Choosing the Right Size Lure for Bass Fishing

There are thousands of options for anglers to choose from when it comes to lures. Choosing the right size is an important component of the selection process.

Start off by choosing a lure that matches the length of the forage in the water you are fishing. Adjust the overall length up or down based on the number of bites that you are getting. 

Some lures are very tiny and catch bass. Other lures are huge and catch bass. This guide will take some of the confusion out of the selection process and get you on track to catching more bass this season.

In this article, I will be discussing the right size lure in terms of length. Weight is another topic and includes a wide range of factors that need to be considered. 

Understanding Bass Choose Prey From Instinct and Past History

Life under the water is harsh. The wrong choice can spell instant disaster and often have life-ending consequences.

Bass, like all creatures, grow and survive from taking in more calories than they burn. Makes sense. 

But think about a nice hand-sized bluegill. The sharp spines on the dorsal fin of a panfish 8-10” in length can cause a huge problem for a bass not big enough to eat it. The bluegill can get lodged in the throat of the predator and soon they will both die. 

A huge northern pike would have no problem with a bluegill that size. 

The forage needs to be in that optimum range to catch numbers of fish. This “range” is different from one body of water to the next, but there are several factors that we can use to steer us in the right direction.

Selecting Lures Based on Forage Size

This is the first factor to consider when hitting the water. 

In some waters, shad are a primary forage. But what kind of shad? Threadfin are smaller, often only 3-4” long. Gizzard shad can grow over 10” in length. 

Other common baitfish species include alewives, emerald shiners, bluegills, and even trout. 

Then there is the crawfish factor. Is there a good population of crawfish in the waters you fish? If so, what size are they?

I caught a spotted bass on Table Rock Lake one year that looked like it had just swallowed a snake. It appeared there was a long tail hanging out from the mouth of the bass. I opened the jaws up and saw the biggest crawfish I have ever seen stuffed into the throat of that bass. What looked like the tail of a snake was actually the antennae of the crawfish. The crazy thing is, that bass still ate my jig.

Pay close attention to the life that you see when fishing.

Are the bluegills small or the size of your hand? Are there a lot of them?

Flip some rocks around the boat launch and look for crawfish. Do your best to match the size and coloration you find. 

Below is a table that gives average lengths of potential forage bass may eat. Starting off with a lure that is similar in length will allow you to make adjustments as needed.

ForageAverage Length in Inches
Threadfin Shad1″
Gizzard Shad11″
Emerald Shiners3.5″

How to Adjust Lure Size

Once you have determined what lure you are starting with, based on the forage you are seeing, it is time to pay attention to what the bass are telling you.

The number of bites you get can fall off if your lure is too small, but they most definitely will fall off if your lure is too big.

Are You Catching a Lot of Little Bass?

If you know the waters you are fishing have a good population of bass, but it seems that all you are catching are little fish, then it is time to go up in size. 

Maybe that Ned Rig is just bringing in little 6 inch bucketmouths cast-after-cast. The larger bass are basically telling you that the small offering is not worth their effort on that particular day. 

Have I caught big fish on a Ned Rig – yes. But if I am not catching anything of decent size, it is time to make a change for a heftier offering.

Are You Not Catching Any Bass?

Sometimes we start off too big. Maybe I noticed lots of 8” gizzard shad so I tied on a big glide bait. 

If I fish this lure for a while and nothing is happening, there is a real good chance that I need to size down to get some strikes. 

If the skies are clear, no wind, and the sun is beating down, then there is a good chance you will need to go finesse. Maybe that Ned Rig is perfect for these conditions.

We often think of not catching anything as a result of the wrong presentation or wrong location. The wrong size of the lure is often overlooked and adjusting length can have almost instant results. 

Final Thoughts

It is common to tie on a lure and not give it much thought – especially if we are catching a few bass.

We could be doing better though. Making slight length adjustments either up-or-down could potentially mean doubling or even tripling the number of fish we catch.

Tight lines. Be safe and make sure to encourage someone today. You never know how you may change their life forever.

Isaiah 6:8

Steve Rogers

Steve spends his time filming and writing about bass fishing. You may even see him in your area. If so, stop and say "hi."

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