So it’s not like the legendary search for the Holy Grail, but for guys like Steve Fontana, fishermen who wake every morning on a quest for the perfect bass lure, there’s a clear parallel.
“I never stop looking. There’s always something new, and you have to keep trying to look at what’s around you, and what you can do to catch more fish,” Fontana said after another top-10 bass tournament finish.
Fontana, among the top crankbait fishermen in the Capital City area, lives in the northern reaches of East Baton Rouge Parish and works in his air-conditioning business. His years on the water have taught him there are times a spinnerbait is the best lure in his tackle box.
And it’s that lure, the quest for the perfect spinnerbait, that has occupied his last few years.
Fontana follows the old angling tactic that demands trying the “match the hatch,” an adage to figure out what the targeted predator species are targeting for food.
For Fontana’s favorite waters, the Verret Basin and the vast Atchafalaya Spillway, there are stretches of days bass eat shad, periods when crawfish have disappeared into holes and small bluegill, another small fish on a bass’ menu, get too big to eat.
Shad are usually small, shiny and silvery with a blueish hue, and flitter around in schools, and spinnerbaits and crankbaits are perfect for mimicking their movement.
But it was the color that sent Fontana back to his shop looking for the perfect combination of spinnerbait blades and skirt colors to trick an ol’ largemouth into thinking this spinnerbait was a delectable shad.
Well, there are enough spinnerbaits in tackle shops to confuse fishermen, if not bass.
“I like the Stanley Vibra Shaft body,” Fontana said, noting the double-willowleaf blades and the thin wire that holds the bait’s head and arm to hold the blades.
“Humdingers can work, too,” Fontana noted, mentioning the spinnerbait made in Baton Rouge and, now, Donaldsonville for more than three decades.
The color Fontana has found on tackle stores’ websites is “glimmer blue,” a clear skirt with a hint of silver metal flakes imbedded in the skirt.
“Hold it in the light and you see there’s blue in the skirt,” Fontana said. “That’s what makes it work. It looks just like a shad.”
He matches the body and skirt with glimmer-blue trailers, short 3-4 inch soft-plastic lures threaded onto the bait’s hook to add just enough movement to make a bass believe this offering is a live shad.
“I like to use swimbaits for trailers. They have lots of colors, glimmer blue is available in lots of places, but it gives it the action I want in a spinnerbait,” he said.
Fontana said he knows this combination will not work everywhere. Besides Verret and the Atchafalaya, it’s a color Jeff Bruhl has used with great success in the Pearl River system.
“It works in clear water. There’s no doubt this is a clear-water bait,” Fontana said. “We know we don’t fish clear water all the time, so you can add some color to it.
“In stained water, you can add a little chartreuse to the bait, and you can add rattles to the bait. All that helps in places before the water clears up,” Fontana said. “The rattles work. Small fish make noises in the water, and the rattles can help a bass to focus in on movement and noise.”