Lure Blog #44

Calling all predator anglers, are you ready?

In last month’s article I covered choosing lures for a variety of waters in the early autumn season when the pike are active. Those of you who fish with lures will have noticed I omitted to mention soft plastics. Soft plastics have taken lure fishing by storm over the last decade; they come in a variety of shapes and sizes and target all predators, whether in fresh or salt water.

The reason they have become so important is twofold, first they can be weighted to cast a long way yet their supple bodies and tails provide an irresistible swimming action even when retrieved at a snail’s pace. Secondly they can be rigged in several different ways allowing you to fish them in areas you would not throw a regular lure armed with treble hooks.

The other great thing about soft plastics is they’re cheap, so you can have FUN trying all manner of shapes and colours you might ordinarily have avoided. It’s amazing what pike and other predators will bite! “Now there’s a thing”, it’s possible to catch fish on lures when they’re not feeding! A bold statement I know but predators can be provoked into biting a lure, whether out of annoyance or possibly out of fear, when a lure gets too close, they strike out. Whatever the reason soft plastics catch fish and I love using them as can be seen by the amount I carry.

Shads

These are what most anglers use because they look like baitfish, they come in a huge variety of colours some have extremely realistic details and finishes that instil confidence. There are also many types of bait that only vaguely look like a fish but still have the general profile to trigger fish into thinking it might be food.

This “paddle tail” shad is rigged with a “stinger trace”

This “paddle tail” shad is rigged with a “stinger trace”

Paddle tails

The most popular of all shads, the paddle tail, or boot foot emits vibrations that attract predators. Choose a shad with the larger paddle that produces a real low frequency thump to attract pike. If you’re targeting perch choose baits with a smaller tail and a slender body, these produce a faster, higher frequency beat that perch adore.

Split tails

I use these baits a lot for my vertical jigging but surprisingly I catch plenty of fish casting them too. I think the key to their success is that they fall through the water quicker than the other shads triggering aggressive strikes “on the drop”. Their slender body flexes with gentle flicks of the rod tip, on the drop they fall unpredictably, sliding off in all directions.

This Zander fell to a Westin Twin Teez “split tail”

This Zander fell to a Westin Twin Teez “split tail”

Pin tails

These shads also have slender tapering bodies that quiver with the merest of movement from the rod, great for jigging and a must on the dropshot rig.

Grub tails

Shads with this style of tail are very effective when pike are in a less aggressive mood. The slow undulating action of the grub or curl tail is mesmerising and can be fished incredibly slowly when required and responds well to a sink and draw retrieve. I almost exclusively used this style of lure last winter while searching out bottom hugging, deep water pike.

Fox Rage Pro Grub “grub tail”

Fox Rage Pro Grub “grub tail”

Creature baits

These baits do not resemble fish but still suggest food, the most famous of these was the Bull Dawg, and this lure literally caught thousands of pike all over the country. Back when Bull Dawgs arrived in the UK we didn’t have access to the huge choice we have nowadays. Savage Gear’s Real Eels are a very effective bait that has a similar swimming action. Another lure that sits in this category is the Crayfish, primarily used for perch, in fact my UK best of 4lb 4oz was caught on one of these baits, and I’ve also caught pike on Crayfish lures too. If you’re fishing rivers it would be sensible to carry a few Crayfish patterns as they are definitely on the pikes menu.

Rigging?

This is where soft plastics excel they can be fished in so many different ways, either by jigging/vertically, casting and retrieving/horizontally or static on a dropshot rig. Add to this, that you can fish them weedless too and you can see why soft plastics are so popular.

Jig heads

This is the way we fish our baits most of the time, choose a hook size that will match the length of your lure. I suggest the hook should exit about half way down the body, if you miss too many takes you can always add a stinger hook. A stinger is a short trace attached to the jig’s eye, made from heavy braid or wire, it runs along the baits length with a small treble tied to the end which is nicked into the shad’s body, just in front of the tail, this nails any tail nipping fish.

Choosing the weight of your jig head is a balancing act, it has to provide enough casting distance without sinking too fast. I prefer to err on the lighter side choosing approx. 1g of weight per foot of water. I want my lure to only just reach the bottom; this allows it to fish through all the depths, often attracting takes as it sinks. Once I make contact with the bottom I start my retrieve, the lure will lift up a little, a pause now will see it flutter down enticingly, this is when I expect to get a take. Using this retrieve with occasional stops is a very effective way of triggering fish.

Texas weedless rig

This way of presenting your lure opens up areas that you’ve avoided up until now, places with thick weed or snags. The hook point is hidden inside the lures body and is only exposed when a fish bites down on the bait; the best example of this is the Fiiish Black Minnow.

Texas rigged Fiiish Black Minnow “weedless”

Texas rigged Fiiish Black Minnow “weedless”

You can easily rig your own baits to fish weedless by using an offset [Gamakatsu 330] worm hook. You can rig your lure with or without additional weight, unweighted it will fish just sub-surface, thin baits with pin tails can be twitched which gives them a mesmerising side-to-side walk the dog action. In heavy weed a lightly weighted lure can be fished through the cover until a fish grabs it. To search near the bottom in snags I use the Spro Bottom Jigging [Cheburashka] weight system this allows me to switch weights, to match the depth of water I’m fishing, as often as necessary.

Spro Bottom Jigging Weight System

Spro Bottom Jigging Weight System

Dropshot rig

Primarily used in freshwater for perch and zander this method works in the sea too. Basically it’s a paternoster rig which allows you to fish your lure at a set distance off the bottom without the need to retrieve it unless you want to. By adjusting the lead links length you can search different depths of water while avoiding snags, weeds and leaf litter [chod] on the bottom. The other massive advantage this system offers is the fact that you can hover your lure on the spot near a feature while imparting subtle movements. The lure can be made to tremble by shaking the rod tip, while slackening the line tension will see the bait die on the spot, tightening up again  will bringing it back to life.

Imagination is the lure angler’s greatest asset; I hope this gives you a few ideas for the coming season?

Tight lines.

Andy Lush

Andy’s shop The Friendly Fisherman in Tunbridge Wells [TN1 2PS] stocks a huge variety of freshwater tackle, especially for Carp. Plus a vast selection of the lure fishing and fly fishing gear.