Old Reliable

Keeping the Faith with Old Reliables

(By: Jerry Carlson)



When it comes to fishing equipment, there is no doubt I have my fair share. I am well stocked with rods and reels as well as the terminal tackle to put on them. I am outfitted for everything from panfish to big northern. However, even though I have a wide variety of equipment, I still have a number of favorite lures and presentations I like to call the “old reliables.”


Developing an “old reliable” category is not something that happens over night. Instead, it is a process that takes many years. It is also a process that requires fishing on many different lakes under a variety of situations. Old reliables must prove their versatility before being inducted into this special category.


Old reliable lures and presentations change with the seasons. For example, if I am chasing crappies in the spring, I make use of pink and white feathered jigs fished under Thill floats. In the summer months, my all time favorite is definitely a small pink jig head and a white plastic body. Crappies love pink and white.


Walleyes aren’t quite as easy as crappies. Lindy rigging is always on my list provided I have bait that coincides with the time of year. Shiners are a must in the spring with leeches and crawlers taking over in the summer.


When the walleye bite gets a little tough in the summer, my old reliable becomes a bottom bouncer and spinner combination. I find summer walleyes will hit a fast moving spinner when they won’t look at anything else. This old reliable combo has earned very high honors!


When it comes to sheer versatility, jigs are impossible to beat. The simplistic appeal of the lead head is hard for us to understand. However, the fish don’t mind this simplistic approach at all.


Jigs and live bait are always a combination that will catch fish. Walleyes, bass and northern will all readily scoop up a well presented jig and live bait combo.


I find that I make extensive use of weedless jigs tipped with PowerBait. On many of the lakes I fish, the deep weed line is a real focal point of activity. Having a presentation that allows me to work inside the weeds as well as the outer edge is critical.


Most of the water I fish has an ample supply of bass. During the early season, when the bass are on the inside weed line or shallower, a wacky rigged worm is very hard to beat. Although I have only been using wacky worms for a few years, they are definitely on my list.


It is not possible to talk about bass fishing without throwing in a pitch for the Texas rigged worm. In reality, this presentation is nothing more than a variation of jig fishing. It is simple to rig, easy to fish, weedless and a real killer for bass.


I remember the days when I first started experimenting with crankbaits. I found these lures would sometimes get the attention of fish when nothing else would. Crankbaits also proved to be an impressive multispecies bait.


Even though I have quite a collection of crankbaits, my old reliable list is short. I really like lipless rattle baits that have a fast, tight vibration. A variety of colors work, but I usually start with red or crawdad patterns.


These lures can be fished fast or slow. They can be worked over the tops of weeds or allowed to drop into deeper water. I also find that a varied retrieve that involves and occasional pause and a twitch now and then will increase the productivity of this bait.


Eventually, every angler will develop a list of old reliable lures and presentations. Although some of my old reliables are species specific, many will take a variety of fish which only increases their value.


Old reliables are the lures and presentations I use for 90% of my fishing. They are the ones that consistently put fish in my boat. Old reliables are lures I ‘keep the faith’ in because they seldom let me down