My wife loves those crime dramas on television where the quirky but brilliant detectives with inept social skills pick apart people’s behaviors to back track through a possible scenario to solve murder mysteries. The skill is often called profiling, the act of figuring out the type of people capable of a crime based on a history or pattern of behavior or actions.
Experience and history in bass fishing or any type of fishing give anglers a foundation to draw from when trying to figure out when the bass change moods or patternable behaviors. We change variables constantly in fishing. To the point where it appears we’re throwing everything but the kitchen sink at them in hopes of tricking them into biting one of our 10 different lures tied to 10 different rod and reel combos.
Folks outside of hardcore fishing might think it’s more about luck, but if it were, we wouldn’t be able to predict the changes in behavior so well.
Experience has taught me that the bass react differently to different profiles of lures under different circumstances. What makes choosing the right profile difficult is I’ve seen it change from spot to spot on the same lake on the same day. For example, when the bass move offshore, I often find multiple schools in various parts of the lake. While I will clean up with a football jig on one school, the next school totally shuns it. But if I pull out a 10-inch worm and start noodling it around in the school, I go to catching them rapidly. I’ve seen it time and time again. Profile matters.
We change variables like color constantly. They weren’t hitting red bug yesterday like they were last week, but when you switched to Junebug the bites increased. A lot of that can be based on conditioning.
Ever heard of Pavlov? Ivan Pavlov paved the way for behavioral sciences and his study of the conditioned reflex. He was able to condition dogs through the use of external stimuli ranging from a bell to electric shocks. But he basically proved that animals can be conditioned to remember and react out of reflex to a certain stimuli, especially if it was perceived negatively, say shocking a dog or hooking a fish.
Most anglers believe bass are adaptive and learn. It’s probably more that they get somewhat more skeptical in certain environments and under the pressure of predators (namely us). They never fully condition away from certain things though, in my opinion. Else how would anyone explain the millions of bass caught on jigs and plastics year after year?
But there is definitely something to the profile of a bait when it comes to how bass perceive an opportunity to eat or an impulse to attack. One place that becomes very evident is when sight fishing or just fishing for bass around the spawn. In the prespawn a jig, a big crankbait, spinnerbait and other large profiles produce well. But as the bass move more towards the spawn, it seems like those slender profiles or long soft plastics seem to become more deadly. That’s not to say they all the sudden quit biting the jigs and crankbaits, but there is a shift in the behavior of the bass.
Surely you’ve heard professional anglers talking about firing a school up and catching numbers of bass on a certain lure and then they shut off. The angler then picks up a totally different profile and lure and goes to catching them. Maybe it’s conditioning. Maybe you move the school as you continue to catch them. Or maybe the fish that didn’t want the first profile, want the second profile.
We’ll change size. We’ll change color. We’ll change action. But we often forget to make a simple profile change.
One of the big changes I make in the spring is to slender plastics. Lures like the Yamamoto Senko, the Zoom Trick Worm, the Hags Tornado and other long slender profile lures really shine when the bass move shallow, get in clear water and start looking to nest and guard. Clear water and narrow thin plastics definitely have a correlation, but we’ve caught way too many bass on shaky heads in muddy water to ignore the profile in all types of water around the spawn.
Texas rigged with an Eco-Pro Tungsten sinker, rigged weightless, wacky rigged or on a jighead, a long slender plastic is just hard to beat. It will tempt bedding fish, prespawn fish and post-spawn fish all alike. Then as the fish come out of the spawn and post-spawn period and recuperate from their throws of love in the shallows and head out or in to thick cover, they start looking for big meals again. Then the big jigs, topwaters, punching plastics, big crankbaits and more come into play.
Often matching the hatch is not always about color but also about profile. Koppers Live Target lures have built their brand around the philosophy of matching the paint schemes to the size and profile of the forage. It’s a good concept and their lures are proving the theory to a lot of anglers.
Bass strike either out of hunger or out of impulse. The latter can often be one reason to go against the grain on profile. Another reason can be an over abundance of forage in that profile. If they bays are loaded with shad, a shad-shaped and colored lure can be awfully hard for a bass to find. So something that is long and slender crawling on the bottom might get more attention than a shad imitator crashing through a school of a thousand shad.
When I target bedding bass, I often have five or six different rods with different plastics and jigs on each. I’ll have a tube, a shaky head, a floating worm, a jig, a creature bait, a lizard. It’s not just about changing your color or your size but the profile of the lure too. Sometimes just making multiple pitches with a skinny worm and then dropping a jig in there triggers an impulse in the bass.
The great part about fishing is there is no one right answer for every situation. It’s a constantly changing puzzle. But history and experience teach us to better understand when changes are coming and when profiles matter most. This time a year, don’t just chunk and wind and wonder why they aren’t biting. Mix it up and change your profiles to see if that doesn’t tilt the table and put the odds back in your favor.