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Bass Bait Test: We Rank 10 Brand-New Bass Lures

We asked 10 top bass guides across the country to evaluate 10 brand-new bass baits. Here's what they learned—including if they performed as advertised, how they fished in various waters, and the mdoels that became their new favorites.

When we rounded up the 10 most unique and innovative new bass lures for 2013, we couldn’t think of anyone better to give them a shake than 10 full-time bass guides from across the U.S. After all, these pros make a living by knowing whether or not a particular lure has a good chance of catching a fish before they even tie it on.  

Late last fall, we gave our panel two weeks to test the baits. We asked for their first impressions before fishing, an evaluation of the lure’s action based on the manufacturer’s description, and if they believed it would catch bass. Additionally, even though it wasn’t the most important data, we factored in the number of fish caught during testing.  

Each guide ranked the lures on a scale from 1 to 10, which we converted into a five-star system. The rankings, along with the recommendations of our experts—plus some observations of my own—will tell you which ones you need in your arsenal this season. --Joe Cermele

Lucky Craft Blade Cross

Combining the profile of a twitchbait with the flash of an underslung spinnerbait arm and blade, the 33⁄5-inch Blade Cross is supposed to elicit bites when burned over grassbeds or slow rolled and deflected off hard cover.

Almost all the guides said they were impressed with the design before removing the lure from its package. After they got it wet, the Blade Cross became a clear panel favorite. “This lure looked a little odd at first, but an hour and several nice bass later, I was like, who cares?” said Keith. The Blade Cross tracks straight with a steady retrieve, and the willowleaf blade produces a thump as smooth and consistent as your favorite spinnerbait. Pause the lure and the blade spirals nicely as it falls. Rip and pause and you’ve got a unique action I predict will be deadly on pressured lakes.

Rating: 5 stars
MSRP: $16-$18
Number of bass caught during testing: 33
Other species caught during testing: Peacock bass

"An excellent search bait. I was surprised that it didn’t get hung up, but even more surprised that it caught six bass under some very tough conditions when other lures failed.” —Randy Kuhens

"This could be a great alternative to throw during the springtime spinnerbait and jerkbait bite. The fish always see the same lures, so this one’s got me really looking forward to spring.” —John Blais

Jackall Boil Trigger

The 4-inch Boil Trigger puts a popper mouth on a slender pencil popper body, with a joint that makes it flop and change direction when walked like a Spook. Its erratic zigzagging action on the surface is designed to imitate a dying baitfish.

Guides praised the Boil Trigger’s unique and smart features: distinctive rattles, a fine finish, and a tail-down orientation when paused. These attributes, they agreed, could make it outfish standard poppers and dogs. “I had a fish follow this lure on the very first cast,” said Todd Kersey. “It was easy to adjust the amount of splash by simply raising and lowering the rod tip.” The only gripe was that the tail feathers didn’t hold up well to the crushing blows this lure conjured.
 
I liked that it could be worked at multiple speeds to achieve different actions. Even if the mouth didn’t spit during subtle twitches, the lure had a sexy wiggle. It’s a very versatile topwater.

Rating: 4.5 stars
MSRP: $16
Number of bass caught during testing: 10
Other species caught during testing: Peacock bass

"A nice bonus is that the back end moves after the bait stops, thanks to the hinge. That gives it an extra second of action. I think this would be a great choice for trying to bring fish up when the water is cold.” —Steve Chaconas

"I caught a nice 6-pound bass on this lure on my second cast. This was after I had worked the area with a similar lure and never managed to draw a single strike.” —Randy Kuhens

Rapala Ultra Light Crank

The 1 1⁄2-inch Ultra Light Crank provides the classic crankbait body style in a small package that will get as deep as 8 feet. “I classify little cranks like this as finesse baits,” said Fields. “This one will work really well anytime bass are keyed in on small baitfish.”

A few guides noted that it took a little time to dial in their reels, but once they figured out the proper tension, this 1⁄8-ounce lure cast incredibly far for such a tiny bait. As soon as I felt it dig during my test, I realized I had something that was going to solve a problem on my favorite smallmouth rivers: getting a small-profile baitfish imitator to the bottom of the dark holes where only a jig had done the job before. This bait wiggles so fast, you can feel it in the rod but barely see it with your eyes during a steady crank. It tracks well and deflected off stumps during my test, just like a larger crank.

The only shortcoming noted by the panel was hook size. Though all agreed big largemouths would eat this tiny lure, they worried the small hooks would not stay pinned during the fight.

Rating: 4 stars
MSRP: $6
Number of bass caught during testing: 15
Other species caught during testing: Peacock bass, crappies, bluegills

"Lures of this size are often really sensitive to speed. Reel a little too fast and they roll or spin. No such problem with this one. After a day of getting hit, the finish held up well, too.” —Todd Kersey

"This is a guide’s dream for pressured fish. Changing the front hook to a larger size didn’t kill the action and really increased hookups.” —John Sappington

Lunkerhunt Bento Bait

Made of tough, clear plastic, with very lifelike holographic cores and eyes, Bento Baits are professed to be “the most realistic baitfish imitators on the market,” coming to life with the slightest movements.

Because the Bento Bait is light, slender, and small—3 to 41⁄2 inches—a jighead or a drop-shot rig is the only way to deliver one properly. But considering how popular and effective drop-shotting has become, our test guides didn’t seem to mind this limitation. “I believe when fished in clear water, this bait will produce more strikes than other similar baits,” Fields told me. “However, in murky water, I don’t think it would be as effective because you’d lose the detail.” While all of the guides felt this lure would be a fish catcher, most echoed those sentiments.

Rating: 3.5 stars
MSRP: $7.5 per pack
Number of bass caught during testing: 14
Other species caught during testing: Peacock bass, lake trout, brown trout, crappies

"I loved the resemblance to the local smelt and emerald shiners on Lake Erie. I thought it moved well and had great action. It will be effective under a wide variety of conditions.” —Frank Campbell

"This is a nice-looking bait that seems well made, and the details are exceptional. I’m sure this lure will be effective, but I think it’ll end up getting lost in the myriad of other baits just like it.” —Jim Burks

Chain Gang Crazy Leg Jig

Available in 1⁄2- or 3⁄8-ounce models, these jigs have bead chains attached to their heads that run down through the skirt. The chains are meant to emit sound and vibration when bumped along the bottom. They also add weight.

Just about every test guide noted that they were intrigued by the Crazy Leg’s design right out of the gate, believing the chains were a smart addition to an otherwise standard lure. It was also praised unanimously for being well made. In the water, however, the chains collected weeds and hindered presentation.

“In dirty water, combined with the right trailer, I think the chains could help attract more bass to the lure,” Nathan Fields said. “But in clear or highly pressured water, the chains may actually repel fish. Simpler can be better in those conditions.”

Rating: 3 stars
MSRP: $6
Number of bass caught during testing: 3
Other species caught during testing: None

"I could find regular use for this as a swim jig. The flash and clash of the chains will be a good attention grabber, and the thinner head comes through grass more easily than others.” —Steve Chaconas

"I didn’t like the trailer, and in my experience a weedguard often decreases hookups. It’s not a bad idea, I’m just not confident the chains offer that much of an advantage.” —Marc Mitrany

Evolve DarkStar Swimmer

A bottom groove on this bait keeps a weedless hook well hidden, while a top groove on the back lets the bait slide down the hook bend more easily on the strike to ensure a better set. The design is also supposed to achieve more wobble than comparable baits at slow retrieve speeds.

Most guides agreed this lure would catch bass, but many didn’t feel it stood out far enough from other soft-plastic swimbaits on the market. At 5 inches, the DarkStar Swimmer is not intended to catch small bass, which may be why a few guides also noted that it might draw strikes from pike, snook, and redfish. Several added that the material felt very durable, and believed that the unique pinch in the body increased the vibration. I thought the bait had great action, though given its size, I’d probably throw it at stripers.

Rating: 3 stars
MSRP: $4.50 per pack
Number of bass caught during testing: 7
Other species caught during testing: Lake trout, brown trout

"I really liked the thickness of this bait. My first impression was that it was well made, too. Rigged on a 6/0 swimbait hook with a 1⁄8-ounce belly weight, it ran well through the grass.” —Paul Keith

"I landed three bass to 4 pounds on this lure. I was impressed with how the fish reacted to the bait, following it and blowing up on it multiple times during the same retrieve.” —Nathan Fields

Matzuo Kinchou Minnow

With an arched back and flared gills, the Kinchou is supposed to have an extra-wide wobble that—together with its internal steel bearing—creates a resonance and vibration underwater unlike that from lures that it resembles.

By and large, the test crew agreed this well-made bait will certainly perform. But will the lure’s nuances help it outfish old standby models of similar design? Most guides didn’t think so. “This is a very good-looking bait and I have no doubt that the erratic action will catch fish, but there are lots of similar baits that are proven producers,” Jim Burks said.

Like many of the guides on our test panel, I didn’t feel the unusual shape of this lure achieved an action that set it apart from the straight-back twitchbaits in my tackle bag. It might be fair to say, however, that the arched profile alone could help draw a few more strikes, as it gives the lure a different silhouette in the water.

“I will say that this bait suspended very well and overperformed when stopping and starting,” Kersey told me. “Many lures of this style roll or tangle when you stop or start the retrieve, but the Kinchou Minnow ran true no matter how fast or slow I retrieved it.”

Rating: 3 stars
MSRP: $6
Number of bass caught during testing: 13
Other species caught during testing: Peacock bass, white bass

"I needed to tune this bait right out of the package to make it run straight. I’d love to see it in a suspending model.” —Nathan Fields

"A very cool little twitchbait. I’m already thinking its action is going to crush smallmouths on the Kennebec River this season.” —John Blais

Sébile A.T. Worm

Multiple hook slots throughout this 5-inch bait make it easy to rig no matter what presentation you prefer. The body is hollow, helping the worm achieve maximum buoyancy, and a V-shaped head gives it a darting action when retrieved.

A fair number of glowing reviews for this lure came from our testers, but an equal amount noted that it was a bit overdesigned and too pricey for a plastic worm. Yet, the A.T.’s durability impressed the panel, as did its shape. “I like the bulk of the lure,” John Sappington said. “I also think the V-shaped head will help the bait move more naturally, but it’s not the only worm you can make dart side to side.”

What stood out most during my testing was the lure’s buoyancy. Fished on a Carolina rig, the worm hovered nicely off the bottom, even when rigged on a wide-gap hook with a heavier gauge. Still, there are other floating worms on the market.

Rating: 3 stars
MSRP: $7 per pack
Number of bass caught during testing: 25
Other species caught during testing: None

"I liked the multiple hook slots, and they’re great for keeping a liquid attractant in the bait longer, too. That should help fish hang on longer when they strike.” —Marc Mitrany

“I think this bait will be very effective in certain situations, but it won’t become a go-to. Its size limits its use. This is a worm just for big largemouths.” —Frank Campbell

Castaic Frog Brigade

Made for use with your favorite hollow-body frog imitators, the Frog Brigade allows you to drag four topwater frogs across the pads or grassbeds at the same time.

Given the recent umbrella-rig craze in the bass fishing world, it was only a matter of time before someone adapted them to topwater fishing. Some of the guides were quick to call it a gimmick; others believed it would work well not just with frog lures but with soft-plastic swimbaits. Several questioned its durability, wondering how long it would hold up after a day of hammering big bass, and a few noted some engineering issues. “The legs need to be a little stiffer to keep more separation between baits,” Paul Keith observed.

My initial thought was that unlike an entire school of bait­fish, which a traditional umbrella rig accurately mimics, four frogs swimming together isn’t something that occurs often in nature. I found that seven out of 10 casts resulted in a tangled rig, and matched with Scum Frogs, the complete package wasn’t very aerodynamic, making it difficult to cast over a distance. This rig may find a home in the boxes of umbrella fanatics, though.

Rating: 2 stars
MSRP: $20
Number of bass caught during testing: 6
Other species caught during testing: None

"The swivels on the ends of the legs kept collecting moss. Because the legs are so flexible, it limits what style of baits you can use. If the baits are too heavy, the rig has a habit of tangling when you cast.” —John Sappington

"It’s difficult enough just to get one big bass out of the mats after you set the hook. If three big fish happened to hit this rig, you’d need a winch and a telephone pole to drag them out of the cover.” —Jim Burks

Uncle Wesley's Minnow

Touted as a jerkbait, this tadpole-shaped lure has an adjustable lip that clicks into three positions, allowing it to work deep, shallow, and across the surface. The idea is that you get three lure styles in one.

Uncle Wesley’s is a newcomer to the lure world, and given that I’m a fan of small lure makers, I truly wanted Uncle Wesley’s Minnow to knock my socks off. Unfortunately, the designers need to get back to the drawing board. “It definitely sounds like a good idea that would save time tying on new lures, but I just couldn’t get any swimming action from it. I don’t see it being effective at all,” Marc Mitrany told me.

Rating: 1 star
MSRP: $10
Number of bass caught during testing: 0
Other species caught during testing: None

The lure has no action whatsoever, and I don’t like the single treble hook. There wasn’t anything I liked about it.” —Paul Keith

I started out open-minded, but I quickly realized fishing it wasn’t going to be fun. It was the only lure that didn’t draw a strike.” —Todd Kersey


5 New Baits for Anglers Who Target Species Besides Largemouths and Smallmouths

Muskies

The addition of a curly tail on the Squirrelly Hell Hound should make ERC’s cult-favorite glide bait that much more deadly on monster muskies. $17; esoxresearch.com

Stripers

Savage Gear’s Real 3D Eel sports a finish made from a scan of a live eel. I swam this bait and think the slow-kicking tail will drive cow bass crazy, especially in areas with strong tidal flow. $13; savage-gear.com

Trout

At 2 1⁄4 inches, Dynamic’s HD Trout is engineered to cast far on light gear and is tailored for moving water. This lure might score your next trophy brown. $6; dynamiclures.com

Walleyes

Switch out the rubber skin of Wake’s Soft Spoon to quickly change the color of this trolling or casting lure that has a classic wobble and feels like a real baitfish. $10; jigwobbler.com

Crappies

With a slender profile and heavy vibration from a ribbed belly and paddle tail, Big Bite’s 2-inch Crappie Thumper could put up some slabs. $4; bigbitebaits.com


The 2013 Bass Lure Test Panel

John Blais
Home water: Belgrade Lakes, Maine
Specializing in trophy smallmouth bass on the vast system of rivers and lakes in south--central Maine, Blais has fished the region for more than 20 years. He’s also a local tournament all-star who frequently guides clients
to 50-fish days.  

Jim Burks
Home Water: Lake Guntersville, Alabama
Burks has a reputation for putting clients on 10-plus-pound Alabama hogs and spends four to six days a week plying the waters of Guntersville, which he has fished his entire life. He has been a pro guide for over 25 years.

Frank Campbell
Home Water: Lake Erie, New York
A full-time guide on the eastern Great Lakes for 17 years, Campbell is also a player in the local tournament scene. He excels at finding smallmouths everywhere from the break walls in Buffalo Harbor to hidden humps in deep open water.

Steve Chaconas
Home Water: Potomac River, Virginia
With more than 40 years’ experience, Chaconas is an ace at leading clients to big bass within eyeshot of the nation’s capital.

Nathan Fields
Home Water: Lake Fork, Texas
Though Fields may be a young gun, he’s the man to see if you want to learn the hottest, latest tactics that put up big bass.

Paul Keith
Home Water: Caddo Lake, Louisiana & Texas
Keith puts in more than 200 days a year on cypress-filled Caddo in pursuit of heavy bass, and has fished here for 30 years.

Todd Kersey
Home Water: Lake Okeechobee, Florida
Kersey owns Bass Online, Florida’s premier largemouth and peacock bass outfitter.

Randy Kuhens
Home Water: Kentucky Lake, Kentucky
Kuhens has been leading clients to bass since 1981. Whether he has a charter or not, he spends just about every day of the year on Kentucky Lake to stay on top of the patterns that have earned him a reputation as a big-bass producer.

Marc Mitrany
Home Water: Lake Casitas, California
Lake Casitas is known for growing big bass, but they’re not easy to catch. That’s why clients keep coming back to Mitrany, who has a lifetime of experience on this trophy lake and has led customers to bass that have pinned the scale past the 14-pound mark.

John Sappington
Home Water: Table Rock Lake, Missouri
With over 17 years of guiding experience, an impressive number of professional tournament wins, and a lifetime of experience on his home waters, Sappington prides himself on both catching bass and making clients better anglers.

Comments (3)

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from ffsnuffy wrote 1 year 5 weeks ago

Old addage is that some lures are meant to catch fisherman more than fish!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Matthew Matzek wrote 1 year 5 weeks ago

Schooling frogs? I don't think so

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from jeffthemagicdragon wrote 1 year 5 weeks ago

hey i just tried out that uncle wesley lure i got at the last show i was at. all the stuff these guys said they wanted is avalible on their crank bait.. the jerk bait you do have to jerk...if u just real it in steady ya its not gonna move much. but when i tried it out it goes all over the place.... jumped out the dam water couple times ha looked to have action to me. anyway... just cause you been fishing forever dont mean you know it all aparently. couldnt catch a fish i must be better than a pro haa

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from ffsnuffy wrote 1 year 5 weeks ago

Old addage is that some lures are meant to catch fisherman more than fish!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Matthew Matzek wrote 1 year 5 weeks ago

Schooling frogs? I don't think so

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jeffthemagicdragon wrote 1 year 5 weeks ago

hey i just tried out that uncle wesley lure i got at the last show i was at. all the stuff these guys said they wanted is avalible on their crank bait.. the jerk bait you do have to jerk...if u just real it in steady ya its not gonna move much. but when i tried it out it goes all over the place.... jumped out the dam water couple times ha looked to have action to me. anyway... just cause you been fishing forever dont mean you know it all aparently. couldnt catch a fish i must be better than a pro haa

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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