Debates among fishing buddies can cover a wide range of topics. There is so much to agree or disagree on that much precious time can be lost in conversation. One of the many points to discuss when it comes to successful angling is which is more beneficial, bait or a lure?

Although it is indisputable that both have advantages, there are advocates who strongly prefer one over the other. Seeing such staunch support or rejection for one means or another has a trickledown effect, causing further debate about and putting various stipulations on the answer. Some say baits are better for beginners whereas lures are often pushed by television pros, but the true answer to which is better is a little more complex than mere opinion.

There is a lot to learn from where and when you fish about how you should be fishing. You may have great luck by fishing with beef liver or an impressive fish may swim past, ignoring your offerings to hit a lure nearby.

Alternately, you can toss a pricey new lure into murky waters and never get a bite but in that same scenario, beef liver will be gobbled up in a flash. The reasons for these things to happen have a lot to do with environment, conditions, type of fish, and more so that the bottom line with bait versus lures is that one size does not necessarily fit all.

Before you decide between a bait or lure, you first need to ask yourself some questions.

What are the water and weather conditions like? What kind of fish are you pursuing? How much money do you have to spend? All of these things and more contribute to selecting whether to go with bait or lures and what kind of each will be most effective. After all, fish are going to bite on things that are normal for their habitats as well as appealing, so in one form or another you have to provide that if you expect to get a bite.

Something to consider about bait is the senses to which it appeals. When handling bait, you’ve probably noticed that it can smell rather strongly, which in theory is a big asset. In waters that are muddy or when fishing at night, a regular lure will not do you a whole lot of good, but bait certainly will.

Lures, on the other hand, are more appealing from a visual standpoint as opposed to olfactory, making them particularly useful in clear waters and during daylight hours. Their vibrant, reflective colors are designed to tempt a fish into biting, but this only works in conditions in which they can be seen. Of course, a scented lure can be a game changer if smell is another sense to which you’d like to appeal.

Weather also plays a role in the choice you make between baits and lures. During winter months, fish become lethargic, their metabolism slows, and their consumption needs change. Chasing down a lure in this reduced capacity survival state is going to be less likely than during the warmer months. Because of this, when the cold sets in, it may be advisable the bait should come out. A fish subdued by the cold is more likely to be able to pursue and make contact with bait than a lure.

However, depending on the fish you’re pursuing, sometimes all it takes is the right lure in the ideal habitat to get the job done. For example, bass tend to winter in groups and bite at easy prey such as grubs, tail spinners, and jigging spoons to name a few when the proximity is close enough and woe is the freshwater angler who does not have an arsenal or rattletraps and beetlespins.

Knowing your audience is also key to determining what to use. Not everybody wants the same thing for dinner. What is appealing to one fish is not necessarily going to get the attention of the next one down the line. Consider what your target fish is used to eating and ask yourself if you can provide that in bait form. If the answer is yes, whether via purchase or cut bait, then go for it. On the other hand, if the answer is no then a lure that appeals to that fish is instead the way to go.

Whether you ultimately choose bait or lures, it is important to remember that both options can be quite diverse, but they also both have pros and cons. Bait is generally pretty inexpensive, especially if you’re able to catch your own by throwing a cast net or other means. Lures on the other hand can be quite pricy. Baits attract all fish big and small, but lures are made to appeal to specific fish, narrowing the likelihood that you’ll waste time, energy, and supplies on a fish you do not want to keep. Something will almost always bite on bait whereas the same does not hold true for lures.

With all of this in mind, what is the answer to the bait versus lures question? Well, the answer rests in you. Are you heading out on an impromptu fishing trip and only have time to grab your tackle box full of lures? Is there time to stop for bait or will you be able to catch your own? Are you going to be fishing in an area where snags could cost you a little bit in lost bait or a lot due to losing an expensive lure?

Being able to answer these questions will in turn give you your very own answer to the persistent question of what is best, but the true answer is what is best…for you.

Image courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

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