Most lures have a time and place to catch big bass. But do you know when that is? You could be wasting your time. Find out where you’ve been going wrong.
All the options and applications available for tackle in today’s constantly evolving fishing industry can make it challenging to decide what baits to use for particular circumstances. Here are examples of real-life fishing situations, and exactly how you should choose five lures that will be the best fish producers under the conditions available.
First, let’s set the scene. It’s early March on Missouri’s Table Rock Lake. Both largemouth and smallmouth bass are just starting to come out of their wintering patterns, and the upcoming spawn is weighing on their minds. The water temps around the lake are ranging from 41-45 degrees near the dam, 44-48 in the mid lake section of both the James and White River arms, and 48-54 in some of the far reaches of the King’s River tributary. That’s a big range of different temperatures- a factor that will drastically affect lure choice based on the location you choose to fish. Due to reports of larger fish near the dam, we’ll elect to fish that section, in the coolest water of the lake.
1. Bad Pick: ½-Ounce, Double Willow Bladed Spinnerbait
Given that the water is in the low 40s in this section of the lake, a spinnerbait will not be as effective (though you may catch a few fish on it) as other baits that offer slower and subtler presentations to fish that are a little further behind than ones you might find in the warmer water.
Replacement: Suspending Jerkbait
Outside of the fact that Table Rock Lake is a phenomenal jerkbait fishery, the water temps are ideal for this lure. Bass often will suspend off of sharp main lake and secondary points at this time of year, and the jerkbait is perfect for working those fish.
2. Bad Pick: Square-bill Crankbait
While a square-bill crankbait such as the KVD 1.5 Model by Strike King is a terrific fish-catching bait, its erratic action and shallow-running depth make it less than ideal for the conditions. You’ll need a bait that runs a little bit deeper, with a tighter wobble to entice the more lethargic bass.
Replacement: Storm Wiggle Wart Crankbait/ Rapala Shad Rap
Crankbaits work terrific in cold water, but the action of the bait must align with the mood of the fish. The wiggle wart and shad rap are two phenomenal, tight-wobbling cold water crankbaits that work exceedingly well in Ozark Lakes like Table Rock, especially when the water temperature is between 43 and 50.
3. Bad Pick: Texas Rigged Worm/ Lizard
While the worm or lizard are both classics that have withstood the test of time in bass fishing, they aren’t a prominent bait in cold water conditions. Table Rock fish at this time of year are keying on shad and crayfish, and these plastics do not do a good job of mimicking the profile that a bass is looking for.
Replacement: Skirted Bass Jig
The jig is an excellent cold water choice for Missouri bass that are keying on crayfish. Even a bass binging on shad won’t pass an opportunity to inhale a tasty crayfish, so the jig even catches suspending shad-eaters as it falls past their face around docks and standing timber. Whether you prefer a football, arkie, or round-head style, all are terrific choices in cold water.
4. Bad Pick: Topwater Lure (of any kind)
As bad as the urge to catch big bass on top is, you’ll simply be wasting your time with any form of topwater lure when the water is this cold.
Replacement: Umbrella Rig
The umbrella rig, rigged with 3-1/2-inch or 4-inch swimbaits on 3/16- to ¼-ounce jig heads is a perfect alternative for cool water, suspended bass. The umbrella rig (also known as the Alabama Rig) catches bass at virtually any depth, and can be worked at varying retrieve speeds to match the activity of the fish.
5. Bad Pick: Lipless Crankbait
A lipless crankbait is a knock-em-dead bait in “cool” water. But in borderline cold water, it becomes less effective. The ideal temperature for a lipless crankbait is above 47 degrees.
Replacement: 4-inch Swimbait on ¼-ounce head
A small swimbait on a light swimbait head is the perfect bait to entice cool water bass in a variety of different situations on Table Rock Lake. If they’re suspending off of points or steep banks, but won’t take the jerkbait or umbrella rig, try this small swimbait. The bait can be slowed to run deeper, or fished higher with a quicker retrieve.
When fishing around standing timber, try fishing the swimbait on a swim jig, modifying the jig by removing nearly all of the skirt (leave maybe 10 strands). This helps your jig stay free of snags, and the bass love the different look.
Don’t worry if you’ve fished with these bad bait choices. Next time you are bass fishing in Missouri, or just on some cold water, remember these replacement baits and be ready to catch some big bass.