Bass lures have come a long way over the last century. The basics may not have changed, but the array of materials, the breadth of lure design, appearance and consistency, and the quality of hooks continue to improve. Who could argue that today's crankbaits are not dramatic improvements over their ancestral counterparts?
Still, after years of studying bass responses to lures in the lab and field, what impresses me most is the room we have for improvement. No lure I have ever tested has proven irresistible to bass. Bass always have the final say. I can't think of a single lure that predictably draws a strike from every bass that encounters it.
By all appearances, bass get more excited over live natural prey than artificial baits. But artificials can and do outperform natural baits. This superiority is largely because of their greater efficiency. There isn't the constant mess of having to rebait after each strike. Artificials also lend themselves to some applications better than naturals. Live baits are limited and better suited to a slower sit-and-wait presentation when you already suspect the presence of bass.
I believe the potential exists for someday making artificials decidedly more stimulating than natural prey. Predators seek out prey according to specific sensory search criteria. Prey organisms strive to avoid predators by making themselves less detectable, something akin to slipping beneath an enemy's radar or, better yet, becoming radar invisible. Minnows, crayfish, and the like don't devote their lives to fulfilling bass meal dreams. They focus on survival. As such, they come equipped with cryptic defensive mechanisms, like camouflage and hiding behavior, for escaping sensory detection by marauding bass. In some cases they also sport active (claws and spines) or passive (chemical skin repellents) defenses to make sure the bass pays dearly should it choose to attack.
Because of this gap between what the bass is looking for and what its prey presents, there exists some scope for designing lures that fulfill bass search criteria better than natural prey. The lures could be made more effective by requiring less of a particular stimulant to evoke bass attack behavior, eliciting stronger responses, or on average stimulating a larger percentage of the bass population. By exaggerating key natural features, or even offering unnatural features, such lures would function better than what nature has to offer. In effect, they would be super lures.
The likelihood that we will ever design super lures is better than you might think.