Sucker for Matching the Hatch

By Pete Robbins

If you want to liberate some money from my wallet, all you need to do is market your lure in a shade called “tilapia.” It doesn’t even have to resemble any actual tilapia found in nature, the advertising copy alone will send me into a Pavlovian frenzy forcing me to hit the “submit order” button.

Since we started our frequent travels to Mexico, I think I’ve ordered at least one of every tilapia-imitating lure on the market. I have spinnerbaits and chatterbaits with meticulously hand-tied skirts, swimbaits that would make you do a double take, and crankbaits that are works of art. In some cases, I even went out of my way to get the lures custom-poured or custom-painted.

This would seem to be a good investment, because those El Salto bass get fat on tilapia. I’ve seen it myself – big wads of bait hanging around the deep hardwood trees with the occasional group of double digit bass slashing through them with the glee of kids escaping weight loss camp and invading the Twinkie factory. They eat shad and various other critters, too, but they pack on the pounds with America’s favorite farmed fish.

But do you know how many fish I’ve caught on those tilapia lures?

Zero.

Or, translated into Spanish: Cero.

Meanwhile, I’ve caught hundreds of fish down there on Citrus Shad crankbaits and watermelon worms, which leads me to believe that some of those bass must be on a fruit-based diet. I did not know that scurvy was still a problem, particularly south of the border.

Nevertheless, as the ICAST reports come out next week, I will no doubt scan the descriptions of crankbaits and swimbaits and hope that someone’s come out with a photo-finish tilapia imitator. If that happens, I will no doubt buy a few, tote them to Mexico in January, and continue to catch fish on just about everything else.