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Jim Porter

Open most bass anglers' tackle boxes and you'll undoubtedly find an array of lures that would put shame to the stock of most tackle stores. There will be a multitude of shapes, sizes, colors and styles to fit most any condition. In fact, I often consider a new and larger boat just to carry all the hardware I have accumulated. (It's as good an excuse as any and more valid than most. However, my wife has problems seeing it that way.)

But, wait! Maybe it is time to drop back and punt, before we add yet another full tackle box to the four we already carry. Possibly, we should assess the situation and take truthful stock of just what in our individual collections is really productive and necessary. This writer and three of his frequent fishing companions recently did just that. It turned out that most of the tackle we carried was actually 'excess baggage' and rarely even got wet. The bottom line was that we came up with seven standby lures which satisfied virtually all our bass angling needs. Let's take a look at these special lures and discuss them.

First, to set the stage, we want to remember that a lure is just another fishing 'tool' and none have any sort of 'magic' about them. Each is selected for its capability to do a specific job under specific conditions. (Screwdrivers are not used to hammer nails and topwater plugs are not much good for deep structure, OK?) And, there are only two selection criteria which have any appreciable merit: 1) the depth at which you want the lure to operate; and, 2) the lure's adaptability to the cover or location being fished.

Heddon Zara Spook (topwater) . In the realm of purely topwater lures, none has proven so effective, year-in and year-out, as the legendary Zara Spook. It doesn't have any 'pop-bang-pow-gurgle' characteristics; no fancy body shapes or propellers; it simply catches bass. The beauty of the Zara Spook lies in its ability to very effectively imitate a living creature, primarily a wounded or scared bait fish. It casts like a dream and doesn't have any 'wimpy' hooks that let go on the first jump. The action of the Spook is entirely controlled by the angler and that is the true secret of its productivity.

Rapala Floating Minnow (sub-surface, 0-1 foot) . There are many imitators floating around (pardon the pun) in the bass fishing world today, but Laurie Rapala's slender, balsa minnow is still probably the best. When it gets right down to the nitty-gritty, few hard-bodied plugs really resemble natural bass forage very well. However, the Rapala comes extremely close. It can be fished right on top, with slow, tantalizing twitches. Or, and the most effective of all techniques, the Rapala can be presented just under the surface with long, hard sweeps of the rod tip. This is often referred to as 'ripping', and its action and appeal to a bass are nearly irresistible. Once you have seen the flashing, erratic action associated with ripping a Rapala, you will forever understand that attraction.

Rebel Wee R (shallow zone, 4-5 feet) . This was the older Sister of the Deep Wee R, to be mentioned next. The Wee R's early 1970's success was so great that the fishing public cried a for slightly deeper running model and the Deep Wee R was 'born'. The Wee R ran well right out of the box, cast like a bullet and had excellent hooks. For spring bass fishing in the spawn staging areas, the Wee R has few equals. In its most popular color, black and silver, the Wee R presents a very life-like appearance to go with its tight, vibrating wiggle. Its only flaw is that the lip is a separate piece, rather than being molded into the body, and can become loose. A touch of super glue or epoxy to the center of the underside easily solves this.

Rebel Deep Wee R (mid-range, 7-10 feet) . All lipped crank plugs have a common characteristic-each runs at a respective depth (varying slightly with the size line being used). Because of this, the fisherman can pick and choose one which operates at any desired depth range. Most bass are taken, on a year-round basis, in 6-10 feet of water. Consequently, the lures which perform at this mid-range depth are extremely important to our chosen sport. Approximately 1973 and based on the demand for a deeper Wee R model, the Plastics Research and Development Company (PRADCO) designed and marketed what may well be the best mid-range crank plug ever to swim its way back to a boat. I doubt that there is any bass angler today that doesn't have a handful of Deep Wee R's in his or her tackle box. The Deep Wee R is what we have to label as a 'classic', a legend in its own time. On 12 pound test line, it will run approximately eight feet deep and can dig to as much as 12 on very light lines. It can be fished at varying retrieve speeds and in virtually any location. While it is an excellent lure on points and gravel shorelines, it's nose-down running posture allows it to also come through brush tops with amazing ease.

Bomber Fat Free Shad, 3 inch model (deep zone) . Unless you frequent some of our exceptionally clear impoundments, 'deep' usually refers to anything below 12 feet. Most of us shy away from going beyond that depth because we tend to lose good contact with the lure and it is difficult to control properly. Additionally, the resistance of a deep crank plug can be a bit rough on the shoulders and arms. However, if you want to consistently catch lots of bass and, in particular, big ones, you simply have to pay the price. Few lures are more productive on deeper breaklines and channel edges than a deep crank plug, and few are the equal of the Bomber Fat Free Shad. We unanimously chose the Fat Free Shad because it runs true, will plummet to a solid 12-15 feet (depending on line size), and is a constant producer. There's nothing timid about this plug. The action is tight and fast and the hooks are hawg size. And, it casts like a pork chop!

Spinner Bait, safety pin style . No tackle selection is complete without this lure. The biggest problem with it, however, is the angler. If the word is out that spinner baits are the hot lure, the average Jane Doe will tie one on and throw it in every direction. Although it DOES have some deep applications, the standard spinner bait is a shallow water lure and is meant to be used around some type of cover, usually the thicker the better. The spinner bait can also be used as a buzz bait but retrieving it just under the surface with the blade slightly dimpling the top of the water. It is a true 'impulse' bait, drawing sudden strikes from well-concealed predators. There are many brands on the market and most are good products. Also, please note that 'price' is NOT an indication of fish-catching ability.

Plastic Worm . Probably the most productive lure ever devised for bass fishing is the plastic worm. Nick Creme (Creme Lure Company) started it all with his straight, hard 'rubber worm' years ago. His original Scoundrel worm started it all and that lure is still on the market today (although in a different materials formula). However, Tom Mann's famous Jelly Worm has undoubtedly become the favorite the world over. Even in far-away places like Japan, South Africa and Spain, the Jelly Worm is spoken of in almost reverent terms. From the looks of the tackle store shelves, everyone with a workshop or basement must be making his own brand of plastic worm. However, for quality, color selection and plain old fish catchin', the Jelly Worm still ranks as good as any. The plastic worm is one of the most versatile lures around. It can be fished shallow, deep, fast, slow, and anywhere in-between. Since it can always be substituted for a jig when required, we consider the plastic worm a 'double-duty' lure. If there is any one thing that raises controversy in worm fishing circles, it has to be color. I don't intend to get sucked into that debate here. Suffice to say that color is more a choice for fishermen than the fish. However, dark colors ALWAYS work. Our group opted for purple, black and dark red, in that order.

So, who says we need to carry a complete tackle shop when we hit the water? If we get back to the basics, we may eventually save enough money for that new boat!


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