You really can learn useful stuff watching those televised bass fishing tournaments. What I have learned is, those Southern boys and girls mostly throw baits five times larger than needed here in Colorado, and try to convince us we need that stuff too.
These days anyone with time on their hands can walk the aisles of big sporting goods stores and learn what has taken me a lifetime to comprehend: at least some fish, or at least some fishermen, must be kinda dumb. How else to explain the success of hundreds of giant baits lining the shelves of Colorado stores, or the corporate decisions that anything smaller than 1/8-ounce must be used for crappie and bluegill?
Truth to tell, you can throw just about anything but a brick at most freshwater species, and eventually one or more will at least take a swipe or a bite. You may not catch many, if you’re using barbed or trebled hooks the size of ice tongs. But if you stay with just about any bait long enough, you may conclude that it really does catch fish. Which brings me slowly to the loosely guarded Prater Family Secret I am now willing to reveal: Big old baits with names like Whopper Plopper or Husky Jerk DO catch big old bass or walleye or trout. But teensy little baits with names like “Micro Finesse” or “Horsefly” and “Donkey Tail Jr.” also catch big old fish of many different species – along with sackfuls of smaller ones.
On YouTube you can discover bizarre techniques for catching what most of us consider bait: “microfishing” for creek chubs and exotic, teeny little fish, particularly where there’s a richer mix of native species than here in the water-starved West. That type of strange hobby is not what I’m talking about. I for one would never mock another guy’s sport (well, yeah, I do, but I also secretly admire anyone who obsesses over any method of catching fish).
Yes, I am beating the drum for micro baits for macro fish, unless you’re targeting musky, catfish, grass carp or some such, when it may be more prudent to sometimes upscale. But most of the time, I recommend snickering at anyone pushing the concept that “bigger is better.” I prefer another cliché’: “Yes, size matters.” But when it comes to fishing around here - with our climate, fluctuating water levels and typically sparse food sources - the smaller stuff delivers the best goods. (Fly fishermen have known about this for years, but selfishly never revealed it to anyone else.)
The older and wiser I get, the more I appreciate that here along the Front Range of Colorado, fish of most species mostly feed on bugs and on smaller fish closest in size to a 2 ½- or 3-inch imitation minnow. Also, during the Pandemic, a shortage of Gulp-type minnow baits on shelves caused near-panic and sadness.
Some of us were pleasantly surprised when out of necessity we began using stuff intended for ice fishing. And a few clever Individuals with a talent for niche marketing went online offering increasingly tiny “micro” baits, made from the tough, flexible plastic previously reserved for big Southern-style baits. Simultaneously, a new generation of tiny jigs began to appear, 1/32 to 1/80 oz., that could be used with these baits without tearing them to bits like crappie jigs cursed with old style lead collars. Post-pandemic, that segment of the fishing industry is still thriving, while bigger bait manufacturers like Z-Man and Bass Pro are beginning to get into the micro market, though mostly still online.
Even winners of Southern fishing shows now occasionally concede they won their tournament with a Ned rig tipped with a 3-inch Z-Man TRD. It won’t be long until they’re secretly baiting up with a 1.75-inch “Z-Man Micro TRD Tickler.”
Outstanding advice. Some of my favorite fishing holes are in the shadows of downtown, and they get hammered every day. This micro stuff works for everything - including pike and Muskie. The only thing I can add is - use light line (~4lb mono), and adjust your drag for battle!
Size does matter. I think Goldie Lock said it's somewhere in the middle. But I guess nothing says "cool" like being on either side of the extremes. Great historians and philosophers have noted that glorious civilizations of yore fell when trifling arguments about fashion statements triumphed over reason. :)
You're right on about light line, Barnacles. I use 4-pound Nanofil and 4-pound fluoro leader for just about everything. I used to worry about break-offs, but honestly, most of the water we fish around here is so open, if you have your drag properly adjusted, no problem.
Genuinely tho, how much of that has to do with the size of the forage in places like the South? Couldn't you make the argument that with a shortened growth season with a lot of colder days that the forage doesn't get quite as big here so downsizing isn't a bad idea?