Are lures more effective than bait? An interesting question and one which Bushy has spent much time pondering. Read on ...

THERE are times when I still fish bait, but most of my fishing these days involves either lures or flies. I don’t think about it too much – I just seem to gravitate to the artificials more often than not.

I was recently rabbiting on about lures to a few hundred people at a tackle store when a kid asked me an interesting question. The young tacker wanted to know why I messed around with lures when I could obviously catch more fish on bait. This question pretty much sat me on my backside and led to some other questions. Bait smells and tastes natural, fish eat it on a daily basis, so why do we fish lures at all? Can you really catch more fish on bait, or are lures actually in the race? And – shock horror – is there a possibility that lures are even more deadly than bait? Now that is the $64 question and one worth finding an answer to.

To find the answer we need to look at the positives and negatives of both bait and lures. Bait is real and fish eat it – so that has to be a positive. Bait can have an advantage in that it will catch fish with very little input from an angler. Throw out a baited hook and than wait until a fish finds it, eats it and gets hooked. That is at least the theory of passive bait-fishing and in plenty of situations it does work. There are some fish species that just don’t react well to lures, but still can be caught on natural bait and that is a huge plus.

The negatives for bait are numerous. If you buy it, good bait is expensive. Bait doesn’t last – it goes rotten and you have to throw it away unless you store it in the freezer. Bait is often not very durable – you can’t cast it repeatedly and present it continuously in good condition. Now that we have a massive human overpopulation on the planet it is also becoming harder to justify collecting natural organisms on a large scale for fishing bait.

The biggest disadvantages of lures is that they require input from an angler before they will catch a fish. Most lures won’t work if you just cast them out and wait for a bite. Lures can be expensive. Some fish species just don’t respond well to lures.

The positive side to lures when you really look at it is huge. For a start they don’t rot – once you buy a lure it will continue to catch fish until some natural disaster befalls it. When you stop fishing, just put it back in the tackle box until your next trip. You can cover a huge amount of distance with a lure by casting and retrieving it or by trolling it until a fish bites. Lures, especially the metal and hard plastic ones, are capable of catching multiple fish without much damage. Soft plastic lures are less durable but make up for it by being cheap. You do have to buy lures but you don’t have to waste time collecting them fresh before you can start to fish. Extra time actually on the water fishing is a big bonus when using lures.

This is only a quick very basic look at some of strengths and weaknesses of bait and lures but the question remains – which is deadlier?

I started fishing with bait at an early age and only graduated to lures later on, so I have a lot of experience with bait and also have a fair idea of how many fish I’ve caught on bait on a big day and how many have come on lures. We probably have to break this down to different species because some species are difficult to catch on lures and easy on bait.

Bream are probably a fair species to look at first. When I first started to catch bream, it was all bait fishing and I guess we caught plenty. The past few years I have predominately used lures. My biggest ever day on bream was the Richie Benaud – 222 fish with two anglers in one boat fishing plastic vibes. We fished for eight and a half hours and that means a fish coming into the boat about every two and a half minutes. My best ever day on bream with bait would be less than half of the fish caught on the big lure day. The advantages of the lure are pretty obvious – cast it out – hook a fish – wind it in – cast it out – hook a fish – wind it in ... If your hooks get bent, throw the lure in a bucket and tie on a fresh one in a couple of seconds. Vibes cast a long way, they reach fishing depth almost instantly and they fish effectively all the way back to the boat. Lures are efficient fish killers in the right hands and they are at least as deadly as bait on bream.

It is a similar story on aggressive fish such as tailor, salmon, barra, flathead and heaps of other predators. Bait is deadly but the mobility and durability of lures makes them even bigger killers than natural bait.

There are plenty of other species of fish that you could probably target more efficiently on bait, but even that is changing. Even the cunning luderick, predominately caught on green weed, will take an artificial fly of green craft fur. I would still back the natural bait in a shoot-out but I have seen the fly guys give the “weedies” a run for their money more than once.

To cut a long story short, I think it’s easier for anglers with little experience to catch fish on bait rather than lures. Anglers who put a bit of time and effort into their fishing should be able to match bait anglers, and really dedicated lure anglers pulling out all the stops are probably going to catch more fish on lures than they would on bait. Interesting stuff, eh?     

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