Kenneth Kieser: Old school lures remain worthy

Staff Writer
The Examiner
Old school lures like these still produce fish.

Many years ago, an old man told me that the majority of lures were designed to catch fishermen, not fish. This is a falsehood. Truthfully, every lure is effective in certain conditions.

Sporting goods store shelves are filled with the newest innovations in fishing lures that imitate live bait, especially crawfish, baitfish, insects, worms or snakes. Larger fish like big bass love easy meals that require burning limited energy. Most lures are designed to imitate exactly that.

Lures are manufactured in every color imaginable. White, yellow, black and chartreuse have always been old-time-favorites, but every color has a purpose. You can find charts on the internet showing the best colors to use for time of day or night and different shades of water clarity.

Imagine being a newcomer to fishing and walking into a sporting goods shop where a dozen shelves are loaded with lures – a blur of shapes, sizes and colors. So where do you start?

How about going old school and begin with these old favorites:

Inline Spinners: Mepps, Roostertails, Panther Martins, Shysters and others have a metallic-shaped blade, weighted body and dressed treble hook attached to the wire of the lure. Inline versions work best when you maintain a constant retrieve to keep the spinner turning. The constant spinning creates flashes in the water and a fish-attracting vibration.

Safety Pin Spinners: Spinnerbaits were once called "safety-pin" lures, because their shape resembles that of an open safety pin. A lead head of varying weight is combined with a wire framework, sharp hook and one or more flashing spinner blades.

This type of spinner is a proven big bass lure. Most are tipped with pork rind or plastic tails and fished over heavy cover. There are numerous quality versions on the market.

Spoons: Al’s Gold Fish, Daredevils, Johnson Silver Minnows, Little Cleo’s and others are excellent for a variety of fish. Plated spoons like Al’s Gold Fish twist side to side on the drop, creating a light-reflecting flash that makes predator fish think a wounded baitfish is falling and thus, an easy meal. They work well on a slow to medium speed retrieve, making fish think a minnow or shad is trying to escape.

Spoons like the Johnson’s Silver Minnow work best when tipped with pork rind or plastics with plenty of movement and color. Daredevils are occasionally tipped with a smaller piece of pork rind or plastic.

Plastic worms: Few lures have made more of an impact in fishing than plastic worms. This important addition to angling was first introduced in a harness with spinners. Eventually the harness disappeared and anglers started Texas rigging worms by sticking the hook in, then pushing it through the worm and back into the side, making it weedless. Many of the worms were commercially scented with bass-appealing smells.

Today anglers use worms with Ned Rigs, Shaky Heads, Nose Hook Rigging, Do Nothing, Wacky Rigging, pegging worm weights and Texas Rigging. There are other ways and all are effective when conditions are correct.

Plastic worms should be fished slowly. I let mine sink, then gently lift my rod, keep the line tight, then let the worm drop. You might just feel light pressure, see the line moving sideways or the bass may take off like a runaway train. You might only feel a couple of taps – good reason to use a sensitive but stout rod with at least 10-pound test line.

Topwaters: There are few moments more exciting than watching a big bass blow up the surface while taking your topwater lure. They hit hard by design, to kill or stun their prey for an easy meal.

Jitterbugs, Hula poppers, Zara Spooks, Tiny Torpedoes, Devil Horse, Rebel Pop-R, various plastic frogs or mice and many others versions are excellent. The best topwater fishing is generally dawn, dusk or possibly under heavy, dark cloud cover.

Topwaters are best fished slowly with twitches and pauses. Bass love to find an easy dinner and you are selling that vision. A lure fished faster – for example, a Zara Spook – may also trigger strikes. Let the bass show you what they want.

Crankbaits: Crankbaits are lures made from hard plastic or carved from wood with a plastic lip designed to push it under the surface. Different angles of the lip determine depths. Some are lipless and shallow divers.

These unique lures mimic the swimming action of a baitfish, crayfish or other prey. Hungry predator fish attack crankbaits while hoping for an easy meal.

Crankbaits were so named in the 1970s because you are constantly turning the reel handle to give them life. There are a zillion ways to fish a crankbait, depending on the lure and conditions.

Luhr Jensen, Rapala, Rebel, Bomber, Strike King, Cordell, Norman and other companies all offer top quality crankbaits.

Warning: Avoid bargain-barn lures that are cheaper but with little useful quality. They may look like a brand-name version, but there are many differences you can’t see. For example, occasionally a big fish will pull the hooks out of cheaper lures. I have seen this happen especially with large bass or big trout.

Finally, check the internet for numerous ways to fish these time-proven lures. Start fishing with the basics before trying expert tactics. Have fun learning your fishing techniques and soon you will be fishing like an old pro.

Sometimes old school is best!

– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at

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