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What are you doing to that fishing lure?

By By Otha Barham / outdoors editor
June 13, 2003
There are three things certain in this world: death, taxes and if you manufacture a flawless fishing lure, some fisherman will alter it…take it brand new right out of the box and do something to it. I don't care if you market a lure and go around and find all the alterations anglers have made on it and incorporate all of them into a new version. Some guy will get his needle nose pliers out and bend that revised sucker! It's written somewhere in the laws of human behavior. We can't help ourselves.
My first experience with this anglers' quirk was in 1959 when I took a new job and learned that several of my co-workers were dedicated bass fishermen. I would soon discover that in fact the group formed a curious cult that held bass fishing up there near the level of religion. They each fished almost daily and they were good at it.
The strange thing about this group was that they all used the same lure. I mean they used this one lure all the time, summer and winter, windy and calm, murky and clear. And they didn't even own any other lures just dozens of this same one. Mind you it is a good lure; the one that holds more world fishing records than any other, a Mepps spinner. Of course it was not just any model Mepps spinner. Their lure was a Mepps Comet Number 2, and, yes, it had to be customized; altered just so.
First you took your pliers and you unscrewed the body of the lure from its central wire and that made the one trailing treble hook accessible. You removed the little red plastic tube that served as a spacer on the treble hook and also the squirrel tail hair that covered the shank of the hook. You threw those away and threaded a white Arbogast hula skirt onto the hook backwards (so it would flair in the water.)
Reassembly procedure
You screwed the central wire back into the body, and it looked like a lure again, but you weren't through yet. The small lure needed more weight for casting, so you pinched a one-sixteenth ounce lead shot sinker onto the central wire snug up against the lure's line eye. You now had the official lure of this improbable cult.
They ordered the lures and skirts by the gross. They hooked a lot of stumps because the lures were not weedless. They also hooked bass by the boatloads. The lure will still catch bass today, often when nothing else will, but make the above alterations or wallow in angling mediocrity.
A very popular topwater lure in recent years has been Rebel's Pop-R. But every serious bass angler knows that for the lure to be most effective, you must sand a bit of the protrusion off its lower lip. This causes the bait to spit just the right amount of water forward as the lure is "popped."
And there are few bassers around who have not taken the small, pointed spinners fore and aft off Smithwick's spinning size Devil's Horse and installed the larger, rounded blade spinners from the big casting size "horse." This gives more slosh to the lures action, allowing it to almost stay in one spot and churn the water, theoretically driving otherwise sane bass to lose all inhibitions and smash the trembling lure with intent to murder.
Impaled pork
Bleached and preserved pork rind "frogs" must be added to the hook of a Johnson Silver Minnow as it comes from the Johnson factory or the thing is practically worthless. Everyone knows this. Have you ever seen someone fishing a JSM without a pork rind on its hook? It doesn't happen.
Spinnerbaits never come with the spinners that anglers think they need for local bass. But spinners are easily removed and replaced with copper ones or black ones or chartreuse ones or willow leaf ones because the fishers have lots of practice swapping spinners on every single spinnerbait in their boxes!
It will never be known how many Rapala lips have been shrunken by whimsical rasping with a finger nail file. Computers cannot calculate the number of plastic worms that have had an inch pinched off the head end.
It's a good thing bass lures don't come with one of those prohibitions found on mattresses and government checks: "Do not alter, remove any part, fold, spindle or mutilate this fishing lure, subject to fine and/or imprisonment" If that were the case, we would need a lot more lawyers, and hoards of us would lose a lot of fishing time to court hearings and jail cells.