Choosing the Correct Creature Bait
Recent years have seen an entirely new lure type - creature baits - become increasingly popular among bass fishermen. In fact, there are literally hundreds of models on the market today. However, picking the right one - and knowing when to throw it - is still a necessity for anglers hoping to score stringers of big bass.
Elite Series pro Matt Reed of Madisonville, Texas utilizes creature baits with a great deal of success. In fact, he had a top 10 finish during the Elite Series Grand Lake event just last year while throwing primarily creature baits. Although there are countless colors and configurations of creature baits being offered these days, Reed says he's found it helpful to simplify both his choice and use of creatures.
“I throw creature baits about one-third of the time,” said Reed. “It's all condition-controlled, of course, but I really think creature baits excel when fish are aggressive. If it's not a finesse-type situation, I think fish react better and strike creature baits more.
“I've really gotten to where I pretty much throw the YUM Woolly Hawgtail anytime I'm throwing a creature bait. I like that bait because it's kind of an `in between' size. It's not quite a full-blown Brush Hog, but it's bigger than a Baby Brush Hog. I used to fish several different baits, but I've pretty much settled on that as my all-around model.
“If you're fishing extremely dirty water, you may need to use a bigger bait to move more water. You can also use a bigger bait if the water's warmer or the fish are really aggressive. But, for most situations, that bait seems to be the ideal size.”
When it comes to color selection, Reed is just as concise.
“I think color is important, but I also think we overemphasize color. I really think if you have green pumpkinseed, watermelon/red, and black/neon, you can go fishing. Those colors will cover most situations. Sure, you could fine tune it with other colors, but I believe if you're in the ballpark with color and you have the right bait, you'll catch fish.
“Green pumpkinseed is my absolute favorite color. I like that color because I think it covers the widest spectrum of water conditions. It works well in real clear water and it will work well in near dirty water. If the water's real dirty, you need to switch to something like black/neon. But, green pumpkinseed will work in just about any other type of water.”
Keeping with his no-frills approach to creature baits, Reed says he's narrowed the styles he employs when he ties on creature baits as well.
“I basically fish a creature bait two-different ways,” said Reed. “I'll fish them on a Carolina-rig over deep structure. I also flip them around shallow structure.
“I don't do a whole lot different when I'm using a creature bait than I would otherwise if I'm fishing another bait in that style. I always drag a Carolina rig, no matter what bait I'm fishing. I think the key with the Carolina rig is controlling the speed. The one thing I will do different on my Carolina rig is use a 4/0 offset roundbend hook.
“When I'm flippin', I fish pretty much like I would if I was using a jig. And, 90 percent of the time, they'll hit the bait on the fall. The thing I do differently, again, is the hook. When I'm flippin', I always use a straight-shank hook. A straight-shank hook gives you a much better hookup ratio. It's more of an upright hookset when flippin' and a straight-shank hook improves your hookup ration in that situation.”
As a final bit of advice, Reed says it's important to develop confidence in creature baits if you intend to throw them.
“I always say fish to your confidence,” said Reed. “It's important to have confidence in what you throw. Creature baits are actually pretty easy to adapt to, because you fish them the same style as you would other baits. But, if you want to fish creature baits, it's important to develop confidence in them.
“Anytime you have an aggressive fish situation - use a creature bait. The fish will react better to them than they will to other baits. If it's deep structure, use a Carolina-rig, just like you would with a lizard or worm. If it's shallow, use them like you'd use a jig. Do the same thing you would with those other baits, just find a color and bait you like.”
*Matt Reed photo courtesy of Jeff Samsel
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