Nothing Beats Live Bait... Yet - Major League Fishing

Nothing Beats Live Bait… Yet

September 23, 2008 • Sean Ostruszka • Angler Columns

Well, it’s been said that the first step is admitting you have a problem. So here it goes… I have a problem. I am obsessed with lures.

Now, when I say I’m obsessed that doesn’t mean I own an entire tackle shop’s worth of them (though that is a goal of mine one day). No, instead I mean that I analyze lures, or more specifically, their actions. I analyze how they swim, move, sound, float, etc, and if I don’t like something about it I do what many anglers do, I tinker with it. I tinker constantly (ask my fiancee if you need proof) and that tinkering hasmanifested into me making my own lures. That only added to my obsession of lures as I’ve been making my own lures for over a decade.

So that’s why an experience I had a few weeks back has been so eye opening as to how far we as fisherman are from creating perfect lures.

This experience took place on a gin-clear lake back home near Chicago. My dad, brother and I had just gotten back to the dock where we had rented a boat when I noticed about a dozen large bass swimming beneath the dock. Apparently, the owner had a bucket of golden roaches that he hung from the dock into the water, and from time to time he would take a few out and feed the bass.

Like I said, I’m a nut about lures, and I was very intrigued to do my own little experiment on these fish. First, I threw in a live minnow which was immediately eaten in a giant splash of fins and to the oohs and wows from us. Then I threw in a dead minnow which also was immediately eaten.

This is where the experiment comes in. I then tossed them an unhooked, soft-plastic jerkbait which was the same size, shape and color of the minnows. On my first cast, the bass swarmed the bait, crushing it three times while knocking each other out of the way to get at it. The second cast was more of the same as it was eaten twice. But, this time only half the bass went after the lure. By the third cast it garnered almost no attention, and I managed only one half-hearted strike. Five more casts with varying speeds and retrieves and the bass didn’t even look at it any more. I could drop it in front of their faces and they would just swim away.

Now here’s the mind-blowing part. I then threw in another live minnow…. and I don’t even know if it hit the water. Every bass charged at it immediately and that minnow barely got wet before one of them engulfed it. Stunned, I then tried another cast with my jerkbait and watched as two bass rushed for it and then stopped just before hitting it.

Needless to say I was in awe of what happened. Somehow, these bass knew the difference between the live minnow and the lure. Obviously these fish had become conditioned to strike anything that hit that water, and if I had another chance I’d probably experiment with that as well. But once the conditioning wore off and another conditioning set in, one would think they would have at least been reluctant to strike the live minnow. Instead, it was instantaneous.

This experience has made my brain hurt numerous times as I tried to figure out how they knew. And I think it’s something every angler should ponder, at least a little. Think about your favorite lures and how bass react to them. It might help you better understand these fish, and the more we understand them, the better anglers we will be.

Now, I’m off to try and rack my brain some more…. and to tinker with that soft-plastic jerkbait!

Slam the hooks!