Fishing with Artificial Lures
Fishing: An Introduction
Almost all of the United States’ coastal and freshwater fisheries are regularly accessed by sport fishermen. Sport fishing is a massive economic factor in the United States, bringing considerable revenues to regions with attractive fisheries. Remote regions often produce the greatest interest among anglers and thus receive the greatest proportional localized economic benefits. It is estimated that over 44 million Americans fish for sport.
Artificial Lures Defined
The term “artificial lures” refers to the man-made, non-natural objects used to attract game fish and lure them into biting. The majority of artificial lures are designed to imitate some form of “live” or “natural” feed found in nature, though some simply convey a look or action that causes a feeding response or other impulse that may cause some game fish to strike. Lures are manufactured in many shapes, sizes and styles and are made from different materials, namely wood, metal, lead, hard and soft plastic, feathers, fur and yarn often a combination of more than one material.
In fact, not every species of fish is liable to strike an artificial lure, which for some anglers excludes them from the popular definition of “game” fish. In effect all fish termed as game fish can be caught on artificial lures at least some, if not most, of the time. That does not mean, nevertheless, that one particular type of lure will be more useful than live or natural bait, or even another type or color of lure. However, some lures develop a history of success on particular species over time. Many prove successful on a local level before gaining extensive popularity, while others are shaped to copy a specific forage species found only in a limited geographic range, which may limit their usefulness when used elsewhere.
Freshwater versus Saltwater Artificial Lures
Many of the same basic artificial lure types are used in both freshwater and saltwater fishing. The primary differences lie in the size, design and color of lures used in each environment. For example, jigs, plugs and soft plastic lures are all popular lure types. In addition a freshwater version of each lure type will likely be smaller and colored differently than one used for salt water.
There are, on the other hand, particular lure types or specific styles that are used only in fresh or salt water. A rubber-skirted leadhead jig is an extremely popular lure for freshwater bass however rarely, if ever, used in salt water. Similarly, large trolling lures used for offshore saltwater fish have little or no value anywhere in fresh water.
Generally, there are more variations and styles of the same lure type in freshwater fishing, with many lures designed particularly for certain species. In saltwater angling, on the other hand, there are fewer variations and styles; however each one may attract to a wider variety of game fish. One particular style of diving plug may only work well on largemouth bass in fresh water, while one style of diving plug may attract several different saltwater species.
Saltwater lures also tend to be more brightly colored, often times in a color scheme that doesn’t imitate anything found in the water. Another important difference is the type of material used for a lure’s hooks. The majority of freshwater hooks are carbon steel coated with a bronze finish. As a result of the highly corrosive nature of salt water, most hooks used on saltwater lures are stainless steel with some sort of corrosion-resistant finish, for instance cadmium-tin or chrome-zinc.
The range of food consumed by fish is clearly large. When choosing the most useful lure, the angler should become familiar with the behavior of the fish being sought and the food they consume, and then match the lure to that behavior and diet. Secondly, a solid perception of the distinctiveness of each lure will enable the angler to make each work to its designed ability.
A second major factor in lure selection is the condition of the water being fished. Depth, temperature and transparency should all be taken into account. Generally, deep water requires the use of a lure that can reach the desired depth and perform in its designed fashion once there. Warm water temperatures often require lures that can be worked at a quick pace, while cold or hot temperatures may require lures designed for a slower presentation, depending on the species of game fish being pursued. Clear water usually calls for visible qualities like bright, shiny colors and finishes or a lure that produces a lot of flash; in stained or dirty water, where visibility is less important, dark colors and lures that vibrate tend to be more useful.
Live vs. Artificial Lures
The effect of bait type on catch-and-release mortality has also been studied in some detail. Hooking mortality has been found to be considerably greater with natural baits than artificial lures in striped bass (Wilde et al., 810- 815). In the same way, worm-baited hooks have been shown to be ingested deeper than artificial lures and flies in bluegill, resulting in increased mortality (Siewert and Cave, 407- 411). In a comparison of hooking mortality of walleye caught on live and artificial leeches, mortality was 10% and 0% respectively, the use of leeches also resulted in deeper hooking (Payer et al, 188-192). Results from smallmouth bass also show 11% mortality when using minnows and 0% when using spinner lures (Clapp and Clark, 81-85).
In recent times the use of scented artificial bait has increased. It is thought that scented artificial lures may be attacked by the fish in a similar manner as live bait, thus increasing mortality. In support of this proposition, Schisler and Bergersen (570-578) found that hooking mortality was considerably higher when fish were caught on scented lure than when non-scented artificial lure was used. On the other hand, Dunmall et al. (242-248) found that there was no effect of scented artificial lure on catch-and-release mortality of smallmouth bass. These studies suggest that the use of organic lure, and possibly scented artificial lure, results in deeper hooking which increases the chance of injury during hook removal and increases the length of time that the fish are exposed to air during hook removal. Therefore, catch-and-release mortality can be reduced through the use of artificial lure.
Clapp, D.F. and R.D. Clark Jr. Hooking mortality of smallmouth bass caught on live minnows and artificial spinners, 1989:81-85, North American Journal of Fisheries Management 9.
Dunmall, K.M., S.J. Cooke, J.F. Schreer and R.S. McKinley. The effect of scented lures on the hooking injury and mortality of smallmouth bass caught by novice and experienced anglers, 2001: 242-248, North American Journal of Fisheries Management.
Payer, R. D., R. B. Pierce and D.L. Pereira, Hooking mortality of walleyes caught on live and artificial baits, 1989:188-192, North American Journal of Fisheries Management.
Schisler, G. J. and E. P. Bergersen. Post-release hooking mortality of rainbow trout caught on scented artificial baits, 1996: 570-578, North American Journal of Fisheries Management.
Siewert, H. F. and J. B. Cave. Survival of released bluegill, Lepomis macrochirus, caught on artificial flies, worms, and spinner lures, 1990: 407-411, Journal of Freshwater Ecology.
Wilde, G.R., M.I. Muoneke, P.W. Bettoli, K.L. Nelson and B.T. Hysmith. Bait and temperature effects on striped bass hooking mortality in freshwater, 2000: 810-815, North American Journal of Fisheries Management.