If there is one certainty about fishing, it is that tackle is always evolving. No matter the reason — manufacturer innovation or angler demands — you can count on updated gear. When we, the anglers, can’t find what we want in the market, it is up to us to come up with creative solutions. We need to improvise and make modifications to our lures, in the case of this column, to get what we need. Some modifications are easy, while others take time and talent.
A couple years ago, Captain Jerry Sersen was running low on a specific color Clatter Shad rattle trap. The black back/gold face lure (section 1, left) is a rockfish catcher extraordinaire. They can no longer be acquired. You can, however, find unpainted models or strip the paint off of some beat up baits. Jerry passed me a few lures and asked if my lure-painting friend could paint them up.
Jerry requested a modification to the paint scheme. He wanted the black back to fade into purple before hitting the pearl sides (section 1, middle/left). These traps worked as well as the original. Of course, I snuck a few of my own traps into the batch for painting, not wanting the good captain to have an upper hand on me. I also figured that the paint would work well on other hard baits. AES obliged my request to paint some crankbaits and poppers (section 1, middle/right and right, respectively). All three of the lures in this color pattern cross over nicely for largemouth and smallmouth bass.
There is an easier solution to changing the appearance of hard lures if you don’t have an airbrush-able friend. JigSkinz (section 2, left) is a tubular wrap for your hard lures. The first step in the process is to get a pot of water boiling. Remove the split rings/hooks from the lure. Then, simply cut the wrap to the size of the lure, punch a small hole for belly hardware, and slide the bait into the tube. Hold the lure by the rear hook hanger with a pair of forceps or needle nose pliers, and dip it in the boiling water. The JigSkinz will shrink in circumference on to the lure. Videos are available on YouTube. There are several natural baitfish patterns to choose from including blue back herring, and menhaden (section 2, middle and right).
If you are into perch fishing, you know how effective a beetle spin (section 3, left) can be. Sometimes the nubby little plastic will only draw strikes from the smallest perch in the school. The lightest ones sometimes don’t work deep enough. My fellow Patapsco perch pounders, Bob and John, modify the basic premise. When fishing deeper waters, they swap out the light jig head for a heavier one (section 3, middle). To entice a larger class of perch, they remove the beetle body and thread on a twister tail grub. The bigger plastic and tail action often entices the bigger fish.
Inline spinners (section 4, left) are also effective for white perch. Sometimes they are more of a hassle. The smallest of perch seem to get all three hooks of a treble in their mouth. Unhooking them is a chore. These hooks are also known to rust quickly. There are some models with single hooks, but they are light weight versions more suitable for freshwater trout. A quick fix is to cut off the treble with a pair of side cutters. Be careful not to cut the wire or you will ruin the bait. Connect a short shank O’Shaughnessy hook to the spinner with a split ring (section 4, middle). You can adorn the hook with some silicone shirt material (section 4, right).
A shaky head worm (section 5, top) is a prime example of a finesse lure for largemouth bass. When the bite gets tough, the lifeless worm presentation will get you bites. Many anglers use the straight tail Zoom Trick worm and the like. Sometimes even the long skinny worm gets neglected. What’s an angler to do? Pinch off about 1 ½ inches or so from the front of the worm to make it shorter. In finesse fishing, sometimes short and lifeless is better than long and lifeless.
A popper (section 6) is a great lure for aggressively feeding bass and stripers. Many come adorned with flashabou and bucktail hair on the rear hook as shown on the lure. Many anglers find that a feather hook (left) gives more action and life to the lure. The feathers contract and flare with each pop and pause. They create just enough drag to slow forward movement of the lure, even though you are moving it quickly. Feathers are easy to tie on to treble hooks. You can knock out a few while watching a ball game. Remember to seal the threads. Clear fingernail polish works well, though your wife may have questions as to why you need it.
Tweaking your lures to fit your needs can be fun. If the market does not offer what you are looking for, make some modifications of your own. Tinkering can be as easy as shortening a worm or as complicated as finding someone who can paint hard baits. Nonetheless, these modifications can get you a few more, and better, strikes.