Pro anglers have learned they need an edge in tournament competition. A hundred anglers casting the same style lure over several days is bound to educate the fish. Some pros make some minor changes to their lures to give them a slight edge and something different the bass hasn’t before.
"I only fish a lure straight out of the package about 30 percent of the time,” said B.A.S.S. Elite pro Aaron Martens of Leeds. “Most of my changes are usually minor”
Martens and other pros doctor up their lures with a little minor surgery. It may be a hook change, some added color or trimming the skirt on jig or spinner bait. In a few cases the surgery may be more in depth like adding weight or shaving down a plastic lip.
Same day surgery
Most of the lure modification are realively simple and require only a few minutes for a lure doctor to complete. Many pro anglers change out their hooks on crankbaits. They either go for a different size, style or brand to fit their current conditions. However, changing hook sizes can alter the action of the lure. As always some follow-up testing is required.
“Permanent markers make it easy to add some color or stripes to lures,” Martens said. “A touch of super glue will help hold on skirts and trailers on spinnerbaits and jigs.”
Gluing the trailer or skirt in place they will stay on longer. The angler saves time by not have to adjust the skirt every other cast. Also, small pieces of soft-plastic worms or grubs can be added to a spinnerbait to hold a trailer hook in place. By using a contrasting or brighter color there is some added flash when the skirt flairs.
Skirt trimming on spinnerbaits and jigs is probably the most common surgical procedure among lures. The skirts can be cut and shaped for a different profile. If bass are short-striking the bait the skirt can be pruned back just enough to cover the hook.
Louisiana pro Greg Hackney trims the weed guard on all of his bass jigs. He uses a small pair of scissors to trim the guard to a 45-degree angle that barley touches the hook. The surgical technique still keeps the lure weedless yet allows for better hook-ups.
Hackney also shapes his jig skirts to resemble the profile of a bait fish. He says his jigs look more like a bream than a crawfish.
Martens turns his bass jig where the skirt hangs over the head. He then shaves the skirt back where all of the strands are the same length. When in the water the jig skirt will have some taper and appear more natural. He wants the skirt to extend about one-quarter to one-half inch behind the hook.
Serious nip and tuck
Some lure modifications are a little more serious and may require an overnight stay on the surgical table. Crankbaits by far see major alterations. Some procedures could result in the crankbait becoming incapacitated and no longer fishable.
“I have messed up a lot of crankbaits,” Martens said. “You can expect to lose a few when making some of the more drastic changes.”
One method Martens uses on deep-diving crankbaits is sanding down the thickness of the plastic bill. He will sand from the bottom side of the lip to make it thinner. The thinner profile of the bill allows the bait to dive quicker and about a foot deeper. However, the slimmed down plastic bill will break easier.
Some pros will alter the shape of the crankbait bill. On longer bills or lips they will shorten the front of the bill. This will impart a different action form the lure on retrieve. Also, on square-bill baits the corners of the lip can be rounded off. This procedure will also change the lure’s action.
Adding a small amount of weight to a crankbait can change the buoyancy and action. This procedure is not for the faint of heart or your favorite crankbait. Small holes are drilled into the body cavity and molten lead or epoxy is added for weight.
“These procedures can sometimes put the lure out of balance,” said Martens. “Drill too deep and the epoxy can silence the rattles.”
It is wise to make the modifications in small increments. Frequent testing in a bucket of water or swimming pool will help determine if the surgeries are working. Once the desired action and buoyancy is achieved seal off the hole with epoxy or super glue.
Other types of crankbaits can undergo surgical procedures to completely change lure action and appearance. On shallow running crankbaits the lip can be completely ground down to the lure body. This works best with baits with the line tie on the nose of the bait. The lure will act like a lipless crankbait that runs shallow.
Drill a few small holes forward of the front hook in hard-plastic jerkbaits. Allow water to fill the holes before casting. The added water will cause the bait to dive deeper with little change in the action. A technique to make jerkbaits stay shallow is to heat the plastic lip with a cigarette lighter. You can use a pair of pliers to gently bend the lip downward toward the belly.
Another trick employed by anglers to slow down a crankbait is to drop one in boiling water. The hot water will cause the plastic to bulge or well out. The fatter lure will have a different wobble on the retrieve.
Anglers have been doctoring up lures for decades. Adding color, weight or trimming away unnecessary items. The reason for the changes is to give them an edge in tournament situations. But, as Martens points out, the lure modifications are not magical -- you still have to find the fish.
Charles Johnson is the Star’s outdoor editor. You can reach Charles at ChrJohn7@aol.com.