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It continues to amaze and delight me that every inshore saltwater angler now seems to be a disciple of his own brand of artificial lure.
We have come a long way in 20 years. There was a time when you were as likely to find a pair of tap shoes in a local red drum angler’s tackle box as a selection of lures. Now things are different.
At one time the sports of freshwater bass fishing and inshore saltwater fishing were very different, but the lines blurred quite a bit through the years with the willingness of saltwater anglers to use lures helping this along.
Many of these were actually the same fishermen. They just used two different styles depending on where they were.
It is only in the last few decades that using lures to catch inshore fish like speckled trout, bluefish, red drum and flounder became something common instead of something unusual.
There were always a few old standard artificials everyone had in their tackle boxes, even if they didn’t use them.
These were “known” to work on specific fish. MirrOlures for trout and pencil plugs for bluefish are two examples. Some trout anglers had used lures like soft plastics for many years. Overwhelmingly, though, inshore fishing was a bait and catch enterprise.
Many varieties and models of saltwater lures, however, were out there across the country in local markets, often hand-made by crafty folks who knew something about catching fish without bait.
As saltwater fishing began to really take off in the ‘80s, right behind the bass fishing craze, companies began marketing these ideas.
Bass anglers also found their freshwater lures would work for fish like trout, and it wasn’t long before a special “saltwater” version of all the good models became available.
There will always be those who question whether lures are as effective as live bait in saltwater.
Although you can talk to as many anglers as you want and rack up the anecdotal evidence, it may be best for me to borrow a phrase from the old political thriller All The President’s Men and say: Follow the money. The demand and the market for this stuff exploded years ago and keeps exploding.
Just head out to a local tackle shop. You’ll find one minnow tank and 20 rows of every lure you could dream up.
We have hard lures, soft lures, lures that smell, lures that glow and lures that vibrate. We have stuff to throw at fish that Captain Kirk wouldn’t have shot at the Klingons on Star Trek.
It is hardly a secret anymore. The fishing guides were among the first converts, and then came the magazines, TV shows, books and websites.
You can go to Wal-Mart now and find lures marketed for flounder and pompano. Take a ride into Myrtle Beach to the Bass Pro Shop and you will find it filled with rows and rows of lures that would make an actual largemouth bass flee to land if he ever saw such a thing land in his pond.
From a single MirrOlure in a surf fisherman’s tackle box, inshore lures have hit the big time.
These days the fun is in the debate about which artificial is the best. Whereas once the argument took place mostly among folks in pier houses and tackle shops, now anyone can join in the debate on Internet fishing boards.
A lot of the discussion centers around what plastic feels the most like a small fish to a big fish when the big fish first bites it.
One day, scientists will figure out how to talk to fish and we will get to ask them. They will probably say something like, “Why the heck are you asking me? I can’t believe I was dumb enough to bite the dang thing in the first place.”
The newest phase of this whole thing has led us to the advent of some lures that are incredibly lifelike and realistic, like little copies of the real thing. I swear they are making some imitation shrimp right now that you could cook on the grill and eat, provided you remembered to check for hooks.
Of course, such things will always lead to some nice old fella looking over my shoulder and asking me, “Well, if you are going to go to all that trouble, why don't you just use live bait?”
Some people still don’t get it.