Why consider artificial baits?

Once again, you forgot and left the box of night crawlers sitting in the hot sun on the boat seat.

Your fatheads are dying from the heat in the minnow bucket.

And your once-lively leeches already have expired, having turned into brown ribbons of glob and raising an odor that would wrinkle even a garbageman's nose.

Ahh, the joys of fishing with live bait under a hot July sun.

If you're tired of picking through decomposing 'crawlers in search of a stirring worm, this may be a defining moment in the game of angling skills:

Learn to fish with artificial lures.

Artificials don't rot in the sun. They don't expire in warm water. Most artificial lures don't stink, either; although some of them do on purpose.

There also is a special pleasure in fooling a fish on something that's really not eatable.

Why, sometimes man-made lures or man-concocted baits will even out-perform live bait, although usually not on a day-to-day basis.

Most of us fish with live bait because we know it works. We have confidence in a worm or minnow or leech or chicken livers or whatever has blood in it.

The key to successful fishing with artificial lures is to develop the same level of confidence in whatever you tie to the end of the line.

A few lure suggestions

Jig-worm: This is a conventional round-head jig one might use with a real minnow. Instead, combine a 1/16th ounce or 1/8th ounce jig with a 4-inch or 6-inch plastic worm. Thread the worm on the jig with the hook point exposed. Cast the jig-worm combo to the outside edge of weedlines, allow to sink and slowly swim the lure back. Bass love it. Northern pike will inhale it. And walleyes will take it, too.

Scented baits: While stinky baits are not new, a bait called Gulp is only about two years old and clearly a favorite of fish. Developed by Pure Fishing — the Berkley folks in Spirit Lake, Iowa — Gulp is a patented scented bait that also is biodegradable. It's made in many shapes and sizes, but here are a few I've tested. The red worm or night-crawler shapes are great for catching bluegills without the mess of live bait, such as wax worms. Trout love the Gulp salmon egg.

Crankbaits: Lures that dive when trolled or retrieved are reliable substitutes for live bait in the right situation. Deep-diving lures will catch walleyes hanging around deep-water flats. A shallow crankbait, such as Rapala's DT-4, is designed to dive to a 4-foot depth, which makes it ideal for fishing shallow rivers for smallmouth.

Yes, there are days when only live bait will do. But learn to fish artificials in case your worms are withered.

Ron Schara may be reached at ron@mnbound.com.

Schara's 250-page book, "Ron Schara's Minnesota Fishing Guide" (Tristan Outdoors; $19.95) is available by clicking here or by calling 888-755-3155.

Ron Schara's short feature, "The Outdoor Beat," airs at 7:55 a.m. ET Sundays on ESPN2. Click here to view this week's show descriptions.