Question: "Hi Guys! When is a good time to use different lures? I need a few go to's. I have been using the Ned Rig all summer long and have had HUGE success. I recently tried a Chatterbait about the same time the Ned Rig was working, and the bites went dead. I know topwater in the morning is great, but what about 5pm or 6pm? Also, what different lures are good for different situations? As always, thank you guys so much. We are totally stoked for Season 2!!" -RYAN
Great question as always Ryan, and I'll do my best to help you out.
First off, I want to say how much I sympathize with the struggle of trying to choose the right lures for different situations. It is probably the single most difficult thing to decide while fishing for bass, or other species of fish, but over time you will start to piece things together with more ease.
I don't think I would be doing you much good if I just handed out a bunch of different lures to try, since I don't know all the exact conditions you are facing, but I will help you make a decision for yourself with some basic lure selecting principles I use every day.
Tools of the Trade
The absolute most important thing to remember when you are trying to select a lure for any situation is that they are simply TOOLS! As anglers, we are pre-disposed to giving certain lures more credit than they are due- calling them "magic" or "secret" baits. Though there are some lures that perform better in a wider variety of situations, they are by no means supernatural fish catching devices- they are just another tool in our tackle box.
This fact is important to remember because when you are in the tackle shop trying to find the right bait, you need to think of them in terms of their characteristics, and what they are designed to do. Though a screwdriver is one of the most widely utilized tools, it certainly isn't a good choice for changing a tire, or taking a prop off your outboard. The same goes for a lure, though it might work well in muddy water, it may not be the best choice in a clear water situation.
Here are the primary qualities that you are going to be looking for in a lure for different situations:
Color: Color can be a difficult choice, but the basic rule is that the clearer the water the more closely you want to match the color of the forage, while the dirtier it gets, the bolder the colors you want to use, like blacks and blue, solid whites, yellows and chartreuse.
Action: Does a worm have a straight tail or a curly tail? Does a crankbait have a subtle wobble or a wide wobble? Does the topwater stay in place and slowly pop along the surface, or does it buzz along the surface creating a large amount of commotion? Lures are either designed to have lots of action, or be more subtle. In general, the more inactive or picky the fish are- like in cold weather, times of stress, or ultra-clear water- the more subtle baits will work best. On the other hand, when fish are most active, or when visibility is low- like warm seasons, muddy water, or actively feeding schooling fish- the more action the bait should have. Again, you are trying to imitate the predominant forage and how they move.
Vibration: Vibration goes hand in hand with Action, as the more action a bait has the more vibration it will ultimately produce. A crankbait or Chatterbait are excellent options for fishing in stained water, but sometimes they are less effective in dirtier water where the fish is using its sense of sight much more than its lateral line or hearing.
Sound: Sound is a widely debated subject. Honestly, this is a difficult one to put in black and white, but I tend to use the same principles as action and vibration when choosing a lure design- the clearer the water and pickier the fish, the less noise I want. However, fish can be very curious creatures, and sound is an excellent way to get their attention.
Size/Profile: As far as size and profile, it is all about matching the lure to the prevailing forage. Fish will key in very closely on certain forage and that is when you want to match the size and shape to that forage. When fish are feeding on shad, possibly the last thing you want to throw is a 10" ribbon tail worm.
Water Column Orientation: Lures are designed to imitate something a bass would likely feed on, and there is a lot of different types of forage that live from the surface all the way to the bottom. It is important to understand what kind of baitfish your fish are eating- crawfish, shad, bluegill…..? If the fish are feeding on animals that live on the bottom, pick a lure that stays on the bottom. If they are feeding on shad, fish a bait that works from the top, all the way to above the bottom.
Speed: Each lure is designed to be used at certain ranges of speed, which must be matched to the conditions that dictate a fish's strike zone- the distance a fish is willing to move to attack a lure. Inactive fish are less willing to move great distances, so lures that move fast would be poor choices, while lures that remain in one spot longer can be more effective, and the opposite is true with actively feeding fish.
When The Going Is Good
When trying new techniques the most important thing to keep in mind is that nothing will give you less confidence in a new lure than fishing it in a situation it's not intended for, or at a time it is not effective.
Don't force it- only fish lures when they are going to be most effective. For instance, early in the morning and right before sundown is the best time to learn how to fish topwater lures.
Lures To Try
It is difficult to say what you need to try, because it depends on what tool the conditions you face are requiring. That being said, here are just a handful of proven lures/techniques that should work where you live:
-Wacky Rig (w/Trokar TK97W 1/0 & Zman ZinkerZ): Clear water and when fish are inactive feeding in shallow water around isolated cover.
-Chatterbait (w/Zman Diezel MinnowZ trailer): Stained to muddy water, especially around grass.
-3/8oz casting Jig (w/Zman BatwingZ trailer): Great all around bait. Match color to conditions and forage. Hop it, skip it, drag it or swim it. Excellent around cover.
-1/4oz spinnerbait (w/ Eagle Claw Lazer Sharp Spinnerbait Trailer Hook): Use two silver willow leaf blades for clear water and a tandem colorado/willowleaf combo for dirtier water. Cast to all types of cover and erratically retrieve it for more active fish and getting a reaction out of inactive fish.
I hope this helps!