I also love to try new lures, and have found my willingness to experiment has helped me as I have traveled and fished new areas and species. But when the fish aren’t biting I always seem to come back to the same few baits to try to change my luck. These are what I call my “comfort baits”.Soft Plastics
Soft plastics can be some of the most realistic and varied baits out there. There are so many different colors and varieties - where do you start? Fishing as a kid, you would regularly find a red rubber worm on the end of my line. Nowadays my starting point is a soft stick-type bait, with my favorite one being a Hogy. They come in lengths and sizes from 4” all the way up to 18”, and I will pick them according to what I am looking to catch. If I am chasing largemouth bass or other freshwater fish, I’ll be using a 4” or 7” on a weighted swim bait hook. If I am chasing stripers, you’ll see a 10” or 14”, normally on a jig head, on the end of my line. With these setups I can cover the whole water column, as I can swim them across the surface, bounce them off the bottom, and fish them everywhere in between.
I caught this 41” striper while swimming a 14” Hogy on a Slappy Jig head across the surface in Boston Harbor one night.
Lipless Crank Baits
You can pretty much bet if I have four rods rigged up to go fishing, one of them will have a Bill Lewis “Rat-L-Trap” on it. There have been many imitators over the years, but the original Rat-L-Trap is still my favorite. They are very versatile bait - they can be used to imitate all sorts of bait fish (and even crawfish), and they are easy to work, even for a beginner. They can also be effectively fished a lot deeper than most other crank baits. The size and color will again depend on what and where I am fishing, but I have had a lot of bad days on the water turned around by throwing out a Trap.
This 18” smallmouth was pulled off a rock pile in almost 40’of water using a ¾ oz Rat-L-Trap
Lipped Crank Baits
As a kid, I spent more time fishing an Original Floating Rapala than anything else. It is hard to beat a wood crank bait, in my opinion, and I still regularly use the original. However, my current favorite in the Rapala line up is their X-Rap. This is a suspending bait that can be worked with a slow or fast retrieve, jerked or retrieved steadily. It is very versatile, and very few fish can resist it. This year I was fishing one, and threw it to a bass that I could see up in the shallows. I watched the bass follow it for over a minute as I twitched the bait slowly out of the shallows. The final pause was a good 20 seconds long, and the bass just could not resist it any longer and slammed it.
My son caught his personal best largemouth using a perch-colored Original Floating Rapala. It was the first Rapala I ever purchased when I was 12, and it is still in service and catching fish.
As you can see, all three of my comfort baits are versatile and can be fished in many conditions, all over the water column, and for multiple species. They are classic lures that will enable you to cover a lot of water quickly. All of them have roots from some of my earliest fishing days, and have evolved with the times. I bet you have some old favorites that have a modern twist as well. What are your “comfort baits”?