We ask Phil Bennett to minimise his bass box down to two lures.
When it comes to lures, bass anglers are a funny mob. Many are like bowerbirds. We have a habit of collecting all things small and brightly coloured and will proudly display them to everyone keen for a look.
But unlike the bowerbird, our aim isn't to attract the attention on any passing females (though if the technique works...!), our collecting tendencies are more about hoping to have just the right lures for every occasion.
While this passion or obsession for collecting lures isn't really unhealthy, it can get a little out of hand and in many situations we simply don't need to take 400 lures with us on each outing.
In reality, during most sessions we probably will only change our lures four or five times. Heck, most of the time I usually end up leaving on the same lure I first tied on!
My point is, most of the time we could easily scale down our tackle selection and still expect to score plenty of fish on each outing. The trick is to make sure we take just the right lures on the day.
In this article I'm going to push the reductionist idea even further, cutting right back to only a few types of lures per outing, just to point out it is possible to be very successful with only a minimal number of lure styles.
For sake of this story I'm going to nominate my favourite two bass lures, and I'd be more than happy taking just these lures on any bass outing – as long as I could take five of each!
My favourites are both from the Stiffy stable, with the Stiffy Devil Fish and the Stiffy Top Dog taking the honours.
I'll start with the Devil Fish. Just remember, though, this info can be applied to most vibe styles around 30mm and 1/8oz.
What makes the vibes such outstanding bass lures is their combination of fishability, action and size.
These deadly little lures can be fished in almost any water depth.
Wound briskly, you can crash-land them in super-shallow rocky runs and burn them across the stones. Or you plumb the depths of the deepest, darkest pools.
On my home Macleay River there are holes around 17m deep and the Devil Fish can easily fish their darkest corners.
For the brave, you can work them around timber, either cast or jigged vertically, but remember that trees and trebles tend to be quite magnetic.
The very strong action of the Devils tests the bass’s naturally aggressive nature. Each smooth lift of the rod tip will have the lure humming vigorously, sending out some pretty powerful nervous tremors.
Bass, being very aggressive anyway, usually need little encouragement to strike.
Even if the vibe isn't right on its nose, a bass will happily cruise out a decent distance to see what's causing the commotion.
While bass have large mouths and can easily consume big lures, the smaller vibes just seem to tempt more fish. I've tried bigger models in other brands and the result just went backwards.
The smaller vibes seem to be of a size deemed non-threatening and can easily be taken. I guess as far as natural bait goes, the vibes are around the size of a small bony bream, herring or prawn.
For such a basic, simple-looking lure, the Devil Fish works extremely well.
And in the saltwater bream, flathead, school jewies and just about everything else love them, too.
Just like the Devil Fish, the methods outlined here for the Top Dog will work on most similar-sized walk-the-dog topwater lures.
There's a whole heap of different types of surface lures that will readily fool bass, but I have chosen the 70mm Top Dog stickbait due to its versatility.
While I love using small poppers, bloopers and fizzers, and have had great success on all of them over the years, I just find they can be a little bit limited action-wise.
The stickbaits definitely offer a more subtle approach than the others, but with some clever rod work can be made to do all sorts of interesting things.
The method I use most of the time is to simply cast tight to cover, let the lure sit for a few seconds, then give it a small bump.
The little bump will be just enough to make the lure spring to life. It won't move far; it will just twitch on the spot sending out a few more shockwaves.
Another short wait and then if nothing happens, I'll do a slow, staggered walk-the-dog'-type retrieve right back to the boat.
If the subtle approach after splashdown doesn't seem to be working, I'll slap the lure in, let it settle for a second or two, then stab the rod down more aggressively.
Even with the cigar-shaped body, this will usually snap the lure to life, kicking out a nice little splat and a few tasty bubbles.
Let it sit there for another short pause before stabbing the rod again.
How to work any lure usually depends on a few things, with one definitely being the type of country being fished.
The aforementioned techniques are ideal for steep banks and vertical timber.
While they will work in more open country like around weed beds, a more effective method I've found is to make a long, raking cast parallel to the weed face, let the lure sit for a second or two and then start a slow staggered wind.
I'll put in a few decent pauses every few metres or so. This gives any following bass a little time to convince themselves your lure is actually worth hitting.
Don't do anything fast or rash, just a subtle, slow stagger, stop for rest, and then lazily start again.
Bass are usually in or around the weed beds for one reason, and that's to eat, and this slow, subtle retrieve will usually have them half out of the water to take your lure.
Like most bass anglers, I have way too many lures and every time I see something new and exciting, it ultimately ends up in my collection.
And just like the struggling alcoholic at the AA meeting, I fully accept that this is a pure addiction and drop my head in shame.
But if I were forced at gunpoint to only take only two lures bass fishing, these Stiffies would be in that pocket box. The reality is that I mostly continue to take way too many lures each outing. The funny thing is, I usually head home with the exact same lure I first tied on!