Whether I'm watching one of those med shows like ER or my experience is more firsthand, I'm always amazed at the number of tools surgeons need to work. From 15 different types of scalpels, to who knows how many needles, forceps, hemostats — those guys run through a lot of equipment.
Bass anglers should relate to these extravagant instrumental needs quite well. After all, when it comes to having a lure for all occasions, we share the same mentality as surgeons. From those obscure painted jigheads with the cute fuzzy tails, to the seemingly endless variety of spinnerbait blade/skirt combinations, to the more fundamental styles of crankbaits, hardly any lure, no matter how ridiculous, seems superfluous.
But that's not to say bass anglers don't need an abundance of lure types. Indeed, catching bass is a lot like hitting a moving target: The subject never stays so constant that firing at a single spot or throwing a single lure will ensure success. That is to say, there likely cannot ever be a single "perfect" lure for all bass fishing. If somehow you've bought into that mythical idea, then you're doomed to suffer a lot of frustration.
Bass are adaptive hunters, and because the environment itself is constantly changing from season to season, day today, moment to moment, the bass finds itself having to frequently adjust its lifestyle and feeding strategies to whatever conditions prevail. The light pattern that made surface feeding over a particular lake flat so good today may be less favorable for bass tomorrow. The bass has little choice but to abandon the flat and take up an entirely different style of feeding somewhere else.
Another reason for the bass inconsistency, and thus the need for multiple lures, is individual variation. To a large extent, a bass is a bass is a bass.
Of course, not all bass behave exactly the same. Some are quite aggressive while others are exceptionally passive, with a whole gamut of personalities between. The practical application of this fact should be obvious. An angler trying to thoroughly cover a lake point holding several bass would want to throw a variety of lures and alter his presentations, varying from bold and bodacious to quiet and demure. Always playing to a single mode of bass temperament effectively limits your fishing to only a small portion of the available bass population. You're not playing to the whole audience.
Then there's the individual experience or learning of bass that causes them to favor or dislike a certain shape or color. And, finally, there is a shift in what I call "seasonal preferential tuning."
Because of the biased way bass receive and process sensory information, bass naturally express a "preference" for some types of lures over others. But bass are opportunistic predators and virtually every lure has some chance of being attacked. Lure preference is more of a mild, relativistic thing — something like your willingness to accept vanilla ice cream but given the choice you'd sooner take chocolate.
Taken collectively, the effects of feeding adaptations, individual variation due to genetics and experience, and seasonal shifts in lure preference, all combine to ensure that bass fishing will never stay constant. Better break out some more lures, guys, the bass are changing as we speak.