By TERRY TOMALIN
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 2, 2001
A week doesn't go by without a call from a reader asking which fishing lure to use.
"For what? Where? When?" is my usual response.
"Well . . . I don't know," they say. "Just something that works."
Most lures will work, sooner or later. The question is, do you have the time to wait for the right tide, temperature, wind conditions, etc.?
That is why it pays to ask an expert. Answers may vary, but by and large, Tampa Bay area tackle shops that cater to serious fishermen will suggest the same artificial baits.
So, armed with $50, the Times conducted an unscientific survey of four bay area tackle stores to find out which lures are most popular among local anglers.
"Before I recommend any lure, I ask people where they are going to fish," said Cookie Diaz of Minnows and Monsters Tackle on Manhattan Avenue in Tampa. "What works up in the north end of the bay may not work down near the Skyway bridge."
For example, anglers fishing the southern end of the bay rely on white bait (scaled sardine) imitations, but north, an area fed by several small streams, fishermen use lures that resemble creek chubs and mullets.
"After we determine what area you fish, the next question is, what's your skill level," Diaz said.
Artificial lures such as the MirrOlure Catch 2000 (a sinking twitchbait) require a certain degree of expertise, and as a result, are often referred to as "finesse" baits. But some artificials, such as Love's Lures Tandem Rig, are easy enough for a beginner.
Fishermen, a subspecies prone to hyperbole, however, seldom answer a question about angling skill honestly.
"The worst thing is when people come in, ask what to use and when you tell them, they argue with you," said Dave Bayes of Dogfish Tackle on Redington Beach. "If you already know the answer, why ask in the first place?"
Know-it-alls usually miss out on the best inside information local tackle shops can provide.
"To be honest, if somebody is just starting out, I will steer them away from artificials," Bayes said. "You'll catch more fish on live bait. Once you have mastered that, you can move on to the challenge of artificials."
If he had to choose an artificial, Bayes said, he would make sure he had at least one representative from each of the four major lure groups: a jig, a spoon, a diving plug and a floating plug.
"What works usually varies from week to week," said Ron Parsons of Holy Mackerel Tackle! in Pinellas Park. "We listen to what one customer says, then pass it on to the next."
Occasionally, somebody comes in claiming to have caught 30 trout during a cold front when nobody else caught anything. That kind of information usually gets tossed out with the afternoon's garbage.
"Some things are pretty consistent ... the 12-Fathom Slam'R, DOA Shrimp, Love's Lures Tandem jig," Parson said. "Those are good in any tackle box."
When it comes to choosing an artificial lure, honesty is the best policy. Some anglers know exactly what they want and will go anywhere to get it.
"Most of our customers are well-educated fishermen," said Bob Micklitch of Three Brothers Fishing Company on St. Pete Beach. "If they want something very specific and we don't have it, we will tell them where to go and find it."
Snook fisherman are picky. A favorite weapon of pass and beach anglers is the YO-ZURI Crystal minnow.
"We sell a lot of them because they work," Micklitch said. "Snook fishermen come in and want that and only that."
When you add it all up, less than $50 worth of tackle will catch everything from pompano to cobia. The key is knowing how, when and where to use it.
The answer is at your local tackle shop.
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