This Prettyboy largemouth took my big-bladed spinnerbait.
This Prettyboy largemouth took my big-bladed spinnerbait. (Bill May photo)

"Simplify, simplify" is perhaps the best-known phrase of Henry David Thoureau. Most undergraduates find it profound — until real-world responsibilities intrude.

However, in this spirit, I offer "The Bass Box" — with several caveats. First, this is more an experimental checklist than a tackle box. Second, it reflects my current style of fishing, a transition from the multiple rods and tackle boxes of reservoir and pond fishing from boats to two to three rods and limited tackle fishing mostly shallow weedy waters of ponds and rivers from a 12-foot kayak.


When I showed this list to fishing buddy, Joe Bruce, who fishes similarly, he told me it was too much stuff. He's probably right, but: 1. Let him fish with Thoreau then, and 2. Let's see how this list works.

Hard Baits and Notes - don't leave home without it.


Floating frogs & swimming frogs – for weed and pad fields

Tiny Torpedo – good, small surface bait for open water

Pop-R – as above but good for fishing slowly

Zara Spook/Super Spook Jr. - best big bass surface lure


Rapala X-Rap – a suspending jerkbait, size 8 or 10

Rapala – Silver, floating/diving, 4-inch

Spinnerbaits – ¼ to ½ ounce for probing wood in water

Buzzbaits – sizes above sometimes provoke surface strikes

Offset spinner/jighead/grub – smaller, subtler spinnerbait

Johnson Silver minnow – ¼ or ½-ounce in gold for weedbeds

Jigs and trailers – for working wood and drop-offs

Punch jigs – niche lure for probing weeds mats

Crankbaits – shallow or deep to suit water fished

Devil's Horse – rippled water surface lure

Soft Plastics and Notes

*Senkos – 4 and 6-inch for fishing holes

Power Pulse Worm – great crayfish imitator, no longer made

Flukes – super, swimming, junior, regular, Texas-rigged

Fin-S-Fish – 4-inch with open hook

Plastic worms - 4, 6, 11-inch, Texas rigged

Swimming worms – unweighted, shallow swimmer

Wacky Worms – on open or weedless hooks

Creatures/Lizards – spring big bass lures

Grubs – 1, 2, 4-inch for bass and panfish

Dropshot Rig Lures

Grubs, wacky worms as above, 2-inch Fin-S-Fish

Flies and Notes

Fished with fly rod or spin rod with clear casting float

Wooly Buggers – weighted, black or olive, size 8 or 10

Bluegill poppers and size 12 wet flies

Hair bass bugs, hard-body poppers

Patuxent Specials

Auxiliary Equipment

Leader material – 4X, 12#, 20#

Offset worm hooks – 2/0 -5/0

Split shot wheel

Bullet weights – 1/32 – ½ ounce

5 mm beads

Sure this list is too long, but, these lures, packed judiciously, fit into a small tackle box that can be carried in a kayak, canoe or small boat. For example I may pack only a couple of spinnerbaits with stinger hooks and keeper plastics in a tough plastic sandwich-sized bag. I store most of the plastics the same way including the appropriate weights, beads and hooks. I have a separate satchel for the flukes with various models and colors, beads, hooks and hangers and nail weights.

You don't need to take anything on every trip, and you certainly won't use most of these lures on any trip. For example, frogs aren't needed on Liberty Reservoir, but I will add more crankbaits, jigs and heavier weights for Carolina rigs.

Many days, when fishing weed and pad fields for bass and snakeheads, flukes and frogs are the only lures I use. Fly rod hair bugs with weedguards can be fun and effective but are often impractical when kayak fishing in lily pad and spatterdock fields.

Before pads and weeds emerge, lures like Rapala, spinnerbaits and Spooks can be fished over them. Plus some of these waters have deeper channels where these lures can be fished, often the ticket in winter.

Bonus: The River Smallmouth Vest with Notes

Unlike "The Bass Box," This whittled down list reflects my proven river smallmouth fishing selection and is suitable for wading or boating.

Hard Baits

Spittin' Image or Super Spook Jr. - Surface "walk the dog"

Rapala- Silver, floating/diving, 4-inch

Rapala X-Rap – a suspending jerkbait, size 8

Offset spinner/jighead/grub – for bass and sunfish

Rebel Wee Crayfish – great river smallmouth crankbait

Tiny Torpedo – the indispensable surface lure

Pop-R – Fished very slowly and quietly

Mepps - Size 1 with silver or gold blade

Soft Plastics with Notes

Fin-S-Fish – 4-inch with open hook

Wacky Worms – on open or weedless hooks

Grubs – 2 to 3-inch brown/chartreuse on 1/8-ounce jigheads

Fat Albert Grubs- 4-inch, 2/0 hook with bullet weight

Flies with Notes

Poppers – drifted and twitched

Bullethead Darters – as above

Soft hackles – for insect hatches

Crystal buggers – fished like a jig

Patuxent Special – drifted, best crayfish fly


Split shot

Bullet weights 1/32 – ¼ ounce

2/0 worm hooks

This list is definitely too long. Usually when I fish the Upper Potomac I wade with a spin rod and a fly rod, switching back and forth with the spare rod held in the belt with a shoulder sling. The fly rod is rigged with a popper, which is slowly drifter with an occasional twitch. The spin rod is rigged with a 4-inch Fat Albert Grub, green pumpkin/red, Texas-rigged on a 2/0 worm hook with a 1/16th or 1/8th-ounce bullet weight.

Most days that's all I need. The 4-inch Fin-s-Fish, drifted and twitched, draws awesome strikes at times. The Patuxent Special, cast upstream and drifted and twitched below riffles is a great crayfish imitation and takes smallmouth and sunfish. Size 12 soft hackles are effective when various caddis or mayflies are popping up.