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Artificial baits should aim to suit fish, not humans

"Do you ever use artificial lures?"

The question lingered in the air for a minute as silverware clinked upon china against a hum of conversation. A string quartet gracefully synchronized in the far corner of the room as delightful scents wafted from the kitchen.

Every diner attending St. John's Catholic Church this particular evening was in support of a local organization called Living at Home, a group committed to individuals as they continue to reside in their own humble abode instead of transferring to an assisted living facility.

The wait staff, who delivered tasty dishes and monitored the status of coffee levels, were also supporting Living at Home by light-heartedly coaxing, coercing and cajoling guests into tipping, with all proceeds benefiting the non-profit organization.

To the left, guest waiter and author Will Weaver sat behind a glossy black piano, expertly coordinating his fingers to produce jaunty tunes while a steady stream of dollar bills dropped into the wine snifter balanced on the upright. Across the room St. Joseph's Health Services CEO Ben Koppelman entertained his table with trivia between serving salads and second courses.

My approach was to share fishing information with others, hoping to find a few interested anglers willing to exchange tips for tips. Literally.

Do I ever use artificial lures? A series of images danced through my mind before answering the delivered question; boat compartments and garage shelves filled by stacks of flat, clear tackle boxes lined with colorful crankbaits and Tupperware containers straining to close around bags of soft plastic creatures.

"I use artificial baits more than live bait," I finally replied.

Finding confidence in artificial baits takes time, but more importantly it requires some thought, the most common oversights relating to size and design. After fish spawn in the spring, their fry hatch and immediately become prey. As months pass and the seasons progress, surviving offspring gradually grow larger, creating a mouthful for hungry predators. Autumn presents a period of intense feeding in which many fish eagerly snatch a hearty portion from the natural environment or presentation tied to an angler's line. So now is definitely a good time to try an artificial bait of fairly substantial size.

Artificial baits, at least productive ones, are built to emulate natural forage in the underwater environment or something radically inviting. The same could be said for live bait options since schools of nightcrawlers are never seen swimming through the water.

A good artificial bait produces an action, scent, flavor or combination of all three in conjunction with a delectable appearance to fish.

As you peruse the tackle aisles looking for your next artificial bait purchase, keep a few details in perspective.

First, there is no "magic" lure. You have to find the fish first, then get them to bite. Casting the "World's Best Lure" in water with no fish, will produce exactly that - no fish!

Second, lure size is extremely important and if ever in doubt, choose a bait that's smaller than what you think will work.

Finally, use common sense when reading the packaging. If the literature says that the bait will catch bass, northern, walleye, crappie, sunfish, trout, steelhead, bullhead, sheepshead and sturgeon, or at least something to that effect, then you'll have to choose a size that correlates to the size of fish your targeting.