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Birdshot and backlashes

It is probably too early in the season for invertebrates. Vertebrates are usually much more effective this time of year. For bait, that is. Vertebrates are what the scientific folk call creatures like minnows with bones. Nightcrawlers are invertebrates, because they have no bones. Which may be why fish love ’em. They are easy for fish to chew up and scarf down. Even sunfish and perch can handle worms. Walleyes and bass take to crawlers like candy; but usually only when it warms up. We just thought you ought to know all that if you don’t already. Want some fun? When you go fishing this summer ask your fishing buddy to pass the can of invertebrates. There are people who will argue about this, but you can bet your best spinning reel that most of the serious fisherfolk out this week will be seeking their fortune with live minnows. That is, live minnows on plain hooks, on jig hooks, in combination with spinners, on Lindy Rigs, whatever. Even leeches, favored by some gamefish, don’t have the popularity of minnows in mid-May. Thus, the bulk of anglers on the lakes and rivers on Saturday will be dragging minnows around. And there is a lot of controversy over minnows.There are anglers who prefer fatheads or chubs like horny heads or rainbows , or dace or suckers or shiners. There are lots of different kinds of minnows. Sometimes the walleyes show preference to one kind… the kind you don’t have in your bucket. There are, of course, all kinds of minnow imitations. There are “purists” who won’t use live bait, instead preferring artificial lures. There have been so many different kinds of artificial lures made over the years that there is now a big collector’s industry in old baits.After something like eight decades chasing fish around North America, a person has had experience with a lot of lures designed by anglers to imitate something edible. To fish, that is.One of the first artificial lures in my dad’s tackle box was made out of deer hair and had a spinner on the front. It was called a “Tuttle’s Devil Bug” and it even caught fish. Sometimes. Sometimes not. The Heddon Tackle Company out of Dowagiac, Michigan, created a wood imitation of a minnow which was called the “Dowagiac Minnow.” These became so popular that for a couple of decades, every lure that was manufactured was called a “dowagiac.”The South Bend Tackle Co. produced the Bass Oreno, originally painted white with a red head. Bass Orenos are still being made today and they still catch fish, which is amazing. Some anglers thought the millennium had arrived when the Creek Chub Bait Co. began marketing Pikie Minnows. It was accepted that if you didn’t have a couple Pikie Minnows in your box, you weren’t really fishing .And then there were metal lures. A fisherman named Fred Arbogast invented a metal minnow he called the “Tin Liz” which sold a lot of copies but didn’t catch many fish. An entrepreneur named Lou Eppinger started making spoons he called “Daredevles.” They were chrome on the inside, painted red and white on the outside. Those baits are still around although Lou isn’t. And Bill Shannon invented a bucktail lure, with two wires supporting spinner blades, called “Shannon’s Twin Spinner.” It was designed to more or less climb over or through weeds without hanging up. Same with the Johnson Silver Minnow. It was one of the first spoons with a wire that protected the hook from weeds.One thing: in the old days there were only a half dozen or so lures. It didn’t take a fortune to fill a tackle box. Today we’ve got more lures than fish. Whole walls of them in the tackle stores… all manner of fancy imitations of everything that ever swam, paddled, wiggled, burbled, gurgled and slurped through the water. And most of them catch fish sometimes. And sometimes not. All in all, it is pretty hard to beat a couple dozen invertebrates. For summer fishing, that is.

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