Confidence Baits

February 11, 2009 by  

Our Outdoors
Nick Simonson


 good pair of polarized glasses can help you see things you might have missed otherwise

good pair of polarized glasses can help you see things you might have missed otherwise

The woolly bugger is a pattern that rarely fails. Likewise, a ballhead jig with a curly-tail grub will catch nearly any fish. A red-and-white Daredevle spoon will with all certainty pull a pike out of any water that holds the species. These lures are time-tested producers; they are the ultimate confidence baits because generations before ours have rippled the water with them in search of walleye, bass, trout and more.

So what makes a confidence bait? A confidence bait is a lure that, regardless of where you are fishing – be it a 100,000-acre lake, or a one-acre farm pond – produces bites. But the surety that a fish will strike on nearly every cast does not come without some sort of early success.

Whether it is from a magazine ad, the buzz on an Internet message forum or from the mouth of a tournament pro at a walleye symposium in mid-February, anglers are drawn to new baits. Like our significant others buy shoes and purses every-other-day, we buy tackle. Some of it sits at the bottom of the box, some of it will catch fish occasionally, and some of those lures become confidence baits.

Take the Sinkin’ Salty Shad by Case Plastics ( for example. My experience with this lure, from purchase to proving point to permanent resident in my tacklebox, details the creation of a confidence bait. Based on some chatter coming off of one of my favorite smallmouth message boards, the hype was big for this five-inch salt-impregnated plastic, which wobbled slowly on the fall like a Senko, yet had a slender baitfish profile. I bit and hoped the fish would too. In time for Minnesota’s bass opener, I purchased three bags in watermelon red, pearl and bubblegum colors.

When tubes produced a slow bite, I switched to the SSS, cast it out and let it fall. As with most “do-nothing” lures, I kept a semi-tight line as the bait fell among the branches of a deadfall on opening morning. The line jumped suddenly and peeled to my left. I leaned back on the rod and a 20-inch largemouth exploded from the calm surface of the backwater bay. Fish in hand, I smiled for the camera. I would go on to land 11 more fish that hour, with most measuring over 16 inches. A confidence bait was born.

From the early success, and subsequent positive experiences, confidence builds in a bait. However, a season or two of use is normally required to establish that confidence, and as the use rate goes up, catch rates generally do, and the experience with the how, where and when of fishing the bait builds belief that in a certain situation a fish will hit the lure. As with the SSS, confidence baits should be fished like how you grew bacteria in your petri dish in eighth grade – through the scientific method. I have applied the lure on other bodies of water, in various conditions and found that it is a guaranteed winner – in many situations. Test the results of your first successes with the lure on other bodies of water, in other conditions. Focus on what works and what does not. Realize that one bait can’t do it all, but the right bait in the right spot almost guarantees that fish will bite.

Once you have found your go-to bait for one situation, explore other baits for that situation, or for a completely different one. Test different presentation tactics with each bait; keep learning and expanding your on-the-water repertoire. Having confidence in one bait allows you to explore with others. Knowing you can catch the fish that are present allows you to try other baits and go back to your confidence bait if the new presentation didn’t work. Despite the damage it might do to your wallet, the ideal outcome is to have several confidence baits for each situation that angling conditions present.

The development of a confidence bait is like realizing for the first time that a hook and night crawler under a red-and-white float isn’t the only way to catch fish. Each summer I look to expand my tackle box with confidence baits, by trying new products and employing old standbys in new situations. I have been told by my fiancé, “you can never have too many shoes that make you feel good;” the same has to be true for confidence baits…in our outdoors.


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