Buried In Tackle

Nightwalkers, Dardevles and Jitterbugs! Goblins, Frogzillas and Kill'r B's! Tackle shops have too many bass lure options (and lures named after horror-movie monsters).

Outdoor Life Online Editor

So which lures do you actually need? Here's what the pros have to say.

If you think you've got too much bass tackle, or wonder what to pick from the thousands of colorful lures adorning your local tackle shop's walls, you're not alone. Even professional bass fishermen admit that refining their tackle selections is a daunting and time-consuming proposition. But, not to be thwarted, we asked five pro-bass fishermen -- each of whom is an acknowledged expert in a particular lure category -- which lures they wouldn't hit the water without.

All five winced when asked the question and sighed as they fell into thought. But eventually each was able to discern what got him to the top, what has kept him there and what keeps paying the bills. For the fortunate angler who is just becoming a bass fanatic, it's a shopping list. For the rest of us, it's a starting point that will help to bring our personal tackle demon (that gnawing voice that says, "Buy, buy," whenever you walk into a tackle shop) under control.

The five bass pros we questioned all agree that once an angler develops confidence in a basic assortment of proven lures -- augmented by certain specialty lures needed for different seasons -- the real test of one's mettle comes in controlling color choices. They say that the exaggerated emphasis on color has always been a "bait" that less-experienced fishermen swallow with blissful ignorance. So, to make it simple, each pro divulged the colors he likes.

You'll also notice that certain companies are highlighted in this article. That's because most bass pros are sponsored by, and thus loyal to, particular tackle companies. Often, similar lures from other companies can be substituted for the lures listed here.

Spinnerbaits and Buzzbaits
Michigan's Kevin VanDam is especially fond of spinnerbaits and buzzbaits. VanDam, 32, has never missed a Classic in his 10-year career and has captured three B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year titles. This is why we asked him to reveal his must-have selection of spinnerbaits and buzzbaits.

VanDam says that one advantage to spinnerbaits is that they're designed to mimic baitfish, so choosing colors is mostly a question of water clarity. In his assortment, three skirt colors cover a very broad spectrum, with neon shad (a blue/purple iridescent hue) reserved for clear to stained conditions and the less-translucent white shad and brighter chartreuse shad reserved for stained to dirty water. Other patterns such as fire tiger, bream and rainbow trout are specialty colors added to the mix as the situation demands.

Both water clarity and depth influence VanDam's choice of lure size and blade combinations. He says a Colorado- or willow-bladed spinnerbait is more suited to shallow-water applications because the Colorado blade creates more vibration (it's round as opposed to willow-shaped), which makes it lift up and run shallower. A spinnerbait with two willow blades, on the other hand, is better in deep water because it can be retrieved much faster without rising up as much.

On the subject of buzzbaits, VanDam stresses simplicity. Black or white shad skirts and silver blades will always be central to his selection.

**Spinnerbait List **
(VanDam uses Strike King's spinnerbaits)
1/4-ounce (Colorado/willow; both silver);
3/8-ounce (Colorado/willow; gold Colorado, silver willow); 1/2-ounce (double willow; gold Colorado, silver willow); skirt colors:
neon shad, white shad, chartreuse shad.

** Buzzbait List
**(VanDam uses Titanium Elite buzzbaits)
1/4-ounce silver blade; 3/8-ounce silver blade; skirt colors: white shad, black.

Plastics and Jigs
A worm and jig man from his days of guiding at Toledo Bend on the Texas/Louisiana border, Larry Nixon has used these lures in a legendary career that inudes a 1983 Classic title, two Angler of the Year crowns and four B.A.S.S. MegaBucks victories. And he's still going: Last year he finished sixth in the Wal-Mart FLW Tour. Despite the difficulty of distilling one's plastics and jigs to a narrow list, Nixon was able to hone his choices to six styles and colors from Berkley's line of baits.

Plastics/Jig List
7-inch Berkley Power Worm (ribbon tail); 5-inch Berkley Power Worm (flippin'); 6-inch Berkley Power Worm (straight tail); 6-inch Berkley Power Lizard; 4-inch Berkley Power Craw; 4-inch Berkley Power Ring Worm; Berkley Power Tube; 1/4-, 3/8-, 1/2- and 3/4-ounce Strike King Pro Model Casting Jigs; 1/4-, 3/8-, 1/2- and 3/4-ounce Strike King Denny Brauer Flippin' Jigs.

**Plastic Lure Color Preferences **
June bug: Great regardless of water clarity.
Black/blue tail: A universal choice, except perhaps when the water is very clear.
Watermelon: Absolutely deadly in clear to slightly stained water.
Crab apple (plum/green): Excellent from post-spawn through the fall.
Green pumpkin: Close to watermelon in color, but works better in darker water.
Red shad: Good in lakes with heavy vegetation or tidal areas with brackish water.

Jig Color Preferences
Although Nixon carries a variety of jig sizes, his typical weights in both casting and flippin'-style heads are 1/4-, 3/8-, 1/2- and 3/4-ounce. With a matching Berkley Power Craw or frog, Nixon uses the following jig colors. Black/blue: Good in any water color.
Black/blue/purple: A color that Nixon uses in stained water instead of purple.
Chameleon brown (brown/green flake or green tinsel): A combo that's good for summer and fall.
Black/chartreuse: Best in stained water.
Brown: A standard for all water colors.
Brown/purple: A color combination that Nixon has found doesn't work in the East but for some reason is a killer in the Western United States.

**Finesse Plastics **
In addition to racking up numerous Western tournament victories, California's Don Iovino was instrumental in popularizing finesse techniques across the country. Known for his deepwater "doodling" technique, he has been on the cutting edge of finesse fishing for nearly two decades. When we called him to ask for his list he jumped at the chance, saying, "There are so many lure choices out there that someone has to clear up the confusion."

Here are Iovino's basic lure choices and his breakdown of when and where to use different color patterns.

Finesse Plastic List
Dezyner 6-inch straight-tail worm; Dezyner 4-inch straight-tail worm; Dezyner glass beads (orange); Iovino Peg-It; Brass slip sinkers (1/8-, 5/32-, 3/16- and 1/4-ounce); Owner J-Hooks (1/0 and 2/0); Owner darter heads (1/8-, 5/32-, 3/16- and 1/4-ounce); Pro-Jo weights/Top Brass (1/8-, 5/32-, 3/16- and 1/4-ounce).

Finesse Plastic Color Preferences
Purple/grape: Best on overcast days in deep water.
Green weenie: Spring choice in shallow and deep water.
Hot crayfish (light chocolate): A good choice for stained water.
Shad patterns: Work best for Iovino in salt-and-pepper and smoke/ silver flake.
Oxblood craw (orange/black/root beer): Does well in any water color.
Cinnamon/blue: According to Iovino, a real fish-killer in clear water.

Crankbaits
David Fritts of Lexington, N.C., used crankbaits to win the 1993 BASS Masters Classic title, the 1994 Angler of the Year award and nearly $400,000 on the Wal-Mart FLW Tour. For Fritts, crankbait selection starts with seasonal patterns and depth range. In spring and fall, his focus is in water measuring less than 10 feet; in summer, it's 10 feet or deeper.

With what he terms his "bare minimum" list of crankbaits, Fritts not only covers the water column, from the top to bottom, but also spans the gamut of lure action with tight- vibrating Fat Raps for clear water and wide-wobbling Wiggle Warts for stained water.

Choosing the color pattern is simple, says Fritts. It boils down to crayfish colors in spring and shad or chartreuse patterns in summer and into the fall.

Crankbait List
No. 5 and No. 7 Rapala Shad Rap; No. 5 Rapala Fat Rap; Storm Wiggle Wart; Rapala Rattlin' Rap (1/2-ounce); Storm Mag Wart; Rapala Down Deep.

** Topwater lures**
Even though Texan Zell Rowland has made 10 BASS Masters Classic appearances in his 29-year tournament career, his biggest splash in the sport is still a tournament victory in 1986 at Tennessee's Lake Chickamauga. He won it with a Rebel Pop-R, which set off the chugger mania that swept the nation in the late 1980s. Ever since, Rowland has been known as a topwater-fishing guru.

After a few minutes of thought, Rowland says, "There are really only five types of topwater baits: buzzbaits, prop baits, chuggers, minnow baits and stickbaits (walking baits). The smaller the bait, the lighter the line, the more numbers of fish you catch. The minute you upgrade the lure and line size, the quality of the strikes improves. So if you know that the reservoir you're fishing tomorrow doesn't have a high percentage of four- to five-pound bass in it, you shouldn't throw a bait that's nine inches long. As for color choice, there are only certain instances when topside color makes any difference.

In most situations the fish are going to see only a silhouette anyway. Color only matters when the water is very clear or when you're using minnow baits that can be jerked under."

** Topwater Lure List**
Original Zara Spook; Super Spook Jr.; Spittin' Image; Rebel Pop-R P60; Rebel Pop-R P65; Chug-R; Smithwick Rogue; Smithwick Super Rogue; Rebel Minnow F30; Rebel Minnow F20; Tiny Torpedo (baby, 17/8-inch); Devil's Horse AF200; Devil's Horse AF100.

ly covers the water column, from the top to bottom, but also spans the gamut of lure action with tight- vibrating Fat Raps for clear water and wide-wobbling Wiggle Warts for stained water.

Choosing the color pattern is simple, says Fritts. It boils down to crayfish colors in spring and shad or chartreuse patterns in summer and into the fall.

Crankbait List
No. 5 and No. 7 Rapala Shad Rap; No. 5 Rapala Fat Rap; Storm Wiggle Wart; Rapala Rattlin' Rap (1/2-ounce); Storm Mag Wart; Rapala Down Deep.

** Topwater lures**
Even though Texan Zell Rowland has made 10 BASS Masters Classic appearances in his 29-year tournament career, his biggest splash in the sport is still a tournament victory in 1986 at Tennessee's Lake Chickamauga. He won it with a Rebel Pop-R, which set off the chugger mania that swept the nation in the late 1980s. Ever since, Rowland has been known as a topwater-fishing guru.

After a few minutes of thought, Rowland says, "There are really only five types of topwater baits: buzzbaits, prop baits, chuggers, minnow baits and stickbaits (walking baits). The smaller the bait, the lighter the line, the more numbers of fish you catch. The minute you upgrade the lure and line size, the quality of the strikes improves. So if you know that the reservoir you're fishing tomorrow doesn't have a high percentage of four- to five-pound bass in it, you shouldn't throw a bait that's nine inches long. As for color choice, there are only certain instances when topside color makes any difference.

In most situations the fish are going to see only a silhouette anyway. Color only matters when the water is very clear or when you're using minnow baits that can be jerked under."

** Topwater Lure List**
Original Zara Spook; Super Spook Jr.; Spittin' Image; Rebel Pop-R P60; Rebel Pop-R P65; Chug-R; Smithwick Rogue; Smithwick Super Rogue; Rebel Minnow F30; Rebel Minnow F20; Tiny Torpedo (baby, 17/8-inch); Devil's Horse AF200; Devil's Horse AF100.