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
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
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
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
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
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.
thumbnail image to see enlarged view.
of my old favorites are depicted here:
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.