Fishin’ with Capt. Gus

Capt. Gus Gustafson is an outdoor columnist and a full-time professional fishing guide.


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The Lure ... of Bass Fishing

So many lures and so little time – a problem many bass fishermen have! With tens of thousands of bass lures to choose from, it’s no wonder that newcomers to the sport often find themselves in utter dismay. To eliminate confusion, consider lure size, color and depth.



Small fish eat small baits. Big fish eat a variety of bait sizes. Understanding this is important, since there aren't that many large fish swimming in area lakes. So, for more strikes, match the size of the lure to the size of the targeted fish. When fishing is slow, downsize lures.



Most feeder fish are silver, worms and crayfish have a reddish-brown tint, and shoreline insects appear to be gray or black. So why not match the color of the lure to the color of the bait?  If a color doesn't produce, switch to the old standbys of white, blue, green and chartreuse. Dark shades seem to work best in low light situations and in murky water, while lighter/brighter lures are better on sunny days and in clear water.



Three common lures are top water, swimming, and bottom bumping lures. Game fish usually feed near shore or in the upper portion of the water column. But there are occasions when they follow bait to deeper water. If the fish food of the day is a bottom dweller, such as crayfish or an aquatic insect, use a bottom bumping lure.


Use top water lures when fish are lurking near the surface. This category includes a variety of poppers, chuggers and stick baits. Spinnerbaits, buzzbaits and flukes are also good choices when zipped or jerked across the surface. When fish are lying in wait, a slow-moving popper will entice strikes.



Swimming baits include the largest variety of lures. They are used when fish are suspended between the surface and the bottom. Lures like the Rat-L-Trap that vibrates, will run shallower than those with plastic lips. The larger the lip, the deeper the lure will swim. Spoons, buck tails and jigs are also fished at various depths by controlling the descent and the retrieval speed.


Bottom bumping baits are popular with bass, perch and striper fishermen. They include soft plastics, jig ‘n’ pigs, buck tails and jigging spoons. They should be fished slowly over a bottom covered with stumps, rocks or other debris.  As a rule, the deeper the water, the heavier the bait should be. But, don’t overdo it. The bait must fall naturally to trick the bass into biting.


Every tackle box should contain lures from the three lure groups mentioned. Zara Spooks are a “must have” top water bait. They have caught bass and stripers for decades. Rat-L-Traps and Shad Raps are good baits when fish are suspended. Finally, no tackle collection is complete without a variety of soft plastic worms for bottom feeding fish.


An old timer once gave this bit of fishing advice. “It’s a lot easier to feed ‘em than it is to trick ’em.  So, when all else fails, bait your hook with a lively minnow or a wiggly worm.”


Tip from Gus!

Double the use of your fishing line and save money too! Reverse the line by reeling it on to a similar capacity empty spare spool or a spool on a different reel. The un-used line on the bottom of the old spool will be on the top of the new one.



Buzzbaits like this one from Booyah have an aluminum propeller that churns the surface when cranked rapidly over weedbeds.


Pilot Media publishes boating guides providing comprehensive information on boating and waterfront living. Each edition includes an index of boat related businesses, reference maps, marina & boatyard guides, a directory of waterfront & water-access restaurants - The Pilot's Galley - and a Fishing Guide that includes a directory to area fishing service providers.  Read more >

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