Lure Fishing Tips and Techniques1] SOLID TRACES
Solid traces are essential items if you are going to fish with jerkbaits, they are used for two reasons firstly to prevent tangles during the cast and more importantly to stop the trace fouling the front treble as the jerkbait glides forward, a problem that will occur if you try using flexible traces .
Solid traces are made from either stainless steel or titanium, stainless steel solid traces perform very well but can and do get bent especially if you use a landing net to land your fish, the solid trace/boom can go through the netting as the pike twists itself around in the net, result a bent trace which can be straightened but is never completely straight again this can make the bait have a bias towards one side, titanium is a new material to the angling world it is corrosion resistant making it ideal for many angling and saltwater applications it also posses another characteristic which makes it perfect for solid traces which is the fact that it springs back into its original shape after being bent, amazing stuff you may well have seen T.V. adverts for titanium framed glasses which get squashed into a ball than spring back into their original shape, titanium traces outlast and out perform stainless steel! I also use these traces for large topwater "walk the dog" stick baits, such as Musky Mania's Doc, the stiff trace makes the bait pivot exagerating the right angle turn that is so effective at catching pike and other gamefish.
2] TITANIUM LURE TRACES
These new generation traces are fantastic, they "outlast and out perform" stainless steel. Available in both solid [see write up above] and flexible versions this materials advantage is the fact that it's almost impossible to bend or kink it. Try this test, wrap a flexible titanium trace around a pencil tightly then let go! "you'll be amazed" the wire just springs off and lays straight again. I can now use a flexible trace for my spoons, jigs and smaller lures when the subtlety of a flexible trace is required. I use 30lb 7 strand titanium traces on all my spinning outfits while it's the 60lb traces for my outsized lures (except jerkbaits) on my multiplier rods.
3] BRAIDED LINES, DIAMETER, BUOYANCY AND DEPTH CONTROL.
Most of us now use braided lines for all our lure fishing and fantastic they are too, but have you ever considered the effect that braid has on the working depth of our lures? Braided lines are made from either Kevlar, Spectra or Dynema these materials naturally float, sinking braids have another element braided into them to make them sink but this increases the diameter and tends to reduce their casting range. On most occasions when fishing depths less than 20' the floating braids perform perfectly, once you start fishing deeper water, say 30 or 40' you'll start to become aware of the need to compensate for the lift from the braided line. Most often when I'm fishing deep water it's on trout waters in the late autumn or early winter which usually requires my lures to track horizontally whether casting or, if allowed, trolling.
1] use monofilament, 2] use sinking braid, 3] reduce diameter, and breaking strain 4] add weight? 5] deep diving plugs
1] By changing back to mono line, you will undoubtedly increase the depth you can effectively fish, due to its lack of buoyancy, but you lose all contact ("feel") with your lures and when trolling, you also lose a lot of hooking power due to the lines stretch [20-30%].
2] Using sinking braid is partly the solution, good for casting less effective when trolling due to the increased line diameter, the water pressure/drag on the line lifts lures like spoons and other sinking lures.
3] Reducing diameter by using lighter line strength, in my opinion, is not a great idea. I'm putting my lures where a lot of pike and snags live. Thinner weaker lines are a recipe for expensive loses.
4] Adding weight is the best option in my experience, to many people I meet are afraid of adding weight or are unaware of the path their lures are taking as they retrieve them. Here is the low down on Casting and Trolling methods.
Spoons need to be heavy, increase size and or gauge/thickness to compensate for the lift, in recent years I've used a lot of soft plastic lures in situations where previously I would have chosen a spoon , fact is that you can use much heavier soft plastic lures which keeps them swimming horizontally close to the bottom yet still having an attractive action due to their soft flexible tails. Bull Dawgs are a great choice, a neat conversion to give you depth control is to add extra weight to the them, remove the front treble replace it with a large Duo Lock clip then add 2, 3 or even 4oz of lead!, you can cast regular dawgs with 2oz on and bump bottom in 30' right up to the boat, when trolling use 4oz and now you are able to hit bottom in 30-40'.
Trolling spoons on braid has pained me for some time. I know from my own experience that on the heavy outfits I use, spoons fish at only 50% of the depth that I used to achieve on mono. One solution is to use the Kuusamo trolling vanes, these are very effective, the device is attached about 4'-6' ahead of the trace, I would recommend marking the line at 10' intervals above the vane to help estimate its running depth, different sizes allow different depths to be explored, 33g 6m-20', 70g 9m-30' & 90g 12m-40' plus they give you the option of trolling faster whilst maintaining their depth due to the angled diving lip which grips the water.
A tactic we've found effective is to "leger troll" shallow diving crankbaits I prefer flat sided minnow baits such as Jakes or Shallow Invaders for this method. I tie an 18" fixed paternoster lead link using a four turn water knot [with a Duo lock clip on the end] out of 15lb mono to my 50lb Fireline about 4-6' ahead of my trace, I clip a 4oz lead on lower the rig to the bottom and start trolling, I watch the sounder trying to keep to a pre-determined depth, as the depth changes I adjust the amount of line I let out by "bottom bouncing" this involves lifting the lead off the bottom then lowering it again until it touches bottom, if your rod tip reaches the waters surface and the line is still tight let out more line until it goes slack indicating the leads hit bottom, you've gone into deeper water, on the other hand if the line goes slack before the rod tip reaches the surface then take up the slack as the water has got shallower. The beauty of this system is that if a snag is found, you loose the lead, which is ahead of your lure, but the plug floats up in the water away from danger.
Finally trolling "deep diving" floating crankbaits is also very effective [see "Grinding" write up].
4] COUNTDOWN METHOD
This technique is used with all styles of sinking baits such as Rapala 'CD' count down series, spoons and soft plastics, to search different layers of water, for example if it requires a count of 30 seconds to reach the bottom when "free spooling" your lure to the bottom subsequent retrieves at a countdown of 10 or 20 will fish your lure through the higher levels of water while a count of 25-28 will see your bait swimming through just above the bottom. With this technique you can systematically search layers of water and when successful repeat the effective retrieve!
5] FISHING SURFACE LURES, WHEN, WHERE & HOW
Early morning starts are not good for surface lure action! Why? I'll explain, warm sunny days around April and May are usually followed by clear frosty nights cooling the shallow margins and the pike they contain. Success early in the day will require slow retrieves and shallow sub-surface lures such as Rapala Husky Jerks , Bagley Top Guns or slow sinking soft plastic lizards and shads, by late morning say 10am the water temperature will be warming up nicely and so will the pike, now faster retrieves with bucktail spinners or surface crawlers such as Scuttlebug's and Creeping Toms will turn those previously sluggish follows into "fired up chompers". Choose swims that are protected from the cooling wind and ideally somewhere that catches the warming sun throughout the morning, areas such as these will have most of the pike population in residence, so all you have to do is catch them! If you get slashes or short takes with the crawler baits switch to slower moving surface lures like Slaptails and Poppers these give the pike more time to target the lure and also gives you the chance to anticipate the take, wait to feel the pike's weight before setting the hook, "advise easily given" but very hard to perform in the heat of the moment!
Floating Line & Surface Lures
When fishing topwater lures it's essential to hold as much line off the waters surface as possible during the retrieve, this prevents the trace sinking and pulling the head of the lure down into the water rather than across it subduing its action, many of the topwater baits except for the outsized muskie offerings were design for largemouth [black] bass in North America where wire traces are un-necessary for these fish. Braided lines float naturally and are my first choice every time but nylon monofilament can be used, to make it float requires "greasing up", apply silicone floatant to achieve the desired effect.
To 'dead stick' is to leave your lure motionless until the impact rings sub-side after casting onto the water. Pike become very aware and focused on surface movements in the spring, as young frogs and baby waterfowl feature high in their diet at this time of year, after leaving your lure to sit a while start the retrieve but don't be surprised if it gets hit immediately, this technique works with all floating styles of lures.
Striking Surface Takes
Exciting and frustrating, keeping your cool is essential if you're going to convert takes, into fish. Remember when the big hit comes resist striking, wait until you feel the fishes weight before setting the hook, otherwise duck because there's a lure heading straight towards your head! Fact, pike often miss time their attack or completely miss the target altogether! If you can convert 1 in 3 takes, don't worry, your doing well, remember practice makes perfect and the near misses are fun too.
6] THE TRIGGER
There are a variety of techniques used to break up the predictable swimming action of your lure, these are used to "trigger" a strike from predators. By there very nature predators are opportunist feeders picking off injured or sickly fish, so by imparting twitches, jerks, speeding up, slowing down, stopping, sink and draw, fluttering or
Helicoptering your lure will trigger fish. By using your imagination and including an occasional trigger within your retrieve will increase your success rate, once you've "triggered" a fish you'll be more inclined to experiment with other triggers. I'm sure that the success of jerkbaits is largely due to their "glide - swing - stop - start" erratic movements, these are all triggers that provoke the pike to attack. Finally try this tactic when using conventional lures, as your lure approaches the end of the retrieve move the rod tip across your body, your lure will change direction, as it "turns the corner" its body is exposed "side on", expect an attack from any following pike now!
7] LEGER TROLLING
I've used this method for several years successfully on my local reservoir "Bewl Water", I prefer to use flat sided shallow diving floating plugs such as Jakes , Shallow Invaders and Super Shads for this method. There are 3 reasons why I use this tactic.
1] I can present my lure very close to the bottom in the "strike zone" whatever the depth whilst retaining its desired action.
2] My lure tracks horizontally, in my experience pike are loath to attack a lure much above a foot off the bottom during the winter when I use this method.
3] I can confidently troll unknown areas of a water without fear on snagging and losing expensive lures!
I tie an 18" fixed paternoster lead link using a four turn water knot, with a Duo lock clip on the end, out of 15lb mono to my 50lb Fireline about 4-6' ahead of my trace. I clip a 4oz lead on and lower the rig to the bottom and start trolling, I watch the sounder trying to keep to a pre-determined depth, as the depth changes I adjust the amount of line I let out by "bottom bouncing" this involves lifting the lead off the bottom then lowering it again until it touches bottom, if your rod tip reaches the waters surface and the line is still tight let out more line until it goes slack indicating the leads hit bottom, you've gone into deeper water, on the other hand if the line goes slack before the rod tip reaches the surface then take up the slack as the water has got shallower. The beauty of this system is that if you do snag all you loose is your lead, as it reaches the snag first, if it cannot be freed the weak link will break and jettisons the weight allowing the floating plug to float safely away from the snag, brilliant!
I've always said the "art of trolling" is knowing where your lure is in relation to the bottom, by using different size leads will allow you to have complete "depth control", do not be afraid of using sufficient weight to "feel bottom", the rod tip should just nod as the weight slides over the bottom, too much weight will see the rod tip pulling around sharply before springing back making it impossible to see if your lures working correctly.
"Grinding" is a technique used to produce strikes from inactive pike by making a deep diving floating plug continually collide with the bottom, "bouncing off rocks" or other structures, it must make "bottom contact" from time to time to activate these pike, this method is will illustrated in "How to fish Rapala's lures" film . You must use a floating deep diving plug, for this method to work don't be afraid of hitting the bottom as this it what triggers the pike, as the plug glances off the bottom its this noise that alerts them, because the plug is running with its broad lip down - tail up the body protects the hooks from snagging, I use heavy duty tackle I use the 7' Andy Lush Wizard rod or 7' St Croix PM series coupled with 6501-C3 Ambassdeur loaded with 50lb Fireline or 80lb Power Pro.
15' - 20' Musky Mania Lil Ernie , Lindy Big M , Bagley Sm Bang-O-B , Odyssey Deep Pig
20' - 30' Big Fork Reef Diggers , Musky Mania Ernie , Bagley Lg Bang-O-B , Storm Deep Thunder
9] "GOING VERTICAL"
There are times when trolling a fish holding spot fails to produce any takes, the pike or perch are staying tight to the feature and are in-active, to catch these fish requires a more subtle approach. Going vertical allows you to position the boat very close to the fish [can also work from the bank if you can get close to and above the fish], the attractive "gentle" lifting and lowering action keeps the lure close to the fish at all times not moving it away from them, its essential to use braided lines to "feel" when contact is made with the bottom and to recognise a take which always comes "on the drop", actually you should lower the lure on a tight line so as to "feel" the pluck of a take, don't expect rod wrenching hits.
In the autumn and winter when casting into deep water, say over 20', the ability to keep your lure "within inches" of the bottom hugging it throughout the retrieve is the difference between success and failure. This calls for a near "vertical" retrieve, casting only 20 - 30 yards from the boat allows you to "lift" your lure off the bottom without pulling it away from the fish, keeping the lure close to your quarry longer inducing takes from these suspended in-active fish, gently lower your lure again on a tight line, expect takes "on the drop" strike at anything unusual, continue this retrieve all the way back to the boat.
Perch & Zander Lindy Jigging Spoon, Kuusamo Jig Spinner , Storm Jiggin Shad
Pike Kuusamo Lg Jig Spinner , Kuusamo Jigging Professor , Storm Swimbait Shad
10] LOADING BRAIDED LINE
Before loading your reel with braid always put some monofilament on first for backing, half a dozen layers is enough to prevent "line slippage", braid tied directly to the spool will slip when you attempt to set the hook giving the impression that your reels drag has broken, join braid to mono using a double grinner/uni knot.
11] RETRIEVE SPEEDS & FISHING DEPTHS
The most important thing to consider is where and at what depth should you be fishing your lures? This is largely determined by time of year, water temperature, location of food fish and features such as weeds, major depth changes [drop offs] and any other fish attracting structures.
Spring April/ May
Generally you would expect the pike to be drawn into the shallows at this time of the year, having spawned the fish are ready to feed and recover their strength as quickly as possible. Shallow and surface lures fished at a variety of speeds but much faster than in winter will be successful try erratic retrieves like twitching and jerking as well.
Rising water temperatures force the pike out of the shallows, eventually, now its time to fish out over deeper "cooler water" pike will hit lures fished above their heads at this time of year so choose baits that fish to half the waters depth, no need to be "bottom grinding", jerkbaits, mid-depth crankbaits, slow sinking soft plastics and spinnerbaits are all favourites, fished at speed with erratic retrieves and plenty of "triggers".
A time of changes the pike start to focus again on feeding hard in preparation for the winter and they are "fighting fit", the bait fish are starting to shoal up as the water cools and the days are noticeably shorter now. To get action use lures that search water quickly, trolling on big waters aids finding the fish quickly, if casting use fast and erratic retrieves, choose floating deep divers and spoons for trolling, and sinking jerkbaits, spinnerbaits, spoons and deep bodied plugs like Lindy Big M, Rapala Super Shad or Musky Mania Jakes.
Tough times ahead, everything needs to be slowed right down to a crawl and fished tight to the bottom throughout the retrieve. The waters cold so are the pike and only a meal that requires minimal effort is going to get taken, sinking baits are the way to go, they will sink to the bottom and will stay there throughout the retrieve only lifting up off when you want them to. Choose spoons, spinnerbaits, 'CD' "countdown" plugs and soft plastics like Bull Dawgs, allow the lure to rest on the bottom occasionally, I wouldn't recommend using erratic retrieves at this time of the year, too much effort and the pike will give up!