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My Handmade Jerk Bait

Picking Baits

Fishing Lures have evolved in the last 50 years to become more flashy, noisey, realistic, everything. The progressive of improvements to shape, coloration, sound, action, and consistency made by bait companies can now create hyper-realistic baits that should be more dialed in on getting a fish to bite. These latest and greatest baits are offered in a variety of styles that fit the taste of the angler. While these ornate lures may be appealing to anglers, isn’t it more important that the fish eat them? The days of mainstream wooden plugs are long gone but artisan bait makers are bringing on a wave of even greater lure variability.

Important Factors for Bait Selection

Lure Coloration

The importance of having the right color pattern on your lure depends on the fish. Each fish has different strengths when it comes to eyesight. Catfish typically can’t see very well but tarpon see everything. In addition, many fish are unable to see certain colors humans can with walleye being a prime example. Walleye can’t see the color blue which likely looks like varying shades of gray. While humans can see around a million different colors, tarpon are said to be able to see 100 million or more. While the quality of sight and ability to perceive colors varies for each fish, the environment can play just as big of a role.

Environmental conditions like water clarity, color, and depth change how fish see your bait. As light passes through water, colors get filtered out. If the water is murky or stained the colors of your bait will appear differnt or fade at greater depths. Lures that have bright colors like yellow, orange, and red, are great for shallow water where there is plenty of light. As the water gets deeper and therefore darker, colors like blue, green, and sometimes black can be seen more easily.

Lure Size

Picking the right size lure is tricky because predatory fish are opportunistic feeders, but to survive they also have to be picky. Throwing a bait that is too big can discourage bites for any number of reasons. The two most common explanations are that food is abundant meanwhile the fish doesn’t need to use the energy to catch a larger meal, or the bait looks unusual and isn’t worth the risk. Sizing down is typically an effective strategy because smaller baits are an easier meal. The only downside to smaller baits is they disturb less water and don’t have the same presence that can draw fish toward the bait. This presence can be influenced by things other than size which include the sound and action of the bait.

Lures today typically are offered in several different sizes and patterns. Which means you have the options to buy a large and small version of a lure which can allow you to adapt to smaller or more picky fish on the fly. However a handmade lure is either a one off bait or one of a very small batch which would be almost impossible to replace.

Lure Action

The action of a lure is how it moves while passing through the water. This movement is usually a combination of body roll, wobble, and flutter that gives the bait unique swimming characteristics on the retrieve or while trolling. Depending on how vigorous the action is of a bait will change how much water is disturbed which gives off vibrations that let fish know the lure is nearby without being able to see it. The addition of small rattles inside the bait can add extra sound vibration to the bait which helps draw fish in from a greater distance. This can be particularly helpful in water where visibility is limited. It’s clear that fish use vibration to locate and hunt prey but when it comes to lures too much noise can scare away fish and ultimately work against you.

When it comes to lure action, the commercially available lures consistently have good and repeatable action. For handmade baits, there is a possibility that the lure can be but most of the lure you can buy is done by well-established makers.

How Important is Lure Selection?

Conventional wisdom says picking a lure with the perfect color, pattern, size, and action for each fish is the best way to get a bite. However, one of the most popular bait makers has shown how little lure can matter. YouTuber Nate Marling also known as Marling Baits, has a video where he caught fish on a block of wood.

The proven steps to getting a bite are first finding the fish, then putting bait in front of them. Once that is accomplished, then lure selection comes into play. For most fish in most bodies of water, the commercially available baits will be effective. When targeting particularly fickle eaters like musky or heavily pressured fish, handmade baits can give you an edge. These baits are unique and create a presentation that fish are less likely to be skeptical of. Although handmade baits are less cost-effective than what can be bought at the local tackle shop, sometimes it's also just nice to have beautiful baits that are special to you.