All I Needed To Know I Learned From Virgil the Bass


If I had a bass lure for every time I observed (or heard of) a beginner fisherman catching a huge bass the first time he or she graced the waters with an odd fishing technique and presentation, I would definitely need a bigger boat and tackle box.

Why is it, when newcomers board my boat, I know I am going to be humbled by their success in spite of their lack of style and or knowledge?

I have chuckled under my breath (okay, laughed out loud) at tackle choices made by the novice. It is unfair to those of us who have methodically fished so long in an effort to boat the illustrious 10-pounder to hear the giddy words, “This is easier then I thought” while said power-bait-sucking fisherman lands the bass of a lifetime on his 202 loaded with a yellow pink poke and/or a dotted rubber-duck-billed crank with a copper willow leaf, tipped with a pink marshmallow. I tell ya: It’s just not fair! — or is it?


Enter, Virgil, The Bass

Enter Virgil the bass. Actually it was Virgil and his other brother Virgil in a 55-gallon tank until Virgil ate his other brother, but that is another story.

WORKS WHEREVER — As a big (and successful) advocate of the “mixing-it-up” tactics, angler Mike Wallace shows a nice walleye caught at Lake Powell. As a matter of fact, he has photos of several species (including a huge Montana trout) from several waterways that have succumbed to his fishing technique.
WORKS WHEREVER — As a big (and successful) advocate of the “mixing-it-up” tactics, angler Mike Wallace shows a nice walleye caught at Lake Powell. As a matter of fact, he has photos of several species (including a huge Montana trout) from several waterways that have succumbed to his fishing technique.

Needless to say, the first thing I learned from Virgil is that a bass can eat another fish nearly its own size — amazing but true.

Many of my bass questions were answered via Virgil. Even though many would argue some of these facts, I observed them first hand. As far fetched as the rubber-duck-billed crank is, if there were such a lure, it is not too far fetched that a bass could be caught on it, no matter what the color was.

Let me explain by sharing what I learned from the Virg. The first hook-less jig with which I taunted Virgil was a yellow-feather jig. In a dark room with only the aquarium light on, Virgil pounded that jig, holding it in his mouth and was too stubborn to release it. This happened twice before Virgil became bored with it.


The Lessons Begin

For a week I went through the same exercise with the same yellow jig. But, Virgil would ignore the yellow feathery delight, bored by its common place. There were a few times in that week that reaction and or emotion drove Virgil to passively strike at the jig. But, the exhale of that jig was nearly as fast as the inhale. The next week I introduced a different color jig, again hookless. His reaction was aggressive once more with several power strikes; again he was too stubborn to release the new colored jig from his grip. Then, as the first time he experienced the yellow jig, Virgil ignored the new colored jig as a familiar and unrewarding experience. This fascinated me, and for a year I experimented with colors, shapes and presentation. Unless the shape or color of the jig changed or the presentation was different, Virgil cold-shouldered anything but the real thing: gold fish or red tails.

But, if I shook or moved the jig in an unfamiliar way — changing either the presentation of that jig or the shape or the color — or even rigged the bait differently, aggression was displayed and the jig was inhaled several times until judged boring and/or unpleasant.


I Absolutely Know These Things

Because of Virgil, this is what I absolutely know about bass.

One: They have an incredible memory. Virgil would not strike aggressively any jig with which he had become familiar. If he had seen a color before, he had only one reaction: avoidance.

This pattern of behavior was consistent for a year. I am convinced that if Virgil had lived longer than a year (different and a whole other story), he would have displayed the same avoidance to familiar experiences. Second: Bass can distinguish color, size and shape very well.

Third: Some bass will eat anything including his young brother.

I don’t base that opinion solely on my experiment with Virgil. I confirmed this also while bobber fishing for blue gill with my boys when they were young.

A large bass exploded on the one-inch red and white bobber as it hit the water and would not release it. I actually fought the bass with bobber in its mouth for several minutes until he stubbornly spit it out at the surface (true story).

The short life Virgil shared with me brought my fishing to another level. I began to be hyper sensitive to the way I rigged bait and the colors I used and subtle differences in presentation.

I began to understand why two people could stand side by side but only one of the two could catch fish even when presenting the same, exact bait. Something was different.

I began to change my habits aboard the boat and how I approached the structure, and I began to fish suspecting that things like sound, silhouette or shadows could condition fish to know that an unpleasant experience was about to occur.


Now I Mix It Up

BROTHER’S BASS — Gary Wallace, the writer’s brother, is shown with a nice bass from Roosevelt, which he caught on an odd-colored metallic deep-blue rattle trap. Through the “mixing-it-up” technique, the brothers boated over a dozen good bass in a short afternoon.

And, among many other things, when I found it difficult to boat bass, I mix it up; I try new colors and rigging. I try different presentations until I find something that hasn’t been seen or experienced.

I have caught many bass on reaction, I have caught many more by mixing it up and presenting a fresh and unpleasant experience for the kin of Virgil.

One last thing: If there is a rubber-duck-billed crank out there, send me one and I will catch a bass on that baby. Thank you for your time. Any questions? Contact me at


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here