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Creature From the Deep

By Russ Bassdozer

Nobody's got a name for these things. They are quite bizarre! What are they? They're a handful of soft plastic baits that are so non-descript or unclassifiable that they have categorically been dumped into a genre of baits simply called "Creature Lures". Nobody knows what they are. Nothing like them swims, crawls, walks or flies in nature. They are figments of the imagination of lure designers. Still, bass belt them.

I want to know why? People have often speculated why bass hit such things. It is hard to imagine what they look like to a bass! Some reasoning has included that the bass may be stone cold scared of these things, and that makes them want to kill the creature out of fear. Partly for this reason, creature lures are built big and bulky with all kinds of ominous-looking appendages bristling out from them. Spring one on an unsuspecting bass, and they'll scare the scales off of them! As small fry, bass had to run to survive from a fearful gamut of all kinds of bigger predators - bluegill, crappie, carp, crayfish, tadpoles, frogs, catfish, muskies, turtles, alligators - jumping out from behind the bushes. Let me tell you, it is no beautiful day in the neighborhood for a small fry bass. Imagine coming under attack by a horde of merciless bluegills. They are highly aggressive, relentless predators. After all, sunfish are the closest cousin to the aggressive bass! There's only one choice lurking under the calm lake surface most of the time when you're a bass - eat or be eaten. Put another way, whoever has the biggest mouth wins.

Then there's what has got to be the most fearful attack of all. Waterbirds. Long-legged herons wading in to stalk you. Ravens, crows and blackbirds perched waiting silently for you. Cormorants "flying" like dark clouds of death along the lake bottom. And gulls, ospreys and eagles crashing down on you from out of nowhere. I imagine it would be hard to defend against that, and you would always be afraid of it happening to you if you were a bass. No matter how big you got. It's a nightmare of pure fear imprinted in the brain of every bass since their earliest days. And then your creature lure comes crashing down from out of nowhere. Is this how it all ends? Instinctively eat or be eaten. Bite first or flee. Yes, a 5 lb. bass will back down from your average, everyday, normal-sized 5" bait. Happens all the time, especially in highly-pressured lakes. The bass may want no quarrel with a normal-sized bait, but throw a skinny 3" "do nothing" finesse bait into the gladiator's arena, and the odds of vanquishing this unknown intruder become more favorable to the bass. Now throw a big, bizarre, multi-appendaged creature lure in there. It's a fight waiting to happen!

God blessed micropterus. God has blessed micropterus with AGGRESSIVE genes. Dolomieu are more aggressive than (and most closely related to) punctulatus who are more fearless (often misinterpretted as stupider) than Northern Salmoides, with the least aggressive being the Florida strain. But it is only a matter of a few degrees of temperament...they are ALL highly aggressive...among the top aggressors in their watery worlds!

This aggressiveness is not learned, it's innate! Good bass are born ornery. A small fry is equally as aggressive as it will be when it grows up! In addition, God blessed micropterus with a wonderful and highly excitable CURIOSITY. They are a most inquisitive species.

What is the best "creature" to dangle down to monsters lurking in the shady netherworld underneath logs, brush and laydowns? When I fish creature lures, I intentionally try different creature lures. First, to appeal to their HUNGER (duh?). Second, to appeal to their FEAR, AGGRESSIVENESS and TERRITORIALISM. Third, different creature lures to appeal to their CURIOSITY and INQUISITIVE side of their nature!

A good creature lure is a CATALYST. It's use will trigger any one or more of the above-mentioned instinctive urges in a bass - hunger, fear, aggression, territorialism, curiosity. The REACTION is always the same - an instinctive bite or a back-down. There's no thought involved. If one style, size or color of creature lure is not working, I methodically try each and every other creature lure in my bag until one of them pulls that instinctive trigger.

Example of an aggressive or territorial bite: I toss lots of creatures into cover for bass. Now, as anglers, we all feel very secure saying that this or that lure imitates a shad, a crayfish or whatever, right? But when a bass snaps up a creature when it splashes, initially falls, and bounces bottom in cover - this usually happens quickly and is referred to as getting a reflex or reaction bite. Bass may have absolutely not the slightest idea what is being dangled down in front of them. It may look like something the bass would like to chow down on, or it PROBABLY looks like something bizarre and non-descript. It's threatening or intruding into the fish's space. It's just an unwanted, unwelcome pest (or possibly a foe!) buzzing around the fish's lair. Heck, what would you do if a 4 or 5 inch UFO was buzzing around in your living room? As for me, I would have to instantly decide - hit first or flee. If it came dangerously close to me - like if it dropped right on my nose - I'd bash it as hard as I could. So would a big bass. That's a good example of an aggressive or territorial bite.

Example of a curious or inquisitive bite: To me, the buzzbait is something that evokes a strike out of curiosity. That is why I believe there are short strikes on buzzbaits...because bass initially nip them to inquire into what they are. The key to a good buzzbait is not squeak or anything else except that the DISTURBANCE caused by the blades obscures the actual jig dressing - preventing the fish from eyeballing it too closely. So the bass has absolutely no idea what is being obscured by the disturbance (could be a silicone skirt, could be soft plastic body...whatever) can't be seen due to the surface disturbance. This is why white and black are the two best buzzbait colors...because they are the most easily seen colors...but exactly WHAT is white or black cannot be detected by the bass in a well-designed buzzbait. So, for anyone to say that bass thinks a buzzbait looks like a mouse or like a baitfish or like a bird that fell in and is trying to fly...well, maybe that's just people trying to rationalize to themselves what a buzzbait is supposed to be! We even have surface disturbers like Jitterbugs and Crazy Crawlers painted to resemble redwing blackbirds...but to the bass, I just don't think the surface disturbance lets them see the bait clearly, so the bass have absolutely no idea what it is when they belt it. The topwater bite often reek of an INQUISITIVE NIP to me - and may be the reason for many near misses and short strikes on hard-to-identify topwater poppers and buzzbaits.

I feel creature lures may also be very interesting and odd things that evoke curiosity and inquiries from bass. They look like no creature on God's green Earth or blue waters, but bass belt them because they get highly excited by the vision of it, and they are eager to find out what it is...not because they want to eat it! Creature lures - those soft baits that you might find sitting on a stool in an inteplanetary space bar in a Star Wars sequel - are like that!

Of course, sometimes the bass are just voraciously hungry, and ANY hapless creature that wanders by is going to be on the menu! Bass are like that.

Creature Features: Creatures pictured in this article include (from top to bottom) Zoom's Brush Hog and Baby Brush Hog are two of the most popular ones, and responsible for the recent resurgence in creature lures on the market today. The Gambler Bacon Rind has been introduced recently too. Gene Larew's got the new Hoo Daddy. Another creature lure is from Mister for 2000. It's called the Exude B.A. HAWG. Venom's got a couple of critters too, called the Boogie Bugs in 5" and 3" sizes.

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