So you want to go out and land "the big one," huh? You've equipped yourself with your favorite fishing rod and reel plus an assortment of tackle, but you're still wondering what type of artificial bait to use. Anglers have been talking about "the secret lure" for years, but the truth is, there's really no such thing. The trick to finding the most effective bait, fly, or lure to catch fish is pretty simple: know what the fish are eating and then try to match that with a lure that looks and acts exactly like it.
Successfully doing that boils down to three factors: size, color and action.
SIZE: As mentioned, it's important to match the general profile of the bait fish or the insect with the size and proportion of whatever the fish actually eats. For example, if bass are eating shad, it would be a mistake to tie on a giant lure. Or, if bass are eating rainbow trout in a California reservoir, swimbait would not be the right choice because it's too small. Size does matter! When you aren't 100 percent certain about what size lure to use, it's always better to err on the small side and adjust upward from there. That's true in fly fishing, too. If you think you have the right fly pattern, but the fish refuses your fly, the first thing you should do is size down.
COLOR: Do fish see colors? Absolutely. So do colors matter when you select a lure, fly, or bait? You bet—but not always for the reasons you might think. Kevin VanDam, the most decorated pro bass angler in history, makes a lot of his money by using a Strike King Red Eye Shad crankbait. That's a very accurate representation of bass' favorite forage fish. But VanDam will mix and match colors according to the seasons, and more importantly, to water clarity. A fish can't eat a lure if it can't see it. So when the water is dirty, flashy metallic baits and colors like orange and chartreuse are in order. In clear water, more natural, muted hues are always best.
ACTION: If the lure doesn't swim (behave) in a manner that makes a fish want to eat it, it won't work. The Sebile Magic Swimmer is about as realistic of a swimbait you can find. It comes in various shapes and sizes, looks and swims exactly like a minnow or other baitfish, and works on many species of fish, from largemouth or smallmouth bass to northern pike and muskies. That said, sometimes a teasing action gets fish to bite. For example, walleyes on the bottom of a lake often find a vertical jig absolutely irresistible. And bass guarding beds will strike soft plastics (like lizards) out of a territorial, reactionary instinct more than hunger.
The bottom line is, if you're looking for the right lure or fly for the right fishing situation, keep size, color, and action in mind. Because it isn't the "magic" lure or fishing tackle that tricks the fish after all…it's the angler!
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