WOLLITZ: Anglers find ways to take advantage of novelty baits

Novelty fishing lures have been around for as long as people have fiddled with artificial bait.

Clever crafters applied their imaginations to repurpose everyday items to trick fish into striking. It’s reality as art. Think Andy Warhol as a lure designer.

Meant to occupy shelf space more than tackle box compartments, novelty lures nevertheless do catch fish. Plugs shaped and painted like beer cans, bottle cap spinner bodies, kitchen spoons and even replicas of body parts all have fooled fish.

This might lead us to judge fish as gullible and witless. Maybe, but the truth is we all have experienced days when the fish would not be fooled by the most real – even live – baits.

So what’s the real story? Are the fish smarter than people or witless knuckleheads that would eat wood, steel and plastic as readily as a juicy nightcrawler?

The answer, of course, resides with the angler who is tossing offerings to the bass, walleyes, crappies and muskies in our lakes and rivers. It’s what we do with the lures we deploy that brings the magic that persuades the fish to strike.

Nothing in the watery world is even close to the gaudy colors and fluorescent hues on certain fishing lures. Lures dressed up by chartreuse, hot pink and blaze orange paint are popular among anglers, as are the crazy patterns like Wonder Bread polka dots and even the wrap design of Poland walleye pro Sammy Cappelli’s Vexus boat.

I own a stockpile of crankbaits that are as bright as neon signs and never hesitate to tie on a chartreuse model as eye-catching as highway workers’ safety vests.

Plugs designed like Budweiser cans are among novelty collectors’ favorites and some anglers do not hesitate to put them to work on their favorite bass lakes.

I have seen in-line spinners with Bud Light and Coca-Cola bottle-cap bodies and have no doubt they would catch just as many fish as their conventional cousins Mepps and Rooster Tail.

Among the most productive topwater lures are the sputtering egg-beaters anglers call buzz baits and surface choppers. They spit and gurgle as the angler winds them across the surface of the water. The best of them produce a squeaky sound, which is almost annoying to human ears, but apparently rings the dinner bell for bass, pike and muskies.

Wild colors and unusual shapes have certainly earned their place in the lure designs we anglers embrace.

But realism also is a best-seller. This actually makes a lot of sense – more so, in fact, than the gaudy genre – as they mimic the food that fish favor. Lures shaped and painted so lifelike that they would seem to be able to swim on their own earn prime spots in anglers’ tackle boxes.

I’ve seen grasshopper lures that appear to be capable of leaping into flight, soft plastic crawfish that could end up in a Louisiana mud-bug feast, and swimbaits that could pass as live bluegills, perch and rainbow trout.

The options are numerous. We have just about anything the human imagination can come up with to take to the lake to catch fish.

When it’s all said and done, of course, it is up to the anglers to make their lures – real or surreal – work productively on the business ends of their lines.

Jack Wollitz’s book, “The Common Angler,” is a collection of stories that explain why anglers are passionate about fishing. Send a note to jackbbaass@gmail.com.


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