Few lures are as simple, basic, unassuming, yet effective, as the dart. Yes, marabou jigs come close, but they rarely carry as much weight for the size. Sure, some jig heads with plastic tails create a similar profile, but plastics rarely adapt well when used in conjunction with bait. Yet the shad dart casts and sinks farther and faster than similar alternatives, works great when tipped, and can be used for just about anything. So the next time you glance in the tacklebox and see those old, unused darts, remember:
- Cast and retrieve or vertically jig a bare dart quickly when the water temps are high and fish are active.
- Tip a dart with cut bait and fish it slow (usually near bottom) when it’s cool out and the fish are lethargic.
- Tip a dart with a live minnow, and suspend it for panfish like crappie.
- Tip a large dart with shrimp or squid strips and bounce it along bottom, to tempt flounder.
- Rip a small dart erratically through river pools, to draw strikes from bass and trout.
- Put a chunk of cut bait on a dart, cast it out, and let it sit on bottom for catfish.
- Use a dart to add weight to crab baits drifted through cuts or along channel edges, for specks and reds.
- When larger fish are around boost a dart’s profile and appeal by sliding a twister tail on the hook.
- Troll bare darts or retrieve them very quickly, to get bluefish to strike.
- Use light darts as the top lure or heavy ones as the anchor, for tandem rigs.
Yes, you can do an awful lot of different things with a dart. In fact, the simple dart is so darn versatile that when you open up the self-contained fishing kits packed into life-rafts, you’ll often find a pair of them included (usually the red-head/yellow ones, as seen to far left in the picture). So don’t neglect those plain old darts and leave them locked away in the tacklebox. They may lack the flash and appeal of high-tech lures, but they’re every bit as effective as just about anything lining the tackle shop shelves.