How to Know What Bass Lure to Use – Break it Down Like This

There are thousands of bass lures on the market. Add in color choices and the combination of possibilities is vast. 

Bass lure selection can be divided into horizontal and vertical presentations. Horizontally presented lures tend to search and vertically presented lures are used to pick apart cover. Understanding the difference is the key.

It may seem overwhelming at first, but after reading this article you will be more confident in the lure selection process.

Bass Lures That Search

The great mystery each time anglers go fishing is “where?” Where are the bass at?

Having a basic knowledge of bass behavior and seasonal patterns gives us a starting point, but it still comes down to searching almost every time we hit the water.

A wake bait is a shallow running crankbait that runs just under the surface. It is a great searching lure.

What Does it Mean to Search?

The easiest way to think about this process is in terms of covering water.

How much water can we investigate without fishing too fast?

This type of searching requires lures that are presented in a horizontal manner. This includes crankbaits, jerkbaits, Carolina rigs, spinnerbaits, and various topwaters.

When in search mode, I always keep in mind that catching a fish is a bonus. My real goal is to get the bass to reveal themselves. 

Where are they sitting? Do they come from deeper water? Are they shallow? Are they holding on a specific type of cover or structure?

Any information the bass can give me is key. 

I am looking for bass that follow my lure, take a swipe at it, or hopefully, eat it.

Once I have some information and find bass activity, then I need to decide if switching to a vertical presentation is better and therefore select a different lure.

Bass Lures that are Presented Vertically for Picking Apart Cover and Structure

Lures that have a vertical presentation are, by nature, presented in a slower manner. This is why I like to say they pick apart cover and probe structure. 

Let’s say that during the searching process with a spinnerbait I notice a bass come out and investigate my lure from a weedbed and then turn back. This tells me bass are holding in the area. A lure like a Texas-rigged worm will likely investigate those weeds more efficiently and thoroughly.

As an angler, the thought process has switched from searching to probing. 

Vertical presentations are perfect for this.

Factors for Choosing Horizontally Presented Lures When Bass Fishing

Some of the first things to look for when hitting the water is the clarity, wind speed, and visible signs of life.

Water with stain to it, a strong breeze, and seeing lots of panfish or baitfish in the shallows indicates lure selection that can work that depth zone efficiently.

I may select something like a topwater buzzbait, shallow crankbaits, and even spinnerbaits.

If the water is clear, no wind, and I am not seeing signs of life, my horizontal lure selection needs to search deeper water.

Carolina rigs, deep diving crankbaits, and suspending jerkbaits are all great choices for these conditions.

Always be thinking about which part of the water column you want to search.

When bass are hiding in thick vegetation like this, Texas-rigged lures that probe are excellent choices.

Factors for Choosing Vertically Presented Lures When Bass Fishing 

When diving into the tackle box to select this classification of lures, I always think about the cover or structure.

If vegetation is the cover that needs to be picked apart thoroughly, then weedless presentations like Texas-rigged plastics will get the nod. These lures slide through weeds well and can be worked without snagging up. A plastic worm is a great choice for fishing vegetation. (Here is a detailed article on Texas Rigs.)

I add in flipping jigs when the cover is wood or docks. Soft plastics still work great here as well.

When the probing process needs to be done in deeper water, then I move to a drop shot rig with small plastics. Shaky head worms also probe the depths efficiently. 

Always keep in mind when choosing a vertical lure how efficiently will it work without getting hung up? And will it get to the target depth in a reasonable time? For example, when drop shotting very deep water I will switch out my traditional light drop shot weight for something heavier. If the bass are sitting on bottom in thirty feet of water I don’t need to use a 1/16 oz weight that takes forever to get there.

Have Two Rods Ready 

When possible, have at least two rods always at the ready. 

One with a searching lure and one with a probing bait. 

This will allow you to adjust to the situation in seconds and use the best tool for the job. As your bass fishing equipment selection grows over time, expand your rod selection to three or four searching lures tied on and ready and the same for vertically presented offerings.

Keep Color Selection Basic to Start

There is no need to become overwhelmed with color selection when first learning to bass fish. 

Green pumpkin, black-blue, white or silver, and one more color like Junebug, is all you need.

You can also think about color selection in terms of the prey species the bass will be feeding on. Horizontal lures will mimic baitfish of some sort. This could be minnows, shad, or panfish. Choose the colors accordingly.

Lures bouncing on the bottom or falling through the water column will not only mimic baitfish, but also crawdads, frogs, insects, etc.

Here is a more in-depth article on color selection.

Keep It Simple When Bass Fishing

Search and then probe. Search then pick apart.

That’s it. 

There are times when searching lures are going to catch lots of fish. When this happens I may never pick up a soft plastic. Then there are moments when I locate bass on docks and start picking apart each dock I come across. The searching lure may not get used the rest of the day. 

Adjust to what is in front of you and enjoy the process. Build confidence in a couple of lures and presentations and you will be on the way to enjoying one of the world’s most popular sports.

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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