escape" by a rapid darting and zigzag action. This approach results in a more rapid retrieve. Even with this type of action your best results occur when you try a stop-and-start technique between bursts of movement. You can add action to both these styles of retrieve if you put a pulsating trailer on the back hook. Bucktails are ideal for such trailers and provide little additional weight but make chuggers, poppers, or even a Zara Spook have additional tantalizing action even when the bait is setting still between movements.
Another minor modification that can add action to lures, is by either using a loop knot for attaching the plug or you can achieve the same freedom of motion at the tie position by using a snap or an "O" ring. In any of these cases the same result is achieved in that you are essentially creating an unrestrained pivot point at the point of attachment to the plug. If you can achieve a more upright angle for a topwater if you add weight to the tail, then logic is that you can do just the opposite with a diving crankbait by adding weight to the front of the plug. By making the bait initially sit at steeper angle at the front you actually impact on the angle of dive that results in a more rapid and overall deeper dive on retrieve.
There are some weighted "stick-ons" which can be stuck on the belly of a lure and also affect the dive angle by placement of more weight in the forward area. This will work without altering the action of the bait as long as you place the weight in either the midline of the forward part of the belly of the bait or under the lip (again in the very mid line of the two halves). Another use of the "stick-on" weights is to create a countdown bait out of one that otherwise would float when stopped. Smithwick Rogues, Rapalas as well as some other hard jerkbaits now come in a count down model, but creating a sinking or countdown plug in the past could be as simple as using oversized hooks. The downside of oversized hooks is that they are more prone to tangle on the cast but can help give you a countdown or suspending lure. The suspend modification is a nice feature since under some conditions you may trigger more strikes if the plug stays at a given depth for longer periods of time. For example, a suspend technique is most useful when fishing over suspended vegetation.
You may also recall a few years ago that one crankbait company put out a lure which had, as part of the instructions, an illustration as to how you could change the dive angle by bending the lip. You were to heat the under side of the lip at a certain position and using pliers gently bend the forward portion of the lip downward to create a sharper angle. The concept worked in that, when done right, you could create a deeper dive angle which resulted in a deeper retrieve. However if you over bent the edge of the lip you ruined the action totally and the plug came in without wiggle.
One of the approaches that some guides have been using with crankbaits over the last several summers on Fork has been to "stroll" the baits. This consists of letting out a long amount of line and then engaging the reel and putting the trolling motor on high. Yes it is a modification of simply trolling with the outboard. But if you do want to drive a diving crankbait down further than with a usual retrieve, then borrow a concept from the down-riggers of the northwest. Use a three way swivel and tie a weight to the short drop-line with the longer leader tied to a snap on which you can place the crank. The advantage of using such a rig is that you are no longer required to get a maximum dive bait but can even use a shallow crank and get it down. If you have trouble with the concept, then envision it as "drop-shotting" with a crankbait.
Another modification you can make to your favorite lure is to paint them in colors you like rather than be forced to use colors that are available. The logic for the colors in which baits are offered is an interesting issue in that the focus is more on catching fishermen in some cases than fish. Crankbaits became fashionable in part due to the success in tournaments following the introduction of Big O and Big N type plugs. Most cranks were made from bone colored plastics and fishermen began to notice that the loss of surface coloration (which resulted in more and more bone being shown) did not result in less attractiveness to the bass and under some conditions the plugs seemed to be even more productive. This observation did not occur for long until new baits were bought, and sanded or scraped to the bone undercolor. Then some companies got really sharp and offered a bone-colored bait.
Recently a lure designer for one of the fishing tackle giants told an interesting story. To give some background, this company is into rods, reels, line, lures, and assorted associated products. They also have one of the strongest research groups in fishing technology in the country. So when they release something and say it has been tested, you can believe it is tested. When they introduced the line of crank-\baits I was fascinated by the colors they offered. Then I thought through the choices and realized we had taken things back a few years to the stage when the color selector device was being touted and lures in the color selector patterns were all the rage.
Actually the colors they offered in the new crankbaits looked somewhat faded compared with the offerings in the same general tones by most of their competitors. Guess what? These color tones were the ones the bass found most appealing in their test tanks. Unfortunately, the pale color green just did not turn the fishermen on even though the bass had voted for the color. So the company had to adjust their colors away from the most effective tones to ones that fishermen liked (go figure) and sales went up.
You can modify your favorite style of bait by painting the plugs yourself. A quick-dry spray paint such as offered by Krylon or Rust-Oleum will do the trick. If you want to get fancy use masking tape to cover the parts of the lure you do not want to paint with a given color. To get really fancy you might want to make scales on the plug. To achieve this effect on a lure, simply buy some self-adhesive fiberglass dry wall joint tape. Cut the tape to the form of the area on which you want to place the scales and spray away. After the paint dries remove the tape and you have scales of the desired color. If you want to add some additional appeal on those colors that mimic shad, minnows, or bream, sprinkle some glitter onto the surface of the freshly painted bait and it will stick.
Who knows, by painting your own lures you may actually stumble into some old-new color that the fish have not seen for a while such as bone. The other advantage of painting your crankbaits is that you can take advantage of closeouts or sales to buy baits in colors that are not fast sellers and/ or marked way down for fast sale. By the way, if you want to paint the baits with lighter colors, chartreuse, or other florescent tones you will get best results if you first paint the plug with off white as a base coat.
Modification of lures can make them have more fish-catching appeal by making them more attractive, visible, or in some cases I am convinced simply "different" from anything the fish are constantly seeing. In either case the fisherman adds his own touch to baits and in doing so can increase his own confidence in the lure being presented to the bass.
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