Bass Tackle and Lure Basics by Randy Rowley


As is stated in “The Fisherman’s Dictionary” the term angling probably comes from the ancient Indo-European word, anka, meaning “hook” or “to fish with a hook,” but it could have come from the words enka (“unwise expenditure” or “useless task”); inkla (“to repeat a foolish act”); and angla (“love of pointless suffering”).

Despite that fact, the ranks of anglers swell with more and more novice fisherman each year. Unfortunately, the novice fishermen are often at a loss when they venture to their local Angler Emporiums to purchase tackle and lures for bass fishing. Consequently, they often fall prey to pushy salesmen, flashy advertisements and glittering gadgets. I, therefore, will address the how to get started in the wonderful world of tackle shopping.

The heart of a fisherman’s equipment is his rod and reel. They are the most expensive of the basic investments that a fisherman will need to make, therefore, they should be chosen with care. Here, as with lures, the choices are mind boggling. These can be whittled down, however, by the fisherman deciding how he likes to fish. A man who wants to chunk crankbaits all day will need different tackle than one who wants to bounce plastic worms off the bottom or drown minnows.

For the novice, it is unwise to specialize too much. The most successful fishermen are versatile fishermen. I recommend a rod/reel combo that allows the fisherman to do a lot of things. The most versatile rod would be of medium weight and spine and around six feet in length. Fiberglass rods are strong and usually inexpensive but they often lack sensitivity and can break under stress. Graphite rods are very strong and sensitive but cost more than fiberglass. Graphite/fiberglass combo’s often combine the best of both worlds and are usually less costly than pure graphite rods. Two handed rods are usually better than one, especially if a lot of casting is anticipated. Two handed rods cut down on fatigue and also cast farther. As to type of rod, spinning or baitcast, that factor is determined by the reel.

Reels offer more choices than rods and have more noticeable differences. There are three basis types: spinning, spin cast and baitcasting or free spool.  

Spinning reels offer the advantages of casting long distances and the ability to cast light lures. On the con side they tend to coil the line and often cause the fisherman to reel left handed.  

Spin cast reels offer the advantages of low cost and fool proof casting. All one needs to do is push a button into the reel with your thumb and release it as you throw. Disadvantages include short life span, a tendency to malfunction and a tendency to coil the line.

Baitcasting reels are preferred by tour pros due to the facts that the fisherman can feel what is happening on the other end of the line easier due to their design that feeds line straight down the rod, lack of line coiling and versatility. Their one big disadvantage is their tendency to backlash or tie the line into knots from the spool spinning faster than the line is able to peel off the reel. They take considerable time, patience and extra spools of line to master.

In the final analysis, a beginner would serve himself well by starting with a decent spin cast reel (one with ball bearings, a large line capacity and made out of tough material such as steel) and then work his way up to spinning or baitcasting reels. Affordable rod and reel manufactures include: Abu Garcia, Johnson, Zebco, Daiwa, Shimano, Shakespeare, Berkley, Quantum and Mitchell. A decent rod/reel combo will run from $50.00 to $60.00. I own rods and/or reels form all of the above manufactures except the last two and been happy with all of them.

Now that the basis ingredients have been purchased it’s time to move on to artificial lures. These man-made baits were aptly named. They are designed to entice bass and other game fish to literally inhale them. They are either made to resemble a bass’ natural prey (minnows, shad, crawfish, worms, lizards, etc.) or stimulate bass to strike from anger or protection of their territory. Lures are usually made from three materials: hard plastic, soft plastic or wood. Some are designed to function on the bottom of a water body, some mid-depth, some shallow and some on the top of the water. Some are designed to make lots of noise some are designed to swim like the bait fish they resemble and some are designed to attract bass by their sense of smell. There are as many colors for bass lures as there are colors in the rainbow (wise angler’s keep several different colors in their tackle boxes for different water and seasonal conditions). There is also a large variety of lures sizes available. All this translates to confusion. Fortunately for us there are those who fish just about every day of the year. These tour pro’s and other experts all say that spinnerbaits and jigs, crankbaits, spoons, top water lures and plastic worms and their cousins should be included in every bass anglers tackle box. Let’s examine them individually.

Spinnerbaits and their close cousins jigs are one of the most interesting baits ever made. Spinnerbaits are designed usually to imitate crawfish or baitfish and usually run one to four feet in depth. However, they can be allowed to sink to the bottom and fished effectively by pulling them up and allowing them to sink down again (jigging). This works especially well in moss or lilly pads. Spinnerbaits offer a choice of either one or two bladed models with a variety of blade shapes and textures. The blades flash and wobble and entice bass to slam them. Many anglers put pork rind or a trailer on the single hook of the spinnerbait or jig. This “jig and pig” combo is a mainstay for catching bass. Strike King, Stanley, Manns, BlueFox, and Mepps are some of the manufactures of spinnerbaits and jigs. I am partial to Bluefox’s Black Flash with it’s rattlin’ sound pod.

Crankbaits are designed to be cast out long distances and “cranked” to the boat at moderate to fast speeds. Although a steady retrieve often works best, they are also fished effectively by varying the speed of the retrieve and by stopping for a second or two and then resuming the retrieve (stop and go). They vary in shape and size but most have a big head that tapers down to a slender tail. The lip size and shape, the size of the lure and the line diameter determine the depth the lure will run. These lures wobble from side to side and look like baitfish that are fleeing a predator. Some even rattle to add the benefit of sound. Crankbaits are fun baits to fish with. Anglers get to cover lots of water with them and usually will never get bored. They are great fish finders and work well when trolled. Rebel, Rapala, Poe’s, Bomber, Mann’s, Storm, Luhr Jensen and many others are manufactures of crankbaits. I’m partial to Bomber’s model A and Bagley’s DB-3. Lipless rattle baits are relatively new in the crankbait world. They run shallow to medium in depth and are designed to (surprise) rattle and attract bass by sound. They are usually cranked fast but can also be fished stop and go. Most have two treble hooks but some substitute the rear hook with a spinner. Rat-L-Trap, Cordell and Rapala are the big players in the world of lipless rattle baits. My favorite is the Rapala Shad Rap.

Spoons are designed to flash and wobble like a minnow. Most have treble hooks but some have a single weedless hook that can be enhanced with a trailer. They were probably among the first lures ever made and are designed to be fished similarly to crankbaits. Silver and gold are the most popular colors. Johnson is the largest manufacturer of spoons but Rapala has come up with an interesting lure called the Minnowspoon that has a lifelike look.

Top water baits include hard plastic stick baits, soft plastic jerk baits, poppers, spinners, buzzbaits and dog walkers. These baits are great for early morning fishing, especially in the spring. Hard plastic stick baits look like (surprise) sticks. Most are lipless and are designed to be twitched or jerked on top of the water to imitate minnows or shad. Some have lips on them and are designed to dive to or suspend at a specific depth and then be twitched. Large stick baits have three treble hooks and smaller ones have two. Some have jointed bodies for increased bait action. Bomber, Cordell, Heddon, Rebel, Storm, Smithwick and Rapala are major makers of stick baits. The Storm Thunderstick and the Heddon Zara Gossa are two of my favorites. Soft plastic jerk baits are designed to be jerked along on the top of the water or just below it. Bass Assassin and Slug-go are who most anglers think of when they think of soft plastic jerk baits. Poppers have hollow lips and are designed to be jerked or “popped”. They make lots of noise and commotion. Rebel, Rat-L-Trap, Heddon, Fred Arbogast and Storm all make great poppers. My favorites include the Rebel Pop-R and the Heddon Chuggar. Top water spinners and buzz baits are designed to be ripped along on the top of the water. They also can be jerked or varied in their retrieves but usually work best when cranked fast. Heddon’s Tiny Torpedo and Cordell’s Crazy Shad are both great top water spinners. Mepps, Manns, Strike King and BlueFox make great buzz baits. I again am partial to Bluefox’s buzz baits. Dog walkers are designed to be pulled on the top of the water in a side to side motion. They are cigar shaped and usually large. They have to be fished correctly though, or they are next to useless. Heddon’s Zara Spook and Rebel’s Jumping Minnow are the big dogs in the dog walking department.

More bass have been caught on plastic worms and their cousins (plastic crawfish, lizards, shad, grubs and tube baits) then with any other lures. They look and feel so lifelike that I would be scared to be a bass. Manufactures have recently added scent to these soft plastic baits and the results have been astonishing. Berkley, for example, claims that bass will hold on to their power baits up to seven times longer then to unscented baits. Plastic worms are designed to be bumped slowly along the bottom. This is finesse fishing at it’s finest. Berkley, Culprit and Mann’s are the kings of the plastic worms and friends industry. Get several colors and tail designs. There are many other decisions that a fisherman must make. From tackle boxes, to bobbers, to hooks, to stringers; but for the most part these decisions do not require a lot a thought and are hard to go wrong on. Therefore, I will not delve into them. I hope that this article has been helpful in getting started in the wonderful world of tackle and lure shopping. Remember, though, that one can be “caught” at the sporting goods stores with glittering gadgets and trinkets easier than it is to catch our scaly quarry. Good luck shopping and good fishing!

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