Wake ’em up!
  |  First Published: October 2010

Wake baits can spark up your topwater pursuits


It’s fair to say that lure choice has expanded tenfold in recent years, not only in makes, models and manufacturers, but also in sophisticated designs that require brain power and adeptness with the rod to achieve results. ‘Wake baits’ are certainly a case in point.

Some lures travel on top of the water while most travel below. A wake bait straddles that thin line between wet and dry as it bulges, waddles and churns through the surface film, throwing out a fish-attracting wake that often belies its size.

My initial experience with wake baits was with some Central Tableland Murray cod. Casting lures like the Megabass Anthrax and the ZZ-Dax proved productive and hook-up rates were better than with conventional surface lures, which similarly attracted fish but often were bumped or pushed out of the way during the quite violent strikes.

Both of these wake lures caught fish and got me thinking about further possibilities of this design.

There are two styles of wake bait, those that push water from the front and those whose tail or rear appendage move water.

Some wake baits like the Anthrax are can be popped or chugged, easily making them noticed by nearby predators. Some have propellers on the back to assist in this respect.

Many, if not most, wake baits have been spawned in the North American bass fishery. The required technique is a flat, constant retrieve several times through the same area.

This repetitive method seems to drive fish nuts, often with good reaction strikes on second or third cast.

This style of retrieve has been a little more obvious with the current trend of walk-the-dog style lures, which are retrieved with far fewer stops and pauses than we have traditionally used with our surface bass and cod lures.

This constant, flat style of retrieve also works well on Aussie bass and cod with split or articulated swim baits, especially floating ones, which could be easily lumped into the wake bait genre but, without the bib, are less versatile.

It is surprising the depth of water a fish, especially a bass, will move up through to strike a surface lure.

Anglers chasing freshwater natives such as Murray cod and bass know well that their targets’ inquisitiveness can be preyed upon. Wake baits are ideal for manipulating fish into striking.

Similar to walkers, fizzers and poppers, stopping the lure can work but with wake baits, just slowing up can often be enough.

Conversely, speeding up can also entice fish to strike.

Being able to manipulate a lure at super-slow speed just under the surface really makes this style of lure very effective. Rather than sitting inanimately on the surface, wake baits are always seemingly alive.

Bib designs are engineered for super-slow retrieves, giving a wide action with very slow forward movement. Some rod tip manipulation, either high or low, can produce intricacies that make them even more attractive.

Species that react to such lures are unlimited, from big giant trevally through to small bream and even flathead, most Australian sport fish will react to a wake bait presented right.

Flats bream and whiting are perhaps the most eager saltwater chasers of wake baits.

With whiting especially, stopping or pausing the lure can be enough for it to be rejected, but with small wake baits working at such slow speeds, their ability to charm these suspicious fish is amazing.

Bream have proved to be high on the hit list for anglers casting wake baits.

Flats fishing with wake baits, often called ‘zero’ lures or zero depth (lures that swim just under the surface) is fast becoming a preferred strategy for many tournament anglers. The rewards are not only in the visual impact of the strikes but also in the number of solid hook-ups.

With these lures working just on, in or below the surface, I have no doubt that fish have a greater opportunity to scrutinise them, yet the constant movement stimulates excitement and interest that a lifeless, still surface presentation can’t.

Wake baits won’t be for everyone but for a few of us on the right day, they’ll outperform every thing else in the box. So if you haven’t got any of these gems yet, wake up to yourself and get some!

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