Humans are creatures of habit. We don’t embrace change, big or small.
If something is working and running smoothly, why change? Being in a rut is not necessarily a bad thing. An old football coach had a saying, “You have to dance with the one who brung ya’.” Of course, he was probably referring to the running game in football. And that is how the team had won in the past.
Bass anglers, to be successful, must learn to change — especially tournament anglers. A major part of that change is swapping lures. And knowing when and what lure to use can make a difference in dining on seafood or hot dogs.
In major events, pro anglers have had a chance from practice to narrow down their lure selections for the tournament. While some may hold their ground, others will and do change if the conditions warrant. But, sometimes that change may be short lived.
Bass live in an environment of daily change. Water and weather conditions are the major factors affecting bass behavior. The change can be as small as a few clouds covering the sun and shading part of the lake. Or it could be a strong storm approaching with waves slapping the side of the boat.
Through the course of day, a lure change is usually required. It is rare that one lure will be fished for the entire day. It can happen, but sometimes stubbornness sets in upon anglers and they refuse to change lures.
“I’ll always have a couple of extra rods with different lures tied on,” said Chris Lane, B.A.S.S. Elite pro from Guntersville. “I can change up quickly if I see a need to change.”
Lane mentioned that if bass start schooling and he is holding a jig, he can drop that rod and pick up a topwater bait. With the top water lure, he can make a long cast to reach the schooling fish. If he only catches one bass from the school, that one fish can make a difference.
Depending on the lake, Lane may opt for three or four different lures. When fishing piers, he may make a few casts with a jig and then a couple more with a worm and the a few more with a spinnerbait. The lure changes help him determine what the fish prefer.
Baseball pitchers will throw a change-up to confuse the batter. Bass anglers can develop the same tactics in tricking bass to strike. Bass will strike lures out of a reaction rather than feeding. Anglers can sense this if bass short strike or are not as aggressive on the strike.
“Certain lures can trigger a reaction strike for bass,” Lane said. “Spinnerbaits, lipless crankbaits and buzzbaits can turn the fish on when they are not feeding.”
There are multiple reason and situations throughout a fishing day that will warrant a deliberate lure change, even if the fish are biting. Sometimes a change in lure and location can make a big difference. Lane made such a decision at a B.A.S.S. Elite event in 2015 on the Sabine River in Texas.
He had been leading the tournament for two days. On the third afternoon of competition, he headed down river to a different area. The water was not as clear as his up-river locales. Although he was flipping a jig, the fish he caught were small.
“The water was clearer up river, but the fish were small,” said Lane. “I was catching several short fish and I knew I needed to make a change.”
After his move down river to stained water he began flipping a soft-plastic craw to any piece of visible cover along the shoreline. Heavy rains had caused the water level to rise and the bank disappeared. Lane caught enough larger bass to cull out some small ones to win the tournament.
Other intentional lure changes can be with the fish showing themselves. When fishing topwater baits, some anglers will keep another rod handy with a fluke spinnerbait or small crankbait tied on. If the bass misses or short strikes, the topwater lure and quick cast into the same spot with a different lure can result in another strike.
Varying sky conditions can warrant a different lure selection. In clear water situations, the sun popping out behind some clouds can render a spinnerbait useless. The bass may move deeper or tight to cover. A more natural lure type, like a grub, shaky head or other soft plastic will produce strikes.
Even pro anglers sometimes have difficulty in finding just the right lure to cast. In the spring and early summer bass are on the move. Some bass are shallow in the spawning stage and others are holding back away from the shoreline. Often anglers will cast a variety of search lures to locate some fish.
“I like a spinnerbait or small crankbait when searching for bass,” Lane said. “Moving down a bank I may make several casts to determine where the fish are.”
After getting a few strikes and catching a couple of bass in an area, Lane will move back through with a different lure. At times the fish are holding in an area but not feeding. A lure change or a change in the speed or presentation can warrant additional strikes and larger fish.
If he knows there are fish in an area, Lane will try several different lure types and colors to determine what the fish want. He may make several passes and change lure selection on each pass. It usually doesn’t take him long to dial in on the bass and narrow his lure choice to two or three.
“Sometimes it can be a simple color change of the same lure,” Lane said. “A brown craw instead of an orange craw can make a big difference in getting strikes.”
Changing lure size too can help anglers get more strikes. On highly pressured fisheries many pros will downsize their lure choice. Many times, bass will rather strike a 4-inch worm rather than a 6-inch model of the same color. Stepping down to a 3/8-ounce spinnerbait over a 1/2-ounce has fooled many fish.
It may not seem logical that an 1/8-ounce weight difference can matter, but it does. The lighter or smaller lure can be fished slower and gives a smaller profile to the bass.
Another tactic pro anglers use that involves changing lures is making repeated casts to the same piece of cover, except with different lure. A spinner bait can be cast a few times into a brushtop. If you get no results, change to a worm or jig and make specific casts or flips again to the cover.
This same plan can be executed on piers, weed beds, stumps, etc. You get the idea.
Many folks may resist change, but when angling for bass a selective change in lures will be worth the effort.
Charles Johnson is The Anniston Star’s outdoor editor. You can reach Charles at firstname.lastname@example.org.