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The Lure of Fishing Lures - How Many is Enough?

I remember watching TV some years ago and being too regularly interrupted by an advertisement for a super duper, whizz bang, sure fire, fresh water Bass lure.

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Seems this lure was so good it could only be purchased by "phoning this number now".

There were a couple of things about this lure that were a genuine worry. First, I do not know too many spots around New Zealand where freshwater bass can be found in any numbers. The population of fresh water Bass in NZ is pretty reliably estimated to be just about exactly zero, with a margin of error of 0%.

Second is the general notion of a 'new' lure.

Brand new truly unique lures are pretty hard to come by, in fact most are really just a variation on a theme.

 All manner of modern lures have their origins in products turned out over hundreds and hundreds of years.

In Fiji, (and other Pacific Islands) they have been using the central stem of a sago type palm as a lure for open sea pelagic fish for hundreds of years. The core of the palm is cut into 20cm lengths. A solid head of around 5cm is left, and the tail section is flayed to produce a skirt. In principle the lure is no different to modern skirted lures. The old ones still work.

The ubiquitous plastic jig with it's double claw hooks screwed into the back has been around for hundreds of years.

The metal jigs now popular in this country are all based on what has gone before. These types of jigs have been in use in most parts of the world for hundreds of years and longer. Bibbed lures, surface popping lures, flies, flasher rigs, etc., all can be traced back centuries and more.

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If all lures are merely variations on a few themes, why do we buy so many?

In the interests of accurate reporting, and to try and shed some light on this riddle, I undertook an extensive market research program. Using totally random sampling techniques, I undertook an in-depth tackle-box contents survey, and opened my tackle boxes. The results of this survey were very illuminating.

Not including big game lures, there were 103 lures in the tackle boxes. (Not including a heap of soft plastics) Now this number, 103, is quite important in what follows.

To try and get some sort of order into my research, I split the lures into three broad categories; jigs, surface lures, and minnow type.

There were 47 jigs, 31 surface lures, and 25 minnows. To break the numbers down even further, I separated the lures into those I regularly use, and those I don't.

25 of the 47 jigs had not been used for years if ever. 19 of the 31 surface lures, and 18 of the 25 minnows had rarely been wet. The mathematicians, and statisticians, amongst you may find this interesting.

53% of jigs are never used, 61% of surface lures are never used, 72% of minnows are never used.

As a then tackle shop owner I seriously considered closing this line of enquiry, and finding another subject to write about. I persisted.

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I decided to go through each unused lure, one by one, and being really hard nosed, toss out those lures I was unlikely to use again. This proved to be a long exercise.

Going through lures is a bit like going through a photo album. Photographs are really memory joggers. They serve to remind us of an instant that represents a whole sequence of events. The story behind and around each photo is bigger than any single image can ever tell.

Watching people going through photos following an event such as a fishing trip is interesting. There they are, looking at one photo, but to each person that one photo brings back a different memory. Each memory based on the same theme.

But I digress. As I examined each lure I was reminded of the reason I had bought it, and very often the last time I had fished with it, or it's now lost brother. I was reminded of fishermen I had fished with who had used the lure to good effect. There were good, some great, fish that had been caught on this or that type of lure.

Memories of fishing situations where I could have used a particular lure to good effect, but had to make do with a less than adequate substitute, flooded back. I could recall particular lures that had performed exceptionally well. Even though I had bought other lures of the same type, brand, colour, etc., I had never been able to emulate that one lure's success rate.

There were lures that I knew to have been successful for other fishermen. I had been with them when they had caught fish with the lure. So I had bought one too.

I had taken it fishing, but somehow I always seemed to use some old favourite or other. It was only when the going got tough that I pulled out the new lure.

Why did I never try the new lure when the fish were on the bite? The lure languished in the bottom of the tackle box, to be pulled out when nothing else worked, and was unlikely to.

At the end of the exercise it will not be too surprising to learn that my tackle boxes contained 103 lures. Those of you with good memories will know that this is the same number with which I started out.

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Lures are like clichés. They are very handy to have around to meet specific situations, and toss out quickly, to great effect. I guess in the end it all boils down to the famous 80:20 rule which has appeared in my articles more than once.

For each of us I guess that 80% of our lure caught fish are caught on 20% of our total number of lures. Trouble is that the 20% of lures, are different lures, for each of us.

In the end selecting a lure may be a bit like the advertising business. Lord Lever, owner of the soap powder giant, once said, "I know 50% of the money I spend on advertising is wasted, but until I can find some way of telling which 50%, I will go on spending the 100%".

We had a cast-iron lure guarantee in my tackle shop. All our lures were guaranteed to catch fish, if used in the right place, at the right time, in the right way, and you were good enough.

Postscript:

Just to reinforce the lunacy of lure lust, I did not count in dozens of soft plastic lures for both salt and freshwater. I have literally hundreds of fly-fishing flies and close to a hundred freshwater lures. And before I forget, there are about 40 big game lures in the tackle cupboard. Crazy! But just try and get me to part with any.


fish illustration by Bish


Article written by Tony Bishop


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