HOOK AND FUR
By Bob Brown
Every year fishermen are inundated with a myriad of new fishing lures and hype in an effort to establish what ends up in their tackle box. Manufacturers do a pretty good job of keeping fishermen off-balance with new products, but are the products worth the money, and do they perform as advertised or is it just a lot of hype to get sportsmen to fork out hard earned cash?
It has been well-documented that companies that produce food for dogs and cats concoct and package their products that are more appealing to pet owners than to their pets. It would seem fishermen are the same easy target when it comes to fishing lures. It has been estimated fishermen spend $500 million annually on fishing lures.
Lure technology has been part of the sport for many years. The first lure patent for bait in the United States was issued in 1852 for a dinning room spoon modified for a lure. Since 1976, 2,630 patents have been issued for new lures and other innovations aimed at attracting fish. For the past few decades, claims of fishing success have focused increasingly on testing and research; however hype still plays a major role in sales.
Shopping for fishing lures can be overwhelming. Many companies make a lot of lures in a lot of sizes, shapes and colors. Some of those lures go through cycles of being hot and then are quickly forgotten, while others enjoyed years and even decades of popularity. Color is the most noticeable characteristic of lures arrayed on store shelves. Most fish perceive colors, but not with the same intensity or range of hues many lures are coated with. Lures are designed to mimic movement, color, sound and taste to motivate fish to strike with motion being the most prevalent characteristic.
In his article “Luring Them to Bite” (Harris Farmer’s Almanac 2014), outdoors writer Kim Long wrote, “The eyes of largemouth bass have photoreceptors that are only able to perceive wave lengths of light linked to red and greens. Other colors are muted in the underwater environment. Trout eyes are even less receptive to color. For most fish, the only critical perception may be shades of gray while outline and size constitute the major components of prey detection. One study of largemouth bass concluded adults prefer to strike at prey half the diameter of their mouths, a relationship that is the same with lures. During insect hatches, especially that of their favored mayflies, trout can be just a picky, striking only at artificial flies that closely match the size of the mayfly. For fishing success, anglers equipped with a variety of sizes of the same lure may have more success than those fishing with a variety of colors.”
One of the current trends in lure design is soft bait that imitates a variety of live food, and can be fished slow or fast. Soft bait found its origins in the late 1950s and early 1960s, with small worms and grubs molded from hard rubber. However, the stiff rubber used did not produce the flexible action and effectiveness of modern soft plastics. In 1972, lure manufacturer Mister Twister patented the Curly Tail concept, utilizing the flexibility of silicone-based plastic to create a rubber lure with more life- like action.
The concept of soft bait is that fish will hold it in its mouth longer than rigid lures. There is no evidence this reaction actually works, but it did prove effective in laboratory conditions.
The raise in soft bait popularity has also raised the popularity of using scent. Used in fishing, scents are intended to mask unwanted odors, such as oil on human skin and insect repellant. The most popular scents are food attractants designed to improve the chances fish will find and strike at artificial bait. Some scents used are licorice, garlic, coffee, salt, and fish. Science backs the concept smell and tastes are important when fish are seeking and finding food. However, hunger and aggression are more potent impulses for striking primarily by movement rather than smell or taste.
So what about the dozen or so new lures purchased in previous years? Were they not the greatest of the great? There will always be lures that will be an improvement on the oldies and goodies. However, it might be worth remembering the lure that worked last year most likely will work again this year, and might work even better now that you know how to fish with it. It should also be remembered if it wasn’t for ingenuity and innovation we would still be fishing with a barbed pole.
Bob Brown can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org