Fine-tuning your approach to artificial lures for success.
Just as learning to create and use tools first raised man up above the other beasts of the plain, so do artificial lures elevate the craft of the sport fisherman.
Now, there’s certainly nothing wrong with fishing baits in the right circumstances, all the best anglers do. But knowing how and when to use artificials will add new dimensions to the way that you fish. They’ll draw strikes from reticent fish when all else fails.
An artificial lure is a broad term that can describe any presentation, other than a live or dead bait, used to fool a fish into biting.
This covers the spectrum from biodegradable soft plastics that mimic the smell and taste of real bait, through to bibbed and bibless minnows, metal slices and jigs, trolling skirts, poppers, stickbaits and everything in between.
A lot of anglers tend to end up focusing their energy on one particular facet of lure fishing, like throwing poppers for giant trevally or dry flies for brown trout.
Becoming a specialist is somewhat of an inevitability, if you dedicate enough years to outsmarting fish. But before one finds one’s niche, it’s necessary to play the field.
Bibbed and bibless, are perhaps the most pervasive patterns in lure design. Popular templates like the Rapala floating minnows have been in use since early last century and can be effectively applied to most angling scenarios.
Bibbed minnow lures are traditionally trolled at different speeds in order to cover water and locate fish.
The bib is usually shaped from moulded plastic or metal and imparts either a tight or rolling side-to-side action as the lure is dragged through the water. The size, shape and angle of the bib dictate the action of the lure and how deep it swims.
More heavily weighted minnow lures are designed to be cast further and can be used to target everything from wild trout and bass in rivers and streams, impoundment bound barra and pelagic species like tuna, mackerel and kingfish in the ocean.
Bibless minnows, as the name suggests, do away with moulded bib in order to present a more streamlined profile that imparts a tighter action.
They can be trolled or retrieved through the water significantly faster. These patterns tend to appeal most to anglers targeting pelagics like wahoo, tuna and mackerel that strike at fast moving prey on instinct.
Metal slices or slugs are the lure that started it all, for a lot of anglers. High speed spinning is a style of fishing that evolved on the east coast of Australia mid way through last century at a handful of spots including Avoca and Hat Head on the New South Wales coast. The lures used have hardly changed in half a century.
Vaguely baitfish shaped profiles are cut from brass bar and dipped in chrome, with a single or treble hook fitted to the rear. These lures have the highest weight to surface area ratio of any lure and thus are the gold standard when it comes to long distance casting.
Metals are generally used to target pelagic fish like tailor, Australian salmon and bonito in the southern part of the country, as well as larger scale predators like tuna and mackerel in warmer waters further north.
They’re effective when used to sight cast to surface feeding fish, as well as blind cast into deep drop offs from the ocean rocks.
Metals are the go-to lure for landbased spinmen, but are also an effective weapon in the boat brigade’s arsenal. It’s always worth having an extra rod rigged with a metal rigged up when fishing the rocks in case a surface feeding frenzy erupts within casting range.
Soft plastic lures have been available in various incarnations for decades now, but it’s really in the last 15 years that their use has exploded.
Initially, plastics where primarily used to target a few common estuarine species including flathead and bream, but there are now anglers catching everything from trout to marlin on rubber.
Flathead are a great species on which to practice the art of plastic fishing, as they react so dynamically to a weighted rubber presentation bounced in front of their noses.
Jewfish and snapper are a couple of other demersal species that can be targeted very effectively on soft plastics both in the frothy washzones fronting the ocean rocks, as well as on deeper offshore reefs and wrecks.
Pelagic species like kingfish love to smash large soft plastic lures that are cast and retrieved across the surface. A heavily weighted plastic is a great option to cast at a surface bust up or baitball.
The primary weapon at the disposal of the offshore angler plumbing the depths. Knife jigs weighing at least 100 grams and up to one kilogram are the most popular style of jig used to target big rampaging kings, samsonfish and dogtooth tuna in deep water.
The deeper the water and faster the current, the heavier the jig required in order to hit bottom.
Working big heavy jigs up from the depths is heavy physical work – and that’s before an angry 20kg hoodlum king decides to scoff your jig!
Specialised modern jigging reels like the Alvey Offshore 0S300 are developed specifically for this style of fishing and take some of the pressure off the angler, while being able to maintain ultra high drag settings in order to stop truly big fish.
Anglers that prefer to stick with threadline setups can choose a beefed up spin reel like the Orbiter 0SR160 when tangling with oversized reef dwellers.
A few newer styles of jig have been developed in more recent years, including a range of lighter weight jigs that can be effectively fished in quite shallow water, and even from the shore.
These jigs are available in various sizes and are often used to target mid-sized reef dwelling species like snapper, morwong and jewfish down south, as well as various trevally species, fingermark tuskies and other reef dwellers in warmer tropical waters.
There’s nothing quite like watching a popper getting sucked from the ocean’s surface in a boiling implosion. It’s obvious from your first hook up why guys get addicted to this style of fishing.
Surface lures generally float and are designed to cause some sort of disruption as they’re retrieved along the water’s surface.
The classic surface lure design is the popper, which has an elongated body and a concave cup face that causes big splashes of water to be sprayed as it’s worked in short jerky bloops or at a faster, more consistent, pace.
These lures are designed to imitate an injured baitfish that is behaving abnormally, thus making for an easier meal.
The blooping and splashing can draw the attention of predators from a long way off, and the visual aspect of this style of fishing can be incredible.
Australian bass are suckers for small poppers that mimic struggling cicadas on hot summer evenings.
At the other end of the spectrum, the mighty giant trevally is one of the most challenging fish in the world to land on casting tackle, and they’re particularly fond of slurping down oversized poppers.
Other variations of surface lures include streamlined pencil poppers and stickbaits, both styles of lure appeal to a broad cross section of species, and anglers are constantly pioneering new ways to use these lures to encourage strikes from new and different species.
Whatever your level of experience and commitment to fishing, one thing that’s for sure is that building experience fishing lures will make you a better angler.
You’ll be able to read on water situations better, and will be equipped with the tools to get the job done. Ultimately, you’ll catch more fish.