The Three Percent Strategy
The Simpler The Better

Padua, Italy

[email protected]

No matter whether you are a beginner bass fisherman or a tournament guru, having too much tackle is sometimes confusing and counter-productive. I've put together some reflections here that I feel you will identify with as you read this article. I hope it will help you to better understand and plan a strategy for carrying and using tackle.

A thought was planted in my head a few weeks ago when I was having a great email discussion with a cyberfriend about the amount of lures we normally use on a fishing trip or tournament. He told me that he probably only uses 3% of the baits he carries in his tackle boxes. Upon reflection, I had to agree with him on that. Like my friend, I also realized that I use a very minimal percentage of the lures I always have in my boat!
Is it always the same? Thinking more deeply about this, I asked myself this question: "Is that 3% of lures we fish always the same?"

In my case, I am most comfortable fishing spinnerbaits, jigs and soft plastics most often on heavy gear. However, that doesn't mean that I won't pick a lighter rod and successfully use a whole different set of lures from my modular tackle storage system on certain days. For instance, when I fish clear water, I use a whole different approach than when I fish stained or murky water. In clear water, I simply downsize my tackle, lure size, weights, line etc. But the downsized stuff is not confined only to clear water conditions. When bass are dormant or lazy like after a bad cold front, the small lures come in handy even in a heavy cover flipping situation. Plus, the small lures often represent great trailers for jigs or spinnerbaits. So, I say "No", the 3% can vary from day to day depending on conditions.

Another good example is that, despite the fact that I'm not a diehard crankbait fisherman, these lipped lures have saved me from a fishless trip a few times in several years of bass fishing
Because of this, I always carry a good variety of crankbaits in my tacklebox, even though I do not use them on every trip! I am keeping them for those unpredictable 3% of the time when they will save the day for me!

What I want to say here is that even though I consider myself a "heavy line" fisherman who favors spinnerbaits, jigs and soft plastics, I always try to be versatile and open-minded. That's why I carry so many lures in my tackle box, even if I do not use them often. I'm a strong proponent of having all the lures and tackle (usually a smart selection, not a ton) that I feel I may need to face all the conditions I can find on a fishing trip or in a tournament.

As I reflect upon it, I am sure that there are very few fishermen out there who use more than a very small percentage of their lures on a given outing. Even the pros, though they're on the water 300 days per year, fish a small number of lures rather than a lot of them.

The majority of fishermen may only use no more than 3% of the lures they carry - although these lures aren't the same 3% on every trip.

Tackle Bag Strategy

When I go fishing, no matter if it's a bass tournament or a simple fishing trip, I usually come armed with three tackle bags and a strategy for using them as follows:

  • First is a soft tackle bag which contains about 200 bags (ten paks or twenty paks) of soft-plastic lures, and a Plano 3700 utility box where I store all my silicone or rubber skirted jigs. In the same bag I put all the rigging hooks, bullet weights, Carolina weights, spare jig heads, fish attractant and other assorted items that go with soft plastics and jig fishing.
  • In a second Plano tacklebox, I store the hard baits - stuff like topwaters, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, a good lure retriever, spare spinnerbait blades, spare treble hooks, a hook sharpener, pliers, cutters, etc.
  • I stow both these "soft" and "hard" tackle bags into one of my boat compartments. Rarely do I take them out of that compartment during a fishing trip. Why? Beacause, I store a couple of dozen bags of my favorite go-to soft plastics, a few spinnerbaits, jigs and trailers into a smaller worm binder which I leave laying on the boat deck near me for quick access at all times. This is a neat trick to avoid being confused with too many lures. Matter of fact is that in the big soft tackle bag stored in the boat compartment, there are lots of lures that are the same colors and models of the ones I carry in the smaller bag I keep out on the boat deck. Call it a "spare tire" if you will!. Two packages of tubes, four packs of worms, a couple of bags of Yamamoto Senkos, two bags of Zoom Super Flukes and Yamamoto Ikas, a few Snakebite Mega Curl worms, a handful of spinnerbaits and jigs and a bag of trailers and I'm ready to go. I guess you can call that my favorite 3% bag! It's a good line-up that I have tremendous confidence in! Can you blame me for that?

Rods and Reels

As far as rods and reels, I leave the deck of my boat quite clean and free of too many rods and reels. If I don't know what the fish want or if I'm exploring new waters, I may have five or six rods rigged with different lures. But once I've discovered a couple of good patterns, the number of rods that I use diminish. If I'm on some fish lurking in heavy cover I have a flipping stick, a spinnerbait rod and a topwater rod ready to use. If I'm fishing clear water with rocky structure I'll switch to a crankbait rod, a spinning rod for small soft-plastics and a jig rod. You can see by yourself that my fishing method is quite simple, neat and organized.

Fishing Rhythm

To me, switching to several different lures and colors could result in a lack of concentration and, more often than not, a loss of time. This could even break your fishing rhythm. Consider this: you are methodically pitching or flipping a shoreline covered with bushes and fallen trees. After a few casts, you acquire a certain rhythm in your presentation and you position the boat at the distance you feel comfortable to pitch or flip from. Imagine to switch lure every few minutes. No matter if you have another dozen rods rigged and ready on the flipping deck - every time you switch to another rod/lure you break the rhythm and this may hurt your concentration and disrupt your chances to catch more fish. Not to mention the consequences if you have to re-tie a new lure! You loose the control of your boat, the wind drifts you away or into the shoreline cover and you almost have to restart your approach to the spot you're targeting.

You can tell I've thought a lot about this 3% syndrome. I consciously follow it out when I am out on the water. It has become my modus operandi and I am convinced it works for me. So, the simpler the better is a good philosophy, and one that I think that each of us as anglers follow in our own ways. Reflect upon it for yourself. Think of how much tackle you own versus how much you actually use successfully on any given fishing trip. I think you may agree with me that any day's success is often based on a fraction of the tackle we own, but that doesn't always mean it's the same small fraction on every trip!

Back To Articles