Confidence lures and simplifying the tackle box.

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Doc Arroyo

Well-known member
May 25, 2015
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Northern California
I was fishing with a friend and he was impressed with how much time he was tying on lures, and how much time I had a lure in the water. He mentioned it to a friend, and it became an email discussion. The friend was impressed with my “system” and thought that it may be a good starter kit for non-boaters to use while fishing tournaments. At the time, he ran a website, and asked me to write this article. Recently I pulled it back up and added a bit to it…


I have fished with a number of people that had massive tackle systems in $30,000 bass boats who spent more time tying on lures and changing colors of lures than actually dragging a bait through the water, and I fished with some that only fished one lure because it was “the one”. Over time, I figured that both of these styles were not right for me.

Years ago I made a few decisions about my bass fishing. First, I was not going to be a bigtime professional. My boat was not going to cost more than my car and would have to be able to fit in my garage. I hate tripping or stepping on fishing rods, so I do not want a dozen of them scattered on the deck. And to eliminate paralysis by analysis, I decided to simplify my lure selection. Here is a bit of my methodology and the science behind it.

Scientists have determined that black bass possess more cone cells than rod cells in their eyes. This makes bass a “diurnal predators” and they have excellent color perception. This does not mean they see color the same as humans for a couple of reasons. One, each individual’s eyes varies on the number of red, green and blue receiving cone cells in the eye, which is the reason people argue over color definitions, and why a significant portion of the population is deemed “color blind”. Yep, I am one of those people.

The main reason colors appear differently to bass is their environment is different than ours. Light does not penetrate water as well as it does air, and thankfully air is not as murky as some of the bass water I love to fish. So, before you fall in love with a manufacturer’s latest and greatest phenomenal lure color, think about color in the environment that the bass is in. Churned up delta water that looks too thick to drink is going to show the fish colors differently than a gin clear highland reservoir.

As light diffuses in water, colors will disappear. The colors disappear in this order: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and black. The depth of this disappearance changes with water clarity. Red may disappear in 6” of water in parts of the Sacramento Delta, but still be visible in 20’ of water at Lake Pardee. The main point is green is in the center of that list, and is visible to bass in the widest range of water conditions. Green is also the most common color in their environment, and the most common color of baits on the wall of your local tackle shop. White, fluorescent orange and chartreuse are what I consider flash colors, along with gold and silver for metallic lures and blades. These accent or flash colors help in cloudy water, but may be a detriment in clear water.

Please note that this list does not have the words watermelon, junebug, hematoma, coachdog or electric on it. These are names of colors or color combinations created by lure manufacturers to catch fishermen. When XYZ Lures comes out with the latest hot color of “wheat grass vermilion”, it does not mean you have to run out and buy it. You are a fisherman, not a collector of fashionista shoes.

On to confidence lures. Each of us finds a hand full of lures that work. When in doubt, tie “X” on. My father’s was a flatfish. Bass, trout, steelhead and salmon all were hooked by my father with a flatfish. Me? I have caught few fish with that lure. Part rhythm, part patience, a lack of holding my mouth right…it all added up to flatfish not being high on my list. Another fan favorite that doesn’t make my list is the spinnerbait. I use inline spinners like the Roostertail for trout and smallies, but the big bladed safety-pin style spinnerbait is not a fish catching machine in my hands.

So, my list may not fit you, but it may give you an idea how to organize your tackle.

To simplify my tacklebox, I eliminated those lures that I haven’t caught fish with or do fish well. I took the lures that were left and really analyzed what they were, and how they fit together. I simplified my selections to define types of lures. Many specific lures fit these types, and the total of them allows me to fish the water column from top to bottom. After researching color theory, and a number of years of experience, I decided to limit my color selection. Every type of lure gets a maximum of 5 color combinations, and those are combinations of white, black, red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple, with an occasional silver or gold flash.

I will start with hard baits, and start at the top. Topwater bits are the big fun of bass fishing, and I carry a few. My topwater box has a couple of vintage Jitterbugs (black and leopard frog), Rapala Skitter Pops (shad and leopard frog), and Zara Spooks (white and black). Some soft baits fit this list, brown and green scum frogs, and a soft plastic version of the Zara Spook called the Money Hound in the color Black Lab (gold-black). Add a couple of buzz baits in green and black and my topwater box is full.

Crankbaits are high on my list, and they fish the water column from 1 to 12 feet. There are many brands, but I especially like old Bagley’s Killer B and DB lures. They fit my style of fishing. Add to that the fact that 3 of my largest bass were caught with the same DB-3 in brown-chartreuse crawdad pattern. I also use 2 colors of Rebel diving crawdads. Stripers whack these. Some old Thin Fin Shad are part of the mix. They cast like a potato chip, but are spectacular in the 1 to 5 foot range on light line. A few Rapala Shad-Raps and a vintage Big O fill out the list. Colors available: brown-chartreuse crawdad, Tennessee shad (basically black and white), red craw and green craw and perch (black & gold).

Hard jerk baits are nearly always in my fishing selection, but the number is small. My needs are met with a box of floating, suspending and some countdown baits with a box of small Rapala (straight and jointed), Rapala Husky jerks in 3 sizes and a couple of Yo Zuri baits. Colors available: Rainbow trout, shad, clear clown (clear plastic with a red head), blue-orange and gold-green.

Most writers now call them lipless crankbaits, but I will always think of them as Rattletraps, no matter which company makes them. Smallies, spots and trout in Folsom Lake attack them, and stripers smack the big ones in the Sacramento Delta. I carry them in 1/2oz, 3/16oz and 1/4oz. Colors available: Blue, black-silver, gold, fire tiger (green-chartreuse) and red.

The soft baits start with straight worms. You can get lost searching these in most big tackle stores. Way too many to list, and trying to figure them all out and ways to rig them could take you a lifetime. I started fishing these as a youngster with the original Cream worm; toss, slow retrieve, repeat. It caught lots of fish, including a 20 pound striper in the American River. For many years I have used Charlie Brewer Sliders in the same way, and they still catch fish. I do have a couple hand pours that friends make that I like, and a couple of sizes of Senkos. Weighted, unweighted, nose hooked, Texas Rigged or whacky rigged all are decisions to be made on the water. Colors available: red, brown-orange tail, black-chartreuse tail, motor oil brown, watermelon green. Total selection is 7 to 10 bags.

Curl tail or flip tailed worms and grubs have been the staple for tackle stores for decades. They can and will scare away fish in clear water, but push enough water for bass to find them in murky water or at night. An incredible number of these are sold each year, and I have fought the addiction to this bait. I have reduced this to an easily managed four worms: Reactions Innovations Big Unit (9 1/2” in black or blue-black), Culprit 6” worms (brown-orange tail, black-chartreuse tail, electric blue, purple) ,Yamamoto 4” grubs (brown-orange tail, purple and chartreuse) and Little Bits in smoke or blue. The larger worms are easily cut down to a smaller size and rigged in multiple ways. The little bits are great on dart head jigs on 6# test.

Soft jerk baits found their way into my box about 15 years ago. Mostly Bass Assassins products, I end up using them as a falling or as a skipping bait, especially during when shad bait balls are busting the surface. In reservoirs with trout, a dying rainbow pattern falling will get some exciting strikes from aggressive smallies. The current inventory has a total of five selections of 3”, 5” and 6” baits in straight and split tail in a variety of three colors: Pearl, rainbow trout, and shad.

I have been having fun with various creature baits. Tubes have come and gone, and I now stock 3; brown-chartreuse, black-flake and blue-black. Small Berkeley Power Craws and a 5” no-name crawdad are the most realistic of the creatures in my box, both are brown-orange. Reaction Innovations baits have pushed their way to the top of this list with Smallie Beaver 3.50, Sweet Beaver 4.20 and Double Wide Beaver filling out this part of the box. Creative color names by RI, but they boil down to white, blue-black, red-brown and green. No, I do not have each color in each size. Maximum total creature baits is 10 bags.

I do have some new additions to the creature feature. Not quite worthy of the title confidence bait, but they are making strides. These are Zoom Horny Toad, Strike King’s Rage Toad and BPS’s Wreak-N-Bug. What were my colors choices? Simple: green pumpkin, green pumpkin/white and Okeechobee which is a blue-black flake. If your partner is getting strikes with a surface frog and missing the hook set, follow him with one of these slow sinking frogs.

Some may be screaming, “What about swimbaits? Where are the swimbaits?” Actually, I have been using Sliders, straight worms, grubs and soft jerk baits on jigs and fished with a horizontal presentation for a long time. Way before the term swimbait came around. I also do not require specific worms for “finesse” fishing or drop shot worms. Part of this system is figuring out how to rig baits in more than one method.

Chuck wanted me to mention my rods and reel selection, because he thought it was near perfect for the typical tournament non-boater. I take 4 fishing rods on a trip. When I am heading to a highland reservoir it is 2 spinning and 2 bait-casters. When I head for the Delta, I swap my ultralight spinning rod for a heavier pitching rod or flipping stick. Each of the bait-casting rods is fitted with the same reel. It cuts down on backlashes. My retrieve speed is based on my rhythm, not trying to figure out what gear ratio I just picked up. All replacement parts are the same. I can even carry a set of spare drag washers in my bag, and they fit all my bait-casting reels. When purchasing these rods and reels, do not trade quality for quantity. They will last longer. My jig/worm rod is a Fenwick Graphite that was a Christmas gift in 1982. It is still slammin’ hooks.

The night before a trip, I check weather, fishing reports, and I make some guesses. Then my rods are pre-rigged for the trip. Typically the ultralight (6lb test) has a slider or a Little Bit rigged. A 6’-6” Medium action spinning rod (8lb test) is rigged with a Skitter Pop for the morning, and will switch to a Shad Rap or a light worm later in the day. An old 5’-6” bait-caster (12lb test) is rigged with either a jig-grub, a Texas rigged worm or a Sweet Beaver. A 7’-0” bait-caster (12lb test) is waiting with a Bagley’s DB-3 in brown-chartreuse crawdad. The flipping stick (80# braid) is typically outfitted with a scum frog, a frog creature or a jig-grub.

I am working on fitting my entire lure inventory into two tackle bags with a total of 9 Plano 3700 boxes. If you are tournament fishing check to see if you can carry two bags. For me, often the location of the trip and the time of the year will prune down the selection. Then I head to the lake with one tackle bag, making the decision making process even easier, and increasing the amount of quality fishing time.

Because it is near impossible to catch fish without bait in the water.


Well-known member
May 8, 2017
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Southeast Florida (Tri county)
I too minimized my lure arsenal to four. My casting arm was beginning to look like a fiddler crab claw, so gone are spinners, lipped surface lures, spoons, bucktails and jointed swimmers. My casting arm just may shrink a bit now :)