"Bayou Bill" Scifres
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The Best Artificial Lure for Bass
Copyright © 2004 by Bill Scifres

With Father's Day tucked away in a safe place, fishing for largemouth bass comes to the fore again and with it comes a question I hear often: What's the best artificial lure for bass?

Ask 100 Hoosier "bassers" that question and you will get numerous answers. It's a matter of what lure produces best for an angler.

When I try to put the tag of "best" on any lure, I remember the classic philosophy of Roscoe "Rocky" Haulk, my childhood bass-fishing mentor at Good Ol' Crothersville where we spent many pleasant hours on the two forks of the Muscatatuck River.

Rock owned a 10-foot flat-bottom, Jon-type boat that may have been the original bass boat. It had a frame of wood ribs covered with a shell of light tin plate which made it so light that we could easily carry it over, or around, log jams and other obstructions we encountered on the river. However the tin plate had a strong propensity for developing tiny rust holes, and this led to Rock referring to his little craft as a "three-sticker," an indication of the number of sticks of gum he had to chew in a day on the river to keep our feet dry.

We revamped the bow of the boat with an old kitchen chair, the back cut low. This made it possible for one angler to sit high and face forward to spat artificials into the prime spots for lunkers. Sitting high made it possible to see underwater cover where bass lurked. The other angler sat facing forward on the back seat to keep the "conning tower" angler in position to hit the good spots.

Our unwritten law provided that the angler guiding the boat could fish so long as he kept the front-seat angler in good position to fish. Guiding the boat in the free-flowing river was easy with a homemade canoe-type paddle.

Although my favorite lure in those carefree days of river fishing was the No. 3 Hawaiian Wiggler (with 20-tail skirt)-- my favorite until the Jack's Dual Spinner came on the scene, I used many lures if my favorite did not produce.

At mid-day on those warm summer afternoons bass would go into hiding and refuse to take anything. Impatient kid that I was, I would change lures often, dropping my rejects in the bottom of the boat behind the conning tower while muttering uncomplimentary things about their bass catching potential.

The older and wiser Rock, who was deadly with his old favorite Johnson Silver Minnow (a single-hook spoon), would pick up my rejects with the admonition: "Hell, Bill, they'll all catch bass," and promptly prove his point by hauling a flouncing bass into the boat . . . with my rejected lure.

So, as Rock taught me, all artificial lures will take fish. All you have to do is give them a chance.

Before the late Fred Arbogast's Hawaiian Wiggler lures became popular in Southern Indiana, a neighbor presented me with a collection of lures he had plucked from logs and other places one summer when the river was low.

I don't know how I disposed of them (I probably lost them on other logs), but one was such a terrible-looking lure that I never tried it, although I carried it with other lures for many years.  It was a half-penny like chunk of metal on a wire with a spinner behind the metal, and a hook (dressed with black hair) behind that. Somewhere, as I recall, there was a red eye involved--a bead, as I recall.

I carried the crazy-looking thing for years while fishing the river, but never tied it on. Finally, one day while bank-stalking bass, I had gone through every lure I owned without much success.

I was standing on the roots of a maple tree, looking down into clear water of the river as it swept through the inundated tangle of tree roots some four feet below.

I told myself there had to be bass in those tree roots, but how would I get them to hit a lure. I had tried every lure I owned . . . except for the red-eyed monster.

"It can't be any more ineffective than the other lures I have been using," I told myself. So I tied it on.

Stripping four or five feet of line off my old South Bend No. 450 bait casting reel, I tightlined the lure into the water and watched as it did a crazy little dance very close to the roots.

WHAMMO! I was fast to a nice bass.

The lure continued to take bass throughout the afternoon. Unfortunately, I hung it on a log in a deep pool late in the afternoon and could not retrieve it. Nor, search as I might, could I ever find another lure of its kind.

The miracle of fishing artificial lures lies in the endless, ongoing parade of lures--some them (like the Hub's Chub, Sparkle-Tail, and Colorado Spinner) brainchildren of Hoosiers. Others, like the Rapala lures and the Lutz Boomerang, came from as far away as Finland and Texas.

To further illustrate the point that artificial lures--like books--cannot be judged by their covers (appearance), many years ago a lure company (Rebel Lures, I think) sent me a box of lures named Ashleys. There was the Baby Ashley, the Tiny Ashley (shallow and deep runners). Along the way, Dan Gapen's Hairy Worm, and Ugly Bug have been strong favorites of Hoosier anglers. 

Many of these lures still are on the market. 

I handed several of the Ashleys out to anglers I knew for testing, but never got much favorable feedback. But I still carried a couple in my shoulder-strap stream-fishing bag and one day I tied on a shallow-running Tiny Ashley.

I couldn't believe the way bass attacked it.

Unfortunately, the box still contained only a brace of the killers. I guard them with my life.

Click thumbnail image to see enlarged view.

lures.JPG (53473 bytes)
Some of my old favorites are depicted here: 
The Johnson Silver Minnow and Jack's Dual spinner are upper left and middle row left. Top and middle rows right are, respectively, the original Jack's Dual Spinner (one spinner blade missing) and the other (middle row right) is a modern version of the lure. Bottom row (left to right) is Gapen's Ugly Bug, Tiny Ashley, and the all-time favorite surface lure, the Jitterbug.

All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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