Keep variety of fishing lures in tackle box to fit location, conditions

Bass fishing baits have changed quite a bit since James Heddon hand-carved a frog lure from a piece of wood he picked up on the way to a local fishing hole in the 1890s.

Heddon’s lure must have worked all right, seeing as how he went on to establish a major tackle business.

Of course, others were fishing with lures long before Heddon came along. So ever since the first unknown pioneer of bass baits pitched a plug into the water, changes and improvements have been made to increase the chances of landing a “bucket mouth.”

The bass baits of today, although usually made of modern materials, still in many ways resemble the baits antique dealers now spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to own.

When considering what it takes to catch a largemouth bass, you obviously must consider their diet. As juveniles, largemouths consume mostly plankton and insects, but as their size grows, so does the size of their prey. Bass regularly forage on smaller fish, crayfish and frogs, but they also have been known to consume small birds, mice, rats and small snakes.

Gizzard shad are the main forage of largemouth bass in Lake Monroe. A mature gizzard shad will average in length between 5 to 7 inches. At this size, gizzard shad are too large for bass under 14 inches to consume. Smaller bass in Monroe feed on spotfin shinners and brook silversides, which grow no larger than 3 inches.

Crayfish are plentiful in the lake, but bass must compete with numerous other species for these bottom dwellers.

Therefore, the recipe for bass fishing success on Lake Monroe seems relatively simple — use a bait to imitate a mature gizzard shad and an angler will be fishing a representative bait of the main forage of keeper-sized, Lake Monroe largemouths.

But as any tournament regular will tell you, there’s nothing simple about consistently producing limits of largemouths on Monroe or any other bass fishing lake.

Tournament anglers and recreationalists alike always are looking for ways to stack the odds of success in their favor when in pursuit of largemouth bass. Whether anglers are ripping spinnerbaits in the shallows, or walking a Carolina rigged rubber worm along a rocky point, fishermen are interested in the latest and greatest models to add to their bass bait arsenal.

Southern Indiana has a number of local tackle shops fully stocked with the lures tournament anglers have historically proven successful and lures new to the market striving to become the latest “must have” bass bait.

Swimbaits often are very realistic looking and do a great job of producing fish in lakes with high shad densities. Chatterbaits also are good producers because they are a very versatile lure. Soft plastics remain a hot ticket item for local bass fisherman.

Lake Monroe tournament angler Steve Hanson said his go-to baits are a Carolina rigged worm with a shaky head and a green pumpkin colored tube jig. He also pointed out that few baits have historically produced as well as the Rapala Shad Rap.

Using a Shad Rap seems to make sense considering the number of shad in Lake Monroe. Chrome and black or chrome and blue Rat-L-Traps and spinnerbaits are two more lures every tackle box should carry.

An angler can easily fill a boat with tackle for catching bass. The guys and gals on the tournament trails have boxes of baits stuffed in every available compartment.

Adjusting to the time of year, water temperature, water level and countless other factors will determine which bait is best to use at any given time. By keeping a variety of new and old, an angler is doing their best to cover all the bases.

See you down the trail.

Brandon Butler writes a weekly outdoors column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at