Finding Bass – a la Lucas

Jason Lucas teaches how to find and catch bass. Photo April 1958 issue of Sports Afield.

Jason Lucas teaches how to find and catch bass. Photo April 1958 issue of Sports Afield.

We’ve mentioned Jason Lucas here at the Bass Fishing Archives a number of times as being the father of contemporary bass fishing and will continue to do so as time progresses. For those of you who don’t know, Lucas was made angling editor of Sports Afield magazine in the late 40s and penned the first real book on bass fishing in 1947, which was reprinted two more times, first in 1949 and again in 1962.

As Brian said in an article earlier this year, we’ll be doing a book review on his Lucas on Bass Fishing book at some point in the future – if any of you have read it, you know that won’t be a trivial task. In the meantime, I was reading a couple of my old issues of Sports Afield and thought I’d share with you some of Lucas’ thoughts on bass fishing and even give you a test that was featured in the April 1958 issue of the magazine. (For those of you who like tests, there won’t be any grades or awards. If you ace it, just know that Lucas would be proud of you.)

April 1958 – You Can Always Find Bass

From this article penned in 1958, I think you’ll realize what I mean about Lucas being one of, if not the best bass anglers of the time. This article not only talks about how to find bass but how to efficiently catch them. What I’ll do here is show a few clippings from the article and make some comments about them.

Excerpt from the April 1958 issue of Sports Afield

Excerpt from the April 1958 issue of Sports Afield

At the beginning of this clip Lucas is referring how good anglers can catch fish out of nearly any body of water at any time. He then goes on to talk about the 10/90 rule we’ve heard so often in fishing and that the 10 percent of the anglers doing all the catching are more efficient. Doesn’t sound like too much of a stretch but when you think about the year it was written, it’s pretty amazing.

Excerpt from the April 1958 issue of Sports Afield

Excerpt from the April 1958 issue of Sports Afield

Here’s another clip that really breaks down Lucas’ thoughts on why experienced anglers catch more fish. He states that the experienced angler doesn’t waste any motion and keeps his lure in the fish’s eye on nearly every cast. He’s talking not only about high-percentage casts but also high-percentage lures for the conditions.

Excerpt from the April 1958 issue of Sports Afield

Excerpt from the April 1958 issue of Sports Afield

In this clip, Lucas is again referring to the advanced angler as being efficient by not only choosing the right casts and lures but also the right areas or spots. He said, “[H]e’ll concentrate on the spots, often far apart, that will have most bass in them, passing up the rest without a glance.” Is he talking about pattern fishing or just fishing a bunch of known spots that differ in cover/structure, depth, etc? I think it’s the former. Lucas may not be given credit for the term pattern fishing – he never mentioned the term in anything I’ve ever read from him – but I feel pretty confident this is exactly what he’s talking about.

The next part of the article deals with how to find productive spots. The interesting thing is he talks of off-shore structure rather than finding shoreline areas. Mind you this is one year after the Lowrance (LEMCO) Fish Lo-K-Tor was developed and not many anglers had them let alone had heard of them. How did Lucas find offshore structure? Here’s part of the answer.

Excerpt from the April 1958 issue of Sports Afield

Excerpt from the April 1958 issue of Sports Afield

In this part of the article it’s obvious from the words that Lucas was talking about how to find a great area on a natural lake. He talks about the secondary weedline away from the shore and what to do if there a depth break away from that weedline. This information may seem obvious to today’s angler but up through the 70s it was this type of information that anglers were craving. Lucas was talking about it in the 40s and 50s.

Since few anglers used or even knew of electric motors during this time, Lucas relied on his main tiller-steered motor and an anchor to hold him on a spot. Lucas knew that sound vibrations had an effect on bass and therefore had a warning for his readers.

Excerpt from the April 1958 issue of Sports Afield.

Excerpt from the April 1958 issue of Sports Afield.

The lateral line? They knew about that in 1958?

Lucas also talks about noise generated in the boat and by fish when landing them. Here’s something I think you’ll really find interesting with respect to his findings pertaining to this issue.

Excerpt from the April 1958 issue of Sports Afield

Excerpt from the April 1958 issue of Sports Afield

Lucas may be the first person to actually say in written word that catching a fish can excite a school – something you hear many pros today talking about.

Lucas then goes on to talk about which lure to choose when fishing an area of this type. He’s had the angler find a spot that has a depth break off a secondary weedline and anchor on the depth break. He now advises them to first throw a topwater lure, presumably towards the weedline as their first choice – depending on the time of day.

His reasoning for using the topwater lure are for pure sport of fishing but if you think about it, this also pertains to today’s bass angling thought of – catch the active fish before the non-active fish. In other words, catch the dumb ones first and then switch to a slower moving lure that can get the rest.

Here’s what he has to say about surface versus deeper presentations.

Excerpt from the April 1958 issue of Sports Afield

Excerpt from the April 1958 issue of Sports Afield

The next piece of information Lucas talks about is fishing far offshore and how to locate and remember where these spots are.

Excerpt from the April 1958 issue of Sports Afield

Excerpt from the April 1958 issue of Sports Afield

Notice how tricky Lucas was with respect to marking his spots in order not to allow anyone else to find them. It’d probably drive him nuts today with the sidescan depthfinders and GPS systems we use today. That or he’d call every contemporary angler something like subpar or entitled.

This is just a small look into the world of Jason Lucas and his thoughts on successful bass fishing. As stated in the beginning of this article we intend to bring to light a lot of his work and ideas of bass fishing. Until then we hope we’ve given you an idea of what he was like and what he had accomplished as an angler back when there was little if any technology. In conclusion, here’s the test that was presented with the article. We’ll post the answers as they were given in this piece from 1958 next Monday. Have a great weekend everyone and we hope your livewells are full.

Jason Lucas bass fishing test printed from the April 1958 issue f Sports Afield.

Jason Lucas bass fishing test printed from the April 1958 issue of Sports Afield.

  • Stan FAgerstrom

    Dear Terry:
    What a great job you’ve done with this column on my friend Jason Lucas. As you well know, Jason and I were indeed good friends. I showed you the stack of his personal letters that provide ample evidence of that.

    I suppose I’m one of a very few bass angler still kicking who enjoyed the relationship I did with this extremely interesting man. I’ve always maintained he was way ahead of his time as a bass angler.

    Among other things, he played a lone hand. One of the first things he told me when he was planning to come visit us was that we would not be sharing a boat with him. I know some of the reasons why he took this approach. I’ll be touching on some of them in my future Let’s Look Back columns here at the Bass Fishing Archives.

    It boggles me every time I think about old Jason to realize that he’s not in the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame. As far as I’m concerned he should have been the first bassin’ man to make it. He was one of my early day bass fishing idols and his advice helped me put a whole lot of fish in the boat.

    Stan

    Stan

    • Stan,

      Thanks so much for the kind words. I know well that you and Jason had a great relationship – it was seen in those letters you let me see – and I’m sure I speak for the rest of us out here that I can’t wait to read what you have to write about him. Maybe between us and the few others who regard him as the father of contemporary bass fishing we can get him inducted into the BFHOF.

      Terry

  • fish_food

    Re: “Among other things, he played a lone hand. One of the first things he told me when he was planning to come visit us was that we would not be sharing a boat with him. I know some of the reasons why he took this approach. I’ll be touching on some of them in my future Let’s Look Back columns here at the Bass Fishing Archives.”

    How very intriguing. I’m looking forward to reading more of this!

  • I avidly read every Jason Lucas article as a kid – he formed much of my early approach to bass fishing I have his book LUCAS ON BASS FISHING – My fishing pals and I scrimped and saved to buy old Langley lurecasts or Shakespeare tournament reels, spooled them with tournament silk or squidding lines so we could learn to cast efficiently. He also talked of the etiquette of bass fishing. When someone would come in Finckes’ Tackle shop that had actually met him we would listen in awe to the stories about his prowess.
    I have been wanting to get Chuck Woods in the hall of fame – I was amazed to find out Bill Murphy wasn’t in it – now to find out that Jason Lucas has been left out leaves me wondering – exactly what are the requirements for induction?

    • Capt Bosley,

      I’m not sure what the criteria for being inducted into the BFHOF are. But there are a number of anglers that need to be placed in there. Maybe after the Sammy Lee gets the Hall moved into the permanent space in Cullman, AL more folks who deserve to be placed will be.

      I do know that you have to be a member of the BFHOF in order to be able to submit and vote on anglers who have been recommended.

      Terry

  • Clyde Drury

    Hi Terry,
    I enjoy reading items about Jason, he has always been one of my favorites. I have all three versions of his book and was waiting for a 3rd revision revision or maybe a new book after he retired. Somewhere here in my stacks I have a couple of letters from Jason to another outdoor writer. Lucas wrote, “I resigned, in anger, from Sports Afield because it’s published for advertisers, to sell stuff, not for sportsmen.” Also, “I’m supposed to be working on a new book on fishing, but play around the lakes and streams too much to get much of it done so far.” Further, he said that book publishers were after him to write his autobiography. “I did undercover Intelligence work for the American Army in World War II, and I’ve been a real cowboy in Arizona – not a dude wrangler, contest hand or any other kind of showman. Also was a professional mountain-lion hunter for some years.” What a book that would have been!

  • Ralph Manns

    Terry,

    Love your pages and think Jason L. worthy of much praise. But my library contains “Fresh Water Bass by Ray Bergman, dated 1942, that was given me by my grandfather. While it is heavy on fly-fishing techniques for bass, it does cover the field fairly well, considering how little biologists and sports fishing writers knew bout black bass at that time.

    • Ralph, Thanks for the tip on that book. I’ll be searching for it now. 🙂

  • Clyde Drury

    Many of us followed his suggestions. I made a cork arbor for a cheap J. C. Higgins bait casting reel with a pocket knife by using the reel itself as a lathe. I also followed his instructions and made hangers for the sides of my boat to hold the oars out of the water and keep them off the boats bottom. I also tried to copy his huge tacklebox but I had seven kids and a wife who liked to fish so I never got to take it in the boat. I had forgotten that he always fished alone. Jim Chapralis told me about him and a friend at age 12, who, after reading Jason in Sports Afield, decided they wanted to fish the Fox Chain of Lakes region in Northern Illinois. With the friend’s parents out of town they borrowed the parents Pontiac and drove some 45 miles to go fishing. The friend was so short that he had to sit on phone books to drive, That story is included in Jim’s book, “Fishing Passion.” I recommend that book for anyone who likes fishing adventures. Jim fished worldwide with lots of angling greats.

    • Clyde, between you and Ralph you’re gonna drive me broke with all these other books I have to get. 🙂