Locate the fish, but always listen to your inner “lure junkie”

Figuring out the right bait may not be as important as finding fish, but it’s certainly not an insignificant portion of the equation. (Photos by Todd Masson)

We all know anglers who are lure junkies. These guys obsess over seemingly insignificant details of artificial offerings, their confidence boosted by black stripes or red dots that, in their minds, will turn apathetic fish into aggressive gluttons.

You can find these fellas in tackle-store aisles, perusing the newest offerings in a desperate quest for the magic bullet, that one lure that will make fish abandon all logic and reason and attack whenever they see it.

These guys are less concerned with productive techniques or fish migration patterns than they are with what color a buddy used on a recent trip.

I’ve got nothing against lure junkies. Every angler is always on a mission for a dopamine hit, and for many, catching fish on a new lure tied to your line for the first time is the absolute ultimate adrenaline rush.

I say, more power to those guys. I’ve just never been one. In fact, I’m often oblivious to what lures are out there.

Like dynamite

My son, who has lure-junkie tendencies, will often be amazed I didn’t know TNT Lure Co. just came out with a new Exploding Mullet that is so effective, it’s like fishing with dynamite. 

Lures, in my view, are merely harvest tools. To me, getting excited about a new lure is like a farmer telling his buddies all about a new sickle he just picked up at Tractor Supply.

But that doesn’t mean I lack fishing-related obsessions. Far from it. In fact, I’m a borderline lunatic when it comes to figuring out patterns.

What I really enjoy in fishing is going to new areas and mixing current conditions like wind, tide and water clarity into what I know about fish-migration patterns to attempt to determine where the fish should be holding that day.

To me, that’s far more important than lure selection. I’ve always felt if I can find fish, I’ll figure out something they’ll hit, but if I can’t find fish, it doesn’t matter what I throw. I’m not going to catch any.

A mediocre lure in the right location is far more effective than a great lure in a bad location.

That mindset causes me to deemphasize lure selection, but every now and then, the fish gods laugh at my stubborn self and kick me toward the lure-junkie camp.

On a recent trip, speckled trout attacked this lure like it stole something.

Nowhere else to go

That happened last month during a trip when I was actually targeting bass and redfish in a brackish-water South Louisiana marsh. With water levels really low, I had threaded a lure I like — a Pro’s Choice soft stickbait in crab boil color (clear with red, black and silver flake) — on a ¼-ounce Deathgrip Jighead. I planned to concentrate on deep bends of bayous, figuring bass and reds would be stacked up there since they really had nowhere else to go.

What I discovered, however, was that speckled trout had filled those bends, and they treated my stickbait like it stole something. They were absolutely tagging it, providing those rod-jarring hits we all live for.

The strikes were so ferocious, I naturally assumed the specks would hit anything I offered them, but something remarkable happened. It confounded me, but also put a smile on my face as I pondered how cool these creatures are.

When I switched lures, I continued to get bites in the deep bends, but they all came from bass and redfish. If I wanted a trout, I HAD to throw that Pro’s Choice stickbait.

Now, I don’t know what in the water looks like that lure. In fact, I’m certain nothing does. No possible way I was matching any kind of hatch. But that lure that day was what the fish wanted, and they just weren’t going to hit anything else.

I went to bed that night pondering how many times I was casting the wrong bait to giant schools of fish that would have kept me entertained for hours if I’d only offered them what they wanted.

I wouldn’t say I’m now a lure junkie, but I have noticed myself spending a little more time in my tackle shed.

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