(Editor's note: The following is the latest installment in a series of fishing tips presented by The Bass University. Check back each Friday for a new tip.)
Bass University co-founder Mike Iaconelli has a trophy case full of reminders of his exceptional tournament exploits, but while a large part of that success is predicated on his ability to try new things, he also credits a willingness to go back to basics for keeping him grounded.
One of those basics is assessing lure size. He admits that “it can be kind of intimidating,” both for the beginner and for the advanced angler, but he’s developed a system: “For me, there’s a real easy answer based on a couple factors.”
The first factor is to “match the hatch.” In other words, he wants to know what the fish in a given lake are feeding on. If he can learn the size, color and shape, and then replicate them, he’s likely to be in the ballpark. “It’s real easy,” he explained. Start with a Google search when you’re at home to find out what their primary forage might be, and then supplement that when you arrive at the fishery by being observant.
Matching the hatch is the simplest and typically the most important factor, but Ike integrates two other factors into his decision-making: water clarity and the activity level of the fish.
While there are certainly exceptions, with respect to water clarity, the general rule of thumb is that the clearer the water, the more subtle he will be. The fish can inspect his lures more carefully and might be more intimidated by a hard-charging, oversized bait. In dirtier water, where they can’t get a really good look at his presentation, he’ll often go bigger. Using plastic worms as an example, in a gin clear section of the lake, he might start with a thin, straight-tailed, 4-inch watermelon-colored worm. In the dirty headwaters, his starting point cold be an 8-, 10- or even12-inch thick bodied worm with a hard-flapping ribbon tail.
While there are certainly other considerations that he’ll take into account to fine-tune his choices, Ike’s third main factor is the activity level of the fish that he’s chasing. When the bite is tough, his general inclination is to “go small.” When he encounters fish slashing into schools of bait, moving frequently and biting consistently, that’s when his choices skew larger. Some of the circumstances in which fish tend to have a high activity level include low-light conditions (first light, last light or overcast skies) or on lakes when the bass are comparatively unpressured. These are the circumstances in which larger, gaudier or louder lures might provide a substantial benefit.
There are certainly no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to selecting lure sizes, and sometimes the bass will defy the conventional wisdom, but by trying to match the hatch and then factoring the conditions that confront you on a given day, it’s possible to shorten the road to success.
If you want to learn some of the additional elements of Ike’s simple strategies for selecting lure sizes, including the specific worms and swimbaits that he often employs, check out his full video, available only by subscribing to The Bass University TV.