The theory that I am about to describe is called the “Odd Man Theory”, and I first learned of it in my biological studies in college (which means I have had many years to test this theory). The Odd Man theory describes predator and prey relationships, and if you apply it you will surely net more and bigger bass. Best of all, you can apply this theory by changing how you fish ANY lure. But first, let me describe the theory.
Nature isn’t perfect, and every species in nature has its sick, lame, and lazy individuals. If these imperfect specimens were to reproduce, their substandard genes could be proliferated and eventually cause the extinction of the species. Predators play a very important role in nature by consuming the less fit specimens. Take the wolf for instance. Working in an organized pack, wolves will run a group of deer back and forth until one of the deer lags behind the others because it is sick, injured, or just generally weaker. This deer becomes the “odd man” of the herd. The end result is that the weakest become food, and the strong survive.
Bass are predators, and they make their living by eating prey. To survive and gain weight, a bass must consume more calories than it expends when trying to catch its meal. If a largemouth bass tried to chase down healthy shad all day long, they would waste away and ultimately die. Consequently bass have evolved into ambush style predators. Their body shape and temperament is better suited to hanging out next to a stump or rock and patiently wait for dinner to come to them.
So Mama Pesce claims the best ambush spot in the lake, and when a school of baitfish comes swimming too close, she eyes the school and quickly looks for the “odd man”, which is the sick, lame or lazy of the school. Her trained eye and sensitive lateral line quickly focuses on the baitfish that is struggling to swim, which is evident by its erratic movement and unusual frequency. The big girl locks onto this odd man like a heat-seeking missile, and dinner is served.
Now that you understand the theory, think of the ways in which you can increase the attractiveness of your artificial lures! When I retrieve a crankbait, I greatly increase its attractiveness by making the fake prey look like the “odd man”. This is easily achieved by using an erratic retrieve, with quick starts and sudden stops. Everyone has heard top bass pro’s suggest that it is important to bounce your crankbait off objects during the retrieve, such as the bottom, or stumps, or rocks. This tactic works because you are causing your lure to look like the odd man, which is nature’s way of ringing the dinner bell to bass. What many don’t realize is that you can create similar success even when there are no objects to bounce off, just by using an erratic retrieve!
Visualize how your lure is swimming, and make it look sick or injured. When I’m fishing a Sammy with the typical “walk-the-dog” action, I always use a stop and go retrieve, which produces bone-jarring strikes. I will make a long cast and wait a minute before starting to retrieve. Once the water has calmed down, I mentally visualize a large bass or two below my lure, eyeing it to see if it is going to try and escape. Then I start twitching the Sammy back and forth for about 3 feet, and then pause my retrieve as if the lure is testing whether the bass have spotted it. Then I start to retrieve once again, and this time I may move the lure a daring 4 or 5 feet before once again pausing. Usually by now the bass have seen all they need to realize that the Sammy is trying to escape, but is injured and consequently is an easy meal. At this point you see the surface flush in a whirlpool, and your Sammy is heading underwater in the maw of Mama Pesce!
How about that favorite spinnerbait of yours, like that _-ounce white and chartreuse number with gold willow leaf blades? The smallmouth bass will be tearing your lure up all summer when you make it look like the “odd man” by repeatedly causing the skirt to flare in and out with twitches of your rod tip, or momentary stops of the crank during the retrieve.
As the big smallies and spotted bass move into the rocky depths during the summer, the dropshot rig comes into its own. Ever wonder why this rig is so popular with tournament pro’s? A dropshot rig perfectly imitates injured prey. This rig allows you to make a worm dance in one place until a bass can no longer refuse the easy meal. Jerkbaits, like the popular Pointer Minnow, were created specifically to take advantage of the odd man theory. They are fished by ripping them through the water with short bursts of speed, followed by pauses and subsequent rips. Alternatively they are fished by walking-the-dog under the water surface. Either way they excel by imitating injured prey.
Even a Gamakatsu football head jig with a Yamamoto Grub can be improved by applying the odd man theory. As you drag this tempting morsel along the bottom, and feel it come to a rock pile, stop the grub for a few moments. Again I visualize that a couple of big smallies are eyeing my grub, and then I rip it off the bottom as if it is making a last ditch effort to escape, but quickly let it fall back to the bottom like it ran out of energy. If a bass is within a Skeeter boat length, it will suck up that Yammie grub before it ever hits the bottom.
For many years we have fished lures that didn’t resemble actual prey in appearance, such as chartreuse crankbaits in clear water. They have probably worked in part due to the odd man theory. But the latest trend is to make artificial lures as realistic in appearance and action as possible. Crankbaits today typically sport three-dimensional eyes, profiles that are shaped like actual baitfish, and even raised scales that reflect light like the real thing. This attention to detail includes showing red gills beneath flared gill plates, and metallic paint schemes that rival nature in realism. Their diving lips are carefully placed in the perfect aspect to create a realistic swimming action.
The idea that lure manufacturers are selling is that your lure will look, and act, like a real baitfish with minimum skill on the angler’s part. Sure, you can take many of these top quality lures and simply cast them out and reel them back, and you will catch some fish. They are a top quality product worth the money, but to get the real value out of these fake minnows you have to be sure to apply the odd man theory. Ciao! (You can reach me at LimitBy9@aol.com).