“Conditioning” is a word thrown around in the bass world all the time. Most often, it’s used in regard to the idea that bass in a body of water have been so pressured by anglers, they’ve been “conditioned” to avoid certain lures or presentations. But anglers can get conditioned, too. And this angler conditioning can make you more or less effective depending on how you let it mentally affect you. It’s like psychological warfare when a bite gets tough or a fishermen believes his bass are conditioned: Do I change lures and maybe catch more, or stick with what’s worked in the past? Does it even matter what I use if they are biting well, or not biting at all? Is my usual pattern really not working or am I just bored with it? To help clear up some of the conditioning mystery, we’ll talk about the fish first, and you second.
So do bass really turn off of particular lures that are cast to them over and over? I say yes and no. What I really think happens is that about the time a lure gets hot, we’re off to a different part of the season where that lure is less effective, but the angler thinks the bass are conditioned to that lure. It happens all the time; a lure catches on with the anglers, and then shuts off with the bass. Then, when the next part of the season comes along in which that lure may be the most effective, I’d say 50% of anglers have forgotten about it, or are PO’ed at that lure and won’t use it. At the end of the day, you need to step back and realize that it’s not really about the lure at all, but rather the conditions in which it was effective. If you bank the conditional info about when a lure was killing it, you’ll always know exactly when to tie it on, and understand that the lure itself is not what’s turning the bite off or on.
In terms of angler conditioning, the simple fact is most guys give lure and color higher priority than seasonal conditions and locations. That makes them overuse certain lures to the point where get burned out or frustrated when all of a sudden they stop working. And once an angler gets jaded by forcing some lure or pattern for too long, even if effective in certain small windows, it never allows them to pick that lure up with the same confidence, even at times when they really should be using it. The angler that can see through the prism of “hot lures” and “hot patterns,” and puts more emphasis on why and when, usually never gets conditioned, and never worries about bass being conditioned.