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Michael Pearce: Here's how to outfit your new fisherman for $100 [The Wichita Eagle :: BC-OTD-PEARCE-COLUMN:WI]

WICHITA, Kan. - The price of bass fishing can get out of hand.

Fully-rigged bass boats can total more than $100,000. Top-end rods and reels can be more than $500, each, and some bass lures can cost $30 or more.

While there's no doubt all of that pricey gear helps catch fish, I contend people can catch bass for a far less amount of money.

To prove my point, I set a $100 budget and headed into Cabela's with the goal of completely outfitting myself with enough gear to consistently catch bass in local waters. One reason I kept my purchases to $100 is because, well, that's plenty. It's also a common amount spent on things like graduation or birthday gifts, should someone want gifts for a beginning angler.

Up front, I probably could have saved some money at a discount store, but went to Cabela's for the large selection and advice from Adam Heil, their fishing department manager. The total pre-tax bill was $96.89. Here's what it got.


Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 combo

At $49.99, I saw no better deal than the Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 combo. It's a decent Shakespeare spinning reel attached to a 6-foot-6-inch Ugly Stik two-piece, medium-action spinning rod. It's a rod with enough backbone to set hooks but sensitive enough to detect soft strikes. The real has enough of drag to battle big fish, and a high-enough gear ratio for fishing fast when needed.

I've also fished the exact same combo numerous times since I bought one at a fund-raising event four years ago. It's not my main spinning outfit. But I have caught enough that I have confidence in the rig. I've also been a big fan of the durability and sensitivity of Ugly Stik rods for more than 35 years. I don't think the quality of the combo's rod measures up to Ugly Stiks sold separately, but the rod is nice and comes with a seven-year warranty.


Trilene fishing line

Ten-pound test is a good compromise between strong enough to handle big fish, yet light enough to allow for long casts. Trilene XT is a tough, affordable line that's served serious bass anglers well for many years.

The regular price is $7.99, but this was on sale for $5.99.

The spool came with 300 yards of line. Half went on the reel for this year. The rest can be stored, in a dark and cool place, and be used next year.


Rock Creek tackle bag

Next to the rod and reel, the $19.99 for the tackle box was the biggest investment. I could have gotten by with a flat, storage box for around $5, but wanted to give an angler that follows this advice room to expand with more gear in time.

All the lures I bought fit within one of the three plastic boxes that come within The Rock Creek bag. That's a lot of room for more tackle down the line. There's also pocket for things like sunscreen, insect repellant and tools like a small knife and needle-nosed pliers.


Generic spinnerbait

Most fishing departments have unpackaged spinnerbaits just hanging on display hooks. The $1.49 lures can catch a lot of fish.

White's long been my favorite spinner bait and I went with the single Colorado-style round blade because it provides more flash than thinner blades. It can catch bass in all four seasons, and can be fished fast near the surface or slow along the bottom. It can't get much more simple than cast, retrieve, set the hook when you feel a fish. Unless you lose one to an underwater snag, which is rare, they can last for many years.


Storm WildEye Swim Shad

The little shimmy in a plastic swimbait's tail is more than many species of fish can resist, especially Kansas bass. I went with Storm's version because they have good action and I got three lures for $3.49. Unlike spinnerbaits, fish can tear up swimbaits and they're easier to lose to snags.

The quarter-ounce versions are about 3 inches long and catch bass of all sizes. In fact, the possibly largest bass I've had on my line struck a swimbait this size a year ago. I know it was noticeably larger than a six-pounder I caught earlier that day, and sure seemed bigger than some eight-pounders weighed in past years. He came unhooked, so I'll never know his size, other than he was big and obviously liked the three-inch swimbait.

For now, I opted for the bluegill-colored baits. They're an important forage for Kansas bass. I seriously considered white, since it replicates small crappie or shad. I've used both, a lot, with success.


Yum Christie Craw

Crawfish are another important food source for bass all across Kansas, and need to be represented in every bass angler's tackle box.

These soft plastic fakes have a lot of action in their pinchers, and their soft texture helps bass to hold on until the hook is set. Eight baits for $2.99 is a decent deal, considering each lures need to be replaced after about every five to six bass. The lures should be fished slow and along the bottom, rigged with weights and hooks also purchased.


Yum Dinger

These five-inch plastic baits sink slowly, and can be fished several ways. My favorite is to hook them through the middle, called a wacky worm rig. Jerking the rod tip gets both ends of the worm moving at the same time. Fishes easily. Sounds silly. Works great. Plastic worm hook purchased for the outfit will work well.

I went dark green with red flake because so much of what bass eat is dark green - sunfish, crawdads, small bass. The package of eight costs $2.99.


Cabela's Ribbon Tail plastic worm

I normally fish more expensive brands, but $1.49 for a 10-pack of seven-inch curly-tail plastic worms was a great deal. I've always liked two-tone lures, with one of the colors being black. I picked up black and blue. Red and black would be another great choice. They'll need to be fished deep and slow, with the weights and hooks.


VMC wide gap hooks

All three of the plastic lures purchased require rigging with hooks, so I opted for a six-piece package of size 2/0 wide-gap hooks. It's a stout-enough hook to handle hard hook-sets, yet small enough to still use on the small plastic crawfish. The price was $2.99.


Bullet weights

Placed just above the hook on the plastic worm and crawdad, they slide up and down the line. One-eighth ounce is enough to get nice casts with the spinning outfit, but not so heavy as to impede a lure's action.


Scum Frog

Few things in angling are more exciting than when a nice bass crashes a surface lure. I went with the Scum Frog because you can cast it into about any kind of flooded vegetation and it won't get snagged.

A favored tactic is to cast it far into weedy areas, pausing the lure for a few seconds on any small patches of open water. A light twitch or two is often all that's needed to draw the strike.

A few such savage strikes and the $3.49 lure has paid for itself.


Field test

Monday, I took the gear to some small pasture ponds and caught 20 to 25 bass. Most came on the spinnerbait, as expected, but the swimbait and crawdad did well, too. The biggest fish were about two pounds, but other anglers didn't catch fish that large.



Other thoughts

The limited budget forced me to forego some lures I'd liked to have included. One was a one-eight ounce Johnson Beetle spin, either in black or yellow. They'd cost around $2 and are a good all-around lure, that can also catch crappie and other gamefish.

Running at least $4, I also had to skip adding any crankbaits. That was tough, because the angled bills on crankbaits allow bass fishermen to fish deep and fast. I'd liked to have added at least a crawdad-colored crankbait to the box because they can be so productive fished around rocks where crawdads live. One that replicated a shad or other baitfish would have been nice, too. Other good additions would have been Rebel Pop-R top-water lure. They're fished on open water and create a big disturbance on the surface. The cost, though, is around $6.79. Silver or black are good colors.

Like all fishing gear, bass tackle is only as good as the person using it and the water where they're using it. In Kansas, the best bass fishing is usually not in our biggest reservoirs. Basically the smaller the water the better, and the more easily fished from shore.

As well as private ponds and watershed lakes, there are dozens of community lakes open to the public. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism's FISH program has also leased thousands of acres of private waters, and opened them to public access. For a complete list, go to


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