Craig Bishop sat on the edge of the dock, his legs dangling over the side with his heels only an inch or so above the water.
He knew better than to disrupt the serenity of the glass-esque topwater, but it was tempting.
"It got hot today and I know that water is still pretty cool," said Bishop, who was fishing on a large pond on a neighbor's property in eastern Adams County.
"Just a dip to cool myself off would be perfect, but I came here to catch something and I'll mess that up if I get in the water. Maybe later I'll get wet, only if I catch something."
At that point, he hadn't caught anything.
As part of a birthday gift package, the 19-year-old received several new fishing products to try. There were a couple of bass lures, some artificial softbaits and a more than a handful of plastic worms. This pond had been stocked with bluegill, crappie and catfish several years ago, so he knew the bass lures would be useless.
Still, Bishop assumed the softbaits and worms would work.
He hadn't even had a nibble.
"Since I've sat down, I've seen plenty of fish coming up from below and picking bugs off the top of the water," Bishop said. "They've ignored everything I've tried."
So he changed his tactics.
He purchased a dozen worms from a local vendor earlier in the day and had the small styrofoam container sitting next to his tackle box. Disgusted with his lack of success, he changed his gear. He put an Eagle Claw hook onto his snap swivel, added a couple of split-shot sinkers and pulled a thick, juicy earthworm from the dirt inside the container.
He pinched off a piece of the worm, stuck it on the hook and cast his line and watched it sink out of sight after it hit the water.
"Now we wait," Bishop said.
It wasn't a long wait.
The first strike Bishop felt came within five minutes. He could feel what he assumed was fish nibbling on the worm but never fully taking the bait. He was about to reel it back in, assuming it needed re-baited, when the line jerked forward.
It was a small bluegill, not a keeper by any stretch, but it was the first fish of the day and gave credence to the notion live baits work better.
"My uncle won't buy anything plastic to put on the end of his line," Bishop said. "My dad frowns on it, but he has used some. I like to think I'm more out-of-the-box with what I use, more willing to try gadgets and such. But the proof is on the end of the hook. There's a worm and a fish. Do you need any other evidence?"
You might to convince some anglers live bait trumps lures.
There are a host of reasons why live bait is better. Here are a few:
º It is effective at fooling fish;
º It is very cost effective, especially if you dig your own worms or make your own stinkbait;
º It lends itself to a casual, relaxing style of fishing;
º Lost or leftover bait does no harm to the environment;
º And it appeals to a variety of species, not only the one an angler has targeted.
Some anglers (or their significant others) will argue live bait can be smelly and dirty. They will complain about the lack of action. And there is the likelihood a fish swallows the hook and creates a smaller chance for survival.
"Those are valid points," said Kent Jones, a professional angler from Osage Beach, Mo. "Face it, the pros and cons are going to be valid on both sides. For the most part it comes down to comfort and style, but experience has taught me if you just want to catch fish and you're not worried it being a largemouth bass or a crappie or whatever, you should use live bait.
"You're more likely to catch fish on live bait. I can't give you a percentage or a scientific fact. Years fishing have taught me that. That's my proof."
Anglers who favor lures have their reasons why. Here are a few:
º The action is better. Lures force you to be aggressive with your casting and reeling. You can't let a lure hit the water and sink. You have to keep it active.
º Lures typically don't get swallowed. Fish get hooked on the lips or the jaw, and it's easier to remove them from the hook. Lures are more effective when your intent is catch-and-release.
º It's easy to make adjustments. If one lure isn't working, you try a different color or style. It may pay off.
"The interesting thing about lures is you might find one works in certain water one day but not the next," said Willis Jefferson, a professional angler from East Alton, Ill. "You change spots and you need a totally different set of lures, but the process of finding what works can be a lot of fun.
"You have to creative and spontaneous. With live bait, you put it on the hook, you cast and you wait. There's beauty in that, but it can be awfully boring for someone with a short attention span."
Or it can be endless fun when you land among a school of hungry fish.
"A day fishing is a good day, no matter what you put on the end of your line," Bishop said. "I'll try anything, but my dad and my uncle might be right. Fish never get tired of live bait. They're drawn to it. They can ignore a piece of plastic."