Checking Out the Fish Bait

TRUE FISHERPERSONS have certain responsibilities during the first few weeks of the season. Fishing vest pockets must be scraped clean of the once-squirming and now-shriveled night crawlers from last year. In tackle boxes, forgotten peanut-butter sandwiches must be retrieved; all hooks, sinkers, and Band-Aids, reorganized. Then, happiest task of all, the bait shop must be visited to ascertain exactly what the fish will eat this year.

Live bait is whatever dies as soon as you leave the tackle store: minnows, worms, and insects in a stage of development that does not involve legs. This season’s hit, according to those in the know, is euro larvae—wormy-looking things dyed brilliant blue, pink, or yellow.

Lures, on the other hand, are fake bugs made of some combination of metal, plastic, hairy stuff, fuzzy bits, and things found in your clothes-dryer vent. The theory here is that you can reuse them, fish after fish, and that humans can think up more delicious-looking insects than God did. Some appear to be floating eyeballs, apparently a desirable thing, and others are assembled into bits of thoraxes and midsections, making no anatomical sense. Then lures are hung with wicked-looking hooks in one or two or twelve places and painted so that their little fake faces carry stunned expressions.

The names are incredibly silly: Hackel-Ant, Bad Dog, ThunderStick, the Enhanced Original Worm and (no kidding) the Swedish Pimple. Hula Hoopers look like weirdly spotted minnows appetizingly chewed in half. Slimy Slugs and Moss Mouses are fairly self-descriptive, and aimed at attracting bass. Who knew bass ate mice? Who knew mice liked to swim? Perhaps most disgusting and imaginative are the faux amphibians (glowing chartreuse frogs) and plastic chordates (slugs wearing sequins).

The biggest trend in lures is to produce all these varieties in violently glow-in-the-dark colors, says helpful fisher-guy Pat Crouse of Osseo’s North Country Hunting & Fishing Sports shop. “Electric green, blue, and pink are hot this year.” So now you know. Go tell the fish.

This was published in Mpls/St. Paul magazine in June, 1995.

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