Bass Lures – Is there an optimum size and shape?
My guiding in early August has been satisfying, but it’s most definitely been a case of it could have been very satisfying! With another youngster (11 year old Will) enjoying a guided session with his Dad, and a client’s first ever bass landed, I should be happy – but I’m not!
Firstly, Will lost a bass on the surface from a quiet cove, Nick had a ‘reel screamer’ come off before we could see it, and then Dave (who’d only minutes earlier caught his first ever bass) lost a decent one at the net – the net that I was holding in fact! I felt bad and still feel terrible… If you happen to read this, sorry again Dave! (see a snippet of these sessions below).
Bass on the brain!
All of this has been thought provoking and yes, I do think about bass fishing a lot. But one of the things I’ve been wondering about recently is whether smaller lures are possibly more effective than larger ones? Now, I don’t mean all of the time – but, maybe some of the time…
Furthermore, considering the amount of bass that seem to have ‘fallen off’ the hooks in the past 6 – 8 weeks, maybe as autumn sets in (and the associated rougher seas) I should really think about how I can ensure a hooked bass reaches the shoreline.
I massively analyse and interrogate my success and failures, I can’t deny that. But in fishing – especially lure fishing, confidence in what you’re doing is critical. And attempting to place as many of the odds in my favour as possible is what gives me confidence.
Small but perfectly formed
If you’re a regular to this blog then you’ll know that my clients and I have been having some success using a small (95mm), very shallow diving minnow lure called a Maria Squash F95 10g (below) – this has really got my mind whirring away…
My most consistent bass catcher last season was the 90mm Illex Nitro Sprat Shad that was superb for me during autumn and into winter. Additionally, I had my ‘best’ session last year (when I caught nine bass, two of which were around the 5lb mark) when most of the bass were caught on the 100mm Xorus Patchinko 100 Is there a pattern here?
What I’m getting at is maybe the ‘standard’ 120mm lure shouldn’t be the most common size or shape lure in many of our lure boxes?
Bass are ferocious predators with cavernous mouths so what possible advantages could there be to using 80 – 105mm lures above the 120 – 150mm patterns? Are there any disadvantages? Here are some of my theories:
- Stun or Slam it! – Bass use their gill plates to stun prey items – particularly sandeels and other shoaling fish. However, would a feeding bass bother trying to stun a small solitary wriggling or vibrating fish (lure) or would it just attack and engulf it – the later I believe.
- Wind Resistance – Smaller profile equals less wind resistance. For example, take a 14g 90mm lure and cast it out into a headwind. Then attach the same lure pattern, but this time the 21g 120mm version – I doubt you’ll get more distance on the cast if any. This is certainly the case with the articulated (jighead + body) paddletail lures out there and little beauties like the Savage Gear Manic Prey 90 and Maria FLA PEN 85mm are beasts when launched into a strong headwind.
- Shallower Diving – Smaller diving ‘minnow’ lures often have a tiny vane, lip or angled face than their larger counterparts meaning they will effectively ‘swim’ slightly shallower. For me, a very shallow diving lure equals versatility in that it can be used in a lot more situations than a deeper diving lure.
- Cost – Take one of my favourite lures – a Daiwa Shoreline Shiner Z120F (120mm/ 19g) at £20.99. Then look at the Daiwa Shoreline Shiner Z97F at £17.99. Furthermore, look at the price comparison of the excellent IMA Hound Sonic Shallow 100F (14g) and the larger but more expensive (£4 more) Hound Glide 125F (20g). I own all of these lures and I can honestly say there is very little difference in the distances that can be cast with the larger lure over its smaller counterpart.
- Inhalation – No angler wants to see a bass deeply hooked to the extent that it is bleeding from the gills. The chances of them surviving decrease by the second if they have really ‘wolfed’ down the lure.
- Schoolies – Big lure, big fish – Small lure…? This isn’t always the case of course therefore, time and more catches will determine any patterns and my opinion in relation to this.
- Dirty/Rough Seas – If the water is murky then a slightly larger target could be the order of the day. Likewise, larger lures tend to be (although not exclusively) more ‘stable’ in the water and don’t get spat out of the bigger swells. If you’re fishing from the shingle and the waves are crashing up the beach then ideally, you want to keep a lure in the ‘zone’ (the gutter, just where the waves are turning) for as longs as possible – as this is when a bass will very often hit it.
Again, I’ve deliberated quite a bit recently and I really can’t decide whether a slim lure is more effective than a shorter, rounder pattern.
I keep thinking about the rigid 150mm Jim’s Lures Needlefish my clients and I have utilised to catch some beautiful bass this season, and the way the larger specimens have always been hooked on the middle treble or escaped – when they seemingly haven’t got a proper hold of the lure. Yet a softer, similarly sized senko will more often than not will be totally annihilated by a bass weighing over a 2lb – with absolutely no messing at all.
I’m also reading and hearing good reports about another longer slender lure, where the hooks are placed only at the tail end – Savage Gear Line Thru Sandeel (below). And although I’m yet to really fish with them, the way they look and move in the water will surely attract bass. A previous client of mine (George) lost a really decent specimen, that he estimated at 7lb+ on the Line Thru a couple of nights ago – he was devastated and still is the last time I spoke to him!
Articulated paddletail lures are generally rounder with the hook set halfway back therefore, in theory they will provide a more consistent hook hold when a bass grabs them; especially if the hook is already protruding. Moreover, weedless senkos and shads where the hook is buried in grooves at the midpoint of the lure are very effective unless small ‘tail nippers’ are about.
That split second moment when a marauding bass decides that the piece of plastic being towed through the water is worthy of eating generally goes one of two ways – it’s either taken very decisively or followed for further inspection.
I imagine many bass follow our lures without us ever seeing them, but recent events have made me realise that making them ‘stick’ once they have actually ‘nailed’ a lure is becoming even more important as ultimately, I want my clients to experience holding one of these magnificent, wild creatures.
My job is to accelerate the learning process, teach the methods and place people onto marks where they have a high probability of actually landing a bass they may have dreamed of catching therefore, if attaching and fishing with smaller lures increases the odds of achieving this, then it’s something I will doing a lot more!
Thank for reading,
Very interesting and thought provoking article I have recently been coming to the same conclusion. I recently caught on a 70 BFM but it’s really crap caster with the 3 gram shore head. Do you replace the hooks on the smaller lures you use like the 95maria squash
The only time I replace the hooks is when they’re blunt or rusty. Apart from that I will rarely play around with the hooks, particularly on diving minnow type lures such as the Maria Squash F95.
Small lures work,and for all sizes of bass.
That’s why fly fishing for them works so well. You could almost say ‘ the smaller the better ‘ up to a point.
Casting a fly into an onshore wind ( a very common situation ) is the problem of course.
From a boat one can cast with the wind,towards the shore if necessary.
Mike Ladle and friends always carried a fly rod and a lure rod on their expeditions.
I would go so far as to say that one is not a complete lure fisherman unless one uses both methods.