The forgotten ones

Updated: June 30, 2006, 4:47 PM ET
By Louie Stout | BASSMASTER Magazine, June 2006
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Some anglers believe that tackleboxes of top pro anglers are stocked with secret lures, experimental baits and custom-made fish catchers that the general public rarely sees.

There is some truth to that. Pros often are the first to get their hands on tomorrow's hot, new baits. They also carry unique colors and back porch creations for those niche situations when conventional lures aren't doing the job.

But what many recreational anglers overlook is that older baits still get top shelf treatment in the pro's tacklebox.

"Tons of new lures are introduced every year to satisfy anglers' hunger for that one unique bait that might give them an edge," notes Alabama pro Timmy Horton. "What many fishermen often overlook is that there are a lot of lures that have withstood the test of time and are very popular with touring pros."

Shoving older lures into a closet or dumping them at garage sales could be a mistake, he adds. There are several all-but-forgotten lures that are universal fish catchers and should be considered "go-to" baits in a wide variety of fishing situations.

"The problem is that anglers get so hung up on new creations that they forget about the baits that have always caught fish," Horton says. "There's nothing wrong with staying on top of trends or trying new lures. But if you're replacing the baits that have withstood the test of time, you're making a grave mistake."

What are these lures? We asked a few pros to name venerable lures used on the Tournament Trail and tell us why they belong in your tacklebox. Here are a few:

6A Bomber

There may be situations when other crankbaits catch bass better, but none is as versatile as the Model A. And in Horton's mind, the 6A Bomber may be the most dependable crankbait ever made.

"For whatever reason, the 6A catches fish from the time the water temperature rises above 45 degrees and continues to catch them until the water drops below 45 degrees in the late fall," he explains. "It has neutral wobble — not extremely wide or extremely tight. Perhaps that's why it is so versatile."

Horton says the crankbait performs well on line as light as 8-pound test or as heavy as 20. It's good around vegetation or scattered wood and rocks.

"I attribute a lot of its success to the pie-slice-shaped pointed lip and teardrop body style," he describes. "It really makes a unique rolling action and deflects off cover. I've used the 6A to catch smallmouth from Lake St. Clair (Michigan) and big largemouth from Sam Rayburn (Texas)."

The 6A Bomber has a reputation for running true right out of the box, and you really don't need to modify the lure to make it better.

"The biggest thing is to keep the hooks sharp," Horton adds. "But that's true of any crankbait."

4-inch Ring Worm

That's the first worm that Byron Velvick fished as a youngster and one he turns to today whenever conditions are tough.

Velvick says he'll put the small ring worm up against any crankbait or other bottom bouncing lure and guarantees it will catch fish. He's used it for tempting bedding bass in the shallows and working schooling bass on deep structure.

"You can throw a black ring worm in any lake or pond in the country and catch fish," he says. "But it really shines when fishing is tough." The rings, he adds, are important because they displace more water and help bass find the small worm as it scoots along the bottom. Those rings on a short bait add some bulk without diminishing its finesse presentation qualities.

"Fish also hold onto it better, and I think it's because the rings give it a more natural feel," Velvick adds. "The rings tend to slow the fall of the bait, and that adds to its natural qualities."

Depending on the wind, he fishes it on a Texas rig with a 1/8- to 3/8-ounce slip sinker. Black, he adds, is a color that works nationwide.

"Guys like to get fancy with metalflake or colored tails, but really, a straight black ring worm is going to produce the majority of the time," notes Velvick.

Tiny Torpedo

When bass are feeding near top and ignore other surface lures, Kenyon Hill reaches for Heddon's small Torpedo. The lure is about 2 inches long, has a cigar body with a blunt nose and a propeller fashioned to the rear of the bait.

"It's nothing fancy; no bells and whistles," explains the veteran Oklahoma pro. "It's just something that steadily catches fish."

Unlike most topwaters that walk side-to-side, the Torpedo is more of a straight presentation. Hill calls it a "twitch-and-pause" bait that he prefers when the water is a little off-colored.

"The prop on the rear creates a lot of noise and disturbance, so you can fish it slower in off-color water," he describes. "If the fish are drawn to a faster moving buzzbait but not eating it, the Tiny Torpedo is a good choice."

Hill's favorite color is chrome, although white with silver ribs runs a close second. He modifies the lure slightly by replacing the rear treble hook with one that has feathers.

"After you twitch the bait and let it settle, those feathers continue to oscillate and produce a subtle action," he notes. "There are days when that can make a big difference."

Big O Crankbaits

Rick Clunn says most anglers don't appreciate the qualities of a big, fat-bodied, shallow diving lure. Finding good ones, especially those made of wood, is not an easy thing to do.

"I'm talking about the entire family of big-bodied, square-billed crankbaits that seem to fade in and out of popularity," explains Clunn. "It's a unique bait that manufacturers seem to have a problem duplicating."

Clunn's first exposure was in the 1960s when he drew the original Big O designer Fred Young as a partner in a tournament. Young gave him a few baits and showed him how to fish them, and Clunn has been trying to find something like them ever since.

"There are some plastic versions out there that will catch fish," he notes. "In fact, Lucky Craft recently introduced some that come as close to the Big O as I've ever seen. But there is something special about those old wood baits."

The big, round body and square lip are key ingredients. The bait is designed to run shallow and fish around cover.

Wooden crankbaits run hot and cold in the lure market, Clunn says, getting hot after a big win such as Takahiro Omori's victory in the 2004 Classic with a Bagley Balsa B.

The problem with wooden lures, he explains, is the difficultly manufacturers encounter in trying to get material of the same consistency. As a result, not all baits perform similarly.

They also tend to be more expensive and less durable than plastic so anglers become disenchanted.

"If you have a dozen, only two or three would produce the right feel, vibration and action," he explains. "A lot of them won't maintain that action throughout a cast. The ones that do are like magic."

Clunn says the proper way to fish Big O-style crankbaits is to burn the bait rapidly through shallow water, then pause momentarily when the lure bumps an object. That triggers a lot of strikes because the buoyancy of wood makes the lure react differently than plastic.

"The average guy will try 20 casts and if he doesn't get the rod jerked out of his hand, he won't do it anymore," says Clunn. "But this is a bait that needs help to generate quality strikes."

Clunn says most Big O-style baits being marketed have smaller bodies than the original because "the average guy won't buy that big of a bait. The bigger ones don't stay in the market long."

He also believes a big advantage of wooden crankbaits over plastic versions is they don't have rattles inside hollow chambers.

"Much fishing success is predicated by pressure and the artificial influences we put on the fish," he explains. "Almost all crankbaits have rattles, so I think it's important to use something different than what the fish see on a daily basis. That's why wood baits remain so good. I'm not saying rattles are bad; if everyone goes to using silent baits, I'll go back to using baits with rattles."

No. 7 Shad Rap

If Normark's No. 7 Shad Rap were easy to throw on baitcast tackle, it might be America's favorite crankbait. The reason, says Arkansas pro Stephen Browning, is it matches up with just about any body of water you fish or type of bass you pursue.

"Just look at the lure and you can see why," says Browning. "It's about the size of most types of baitfish and has such a natural appearance." Although the Shad Rap catches bass year-round, it is particularly effective in cold weather. Browning says he's caught fish on it in 40-degree water.

"I like to cast it on 6- or 8-pound Berkley Sensation to help it get a bit deeper and allow me to make longer casts," he describes. "This little bait can be a pain to cast because it catches in the wind, so you need the smaller line to cast it farther."

Furthermore, some pros believe that heavier line restricts the Shad Rap's action. Many fish it on spinning tackle and with line sizes in 10-pound test or less. Browning, on the other hand, prefers baitcast equipment but uses a medium action rod.

The No. 7 Shad Rap weighs 5/16 ounce and measures less than 3 inches. It's made of balsa wood, and while Normark offers plastic versions, most pros prefer the original. Natural shad colors or black and silver are most popular.


When Kevin VanDam wants to antagonize big bass living around isolated weed clumps, he turns to Luhr Jensen's classic wooden topwater. The Nip-I-Diddee has a rear propeller (some versions have one on the front, as well) and comes in 3/8- and 5/8-ounce sizes. VanDam prefers the larger size and the silver sparkle color.

"It's a great postspawn bait — anytime bass are territorial. And it works best in dirty water," he describes. "Whenever I see bass busting around isolated cover, I know it's going to catch them."

The key, he adds, is to keep the bait in the strike zone yet pull it hard enough to make the propellers churn the surface. He rips the lure once, then pauses, rips it twice and pauses again.

"Try to break it up and work it erratically," he describes. "You want it to make that gurgling, propeller sound."

VanDam prefers earlier versions made with three hooks dangling from the belly. Modern copies have only two sets of trebles.

"I also tune the front propeller so it pushes more water," he adds. "If you bend the blades so the ends are straight up, it creates more disturbance. If you bend them back, it pushes less water. I want a little angle in the blades so they create more noise, but it's a fine line and requires a little tuning. The key is to jerk hard without making the bait jump out of the water."