By: Andrew Martin
Everyone has to start somewhere. Some of us were introduced to fishing before we could walk and never remember not being able to skip a tube twenty feet under a dock with a baitcaster. For the rest of us, somewhere along the line we learned about fishing, graduated from hooks and bobbers to artificial lures and spent a lot of time muddled in trial and error. Maybe you found an old, rusty, in-line spinner in your Uncle Murph’s tackle box or found a red and white Daredevil on the wall at the bait shop. After you tried it out and caught that first bass, you were hooked (pardon the pun). Nightcrawlers became a thing of the past and all you wanted to do was learn about catching them big ol’ bucketmouths with every crazy contraption that had a hook! When you’re first starting out, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the lures on the market. If you’re new to this wonderful world of bass fishing, try simplifying to just four types of baits. After doing a little poll on Facebook (and taking my own choices into account), here are the four that I would recommend every beginning bass angler have in their tackle box:
The spinnerbait has been catching bass for decades. It is easy for the beginner to master and a TON of fun to throw. A simple two arm metal wire, with a lead head on one side for weight (anywhere from 1/8-1 ½ ounces) attached to a hook, with one, two, three or even four metal blades that spin and flash when brought through the water. When you’re starting out, pick up a couple 3/8 and 1/2 ounce varieties in white and chartreuse with double willow leaf shaped blades in gold or silver. This combination will catch fish in almost any lake in the country. Using a spinnerbait is a piece of cake. Cast it out and reel it back in. Nothing to it. Try reeling it a little slower or a little faster to see what the fish want. Maybe let it stop for a second and flutter down or give it little twitches with your rod tip. This type of lure is called a “reaction bait” and is a great way to locate schools of active, aggressive fish. Throw it along the shoreline, in the weeds, along docks or stumps. When a bass hits it, rip your rod upwards and hold on!
Another essential bait to include in your arsenal is the crankbait. Also a “reaction bait,” crankbaits are designated by their protruding plastic bill or lip that causes the bait to dive down into the water when reeled back in. These are some of the most versatile baits you will ever fish and they are simple to use. They come in various styles that can dive to multiple depths. They have shallow divers, medium divers and deep divers. When you’re starting out, try the shallow square billed varieties, particularly from spring through fall. These can be deadly when bounced off of cover like stumps and trees or along shallow rock. Try colors that match what the bass are eating like shad, bluegill or crawdad patterns. Even advanced anglers typically only throw 4 or 5 different colors depending on the water conditions, so don’t get overwhelmed by the variety. Once you get used to the shallow divers, find some that dive in the 6-10 foot range, then 10-14 until you get to those big lipped, deep diver that crawl around in the 20 foot range.
Warning. This is a BROAD category. Let me help you narrow it down a little bit. Soft plastic baits come in every shape, size and color imaginable. If you were new to the sport and happened to walk into your local bass fishing superstore , the massive amounts of soft plastic baits would blow your mind. Basically, you have a couple of different categories and it would be helpful to own a couple packs of each. First, you definitely want to pick up some stick baits. These “senko” style plastic worms do not look like much, but they are one of the best fish catchers around. Second, I would invest in a few straight tailed and curly tailed worms. They come in varieties from 3-inches to 12-inches. Keep it simple and get a few 6-inch versions. Third, creature baits. There are a billion varieties, but a brush hog style and a beaver style would probably be a good start. Finally, pick up some tubes. Tubes are so easy to throw and work almost anywhere at any time of the year. All of these various plastics can be rigged in a variety of ways. Check out YouTube and look up videos on “Texas Rigging,” “Wacky Rigging” and “Shakey Heads.” Again, you only need a couple of colors. The four that I would pick are Green Pumpkin, Watermelon, Oxblood and some sort of black/blue or Junebug color. Toss these out and work them SLOWLY. Dragging or slow hopping them on the bottom. Let them sit or “dead stick” for a few seconds and bass will suck them in and head for the hills!
The final bait that I wouldn’t leave home without, is a jig. Jigs are a simple lead head attached to a hook with some sort of skirt tied to the head. These come in light finesse versions to massive 1-ounce or bigger styles. Jigs can be used in a variety of circumstances, from less than a foot of water to 60 feet. Typically, you will pair a jig with some sort of soft plastic trailer, like a crawdad or creature bait. You can cast these into heavy weeds and other cover and slowly hop them back, imitating a fleeing crawdad. You can buy some in a “football” style and drag them in deep water over points and humps. You can purchase them in a “swimming” style and use them in similar situations as you would a spinnerbait. They are so versatile, there is almost no wrong way to fish with them, making them perfect for new anglers. Again, try the 3/8 or 1/2 ounce versions, as they will be the most versatile for fishing them in different depths. Get some in green/brown and some in a black/blue depending on the water clarity. Some of the biggest bites, the ones that almost pull the rod out of your hand, will come on this simple little lure.
Nothing is more frustrating and discouraging than trying to figure out the maze of products on the market. It feels like you need an advanced engineering degree just to catch fish! Remember, bass are not going to outsmart you. You might want to try a great service like Tackle Grab, that ships you new lures every month. This way you can try new things, without feeling overwhelmed. Keeping it simple will make your journey down the road to angling greatness smoother and much more fun!
Pro Staff: Dobyns Rods, Tackle Grab, PowerTeam Lures, Solar Bat Sunglasses, Skinny Bear Jigs, Gethooked Baits, Whiskey River Bait Co.
Contributing Writer: Rahfish.com, Bass Utopia, Bass Angler Headquarters