Nude Lures: when less is definitely more
  |  First Published: August 2007

Dedicated cricket watchers may be familiar with an infamous delivery known as the ‘nude ball’. Basically, it’s a derogatory term for an ordinary delivery by a part-time bowler and if the batsman’s any good, he usually belts it straight over the boundary. They’re called nude balls because the bowler puts absolutely nothing on them and they don’t swing, seam or spin viciously off the pitch. In other words, they go dead straight!

Well, nude lures have a lot in common with nude balls. For a start, they are the most basic of all hard-bodied lures. Most are roughly cigar shaped and without diving bibs, spinning blades or any other sort of fancy attachments. They are pretty plain to look at and if you mindlessly toss them out and wind them back in, they’ll go as straight as a Glenn McGrath bouncer.

However, with a bit of cunning on the part of the angler, nude lures can be made to behave in a way which few other lures can, and the fish will hit them as hard as an Adam Gilchrist cover drive!

Now, if you start talking about bibless lures, most fishos immediately assume that you are referring to compact sinking rattlers like Jackalls or Cordell Spots. While they are certainly bibless lures, they do have their own action due to the planing surfaces on the top of the lure (in reality a built-in bib) and they vibrate quite nicely on a straight retrieve.

Truly nude lures are those very much under-rated surface and subsurface minnows, which are sometimes referred to as stickbaits. These lures all have one thing in common: they have nothing on them to cause any wobble or vibration and they really do just look like a small stick. These bibless lures rely solely on an angler to bring them to life.

Floating/Suspending Bibless lures

Perhaps the best-known examples of this sort of lure are the Heddon Zara Spook and Cultiva Tango Dancer. Both are surface lures associated with a ‘walk the dog’ type action. Other reasonably well-known floating bibless lures are Rapala Skitter Walks, Jackall Water Monitors and to a much lesser degree, a whole host of models from the Mirrolure stable. There are others of course, including models from Mann’s, Storm and Shimano but for the most part they are not as widely known or used by your average Aussie angler.

Nude principles

Regardless of whether the lure is designed to swim on the top of or under the water’s surface, the principle is the same. Without a bib there is no built-in action to make the lure wobble and all the action needs to be imparted by the rod tip. As you can imagine, these artificials have never really found favour with lure trollers, as they just don’t work in the right way. However, those who enjoy creative casting techniques usually love using them.

The better ones are designed so that they can be made to swim in a zig-zag fashion, which is commonly called ‘walking the dog’. However, this is only part of the story and they can be used in a heap of deadly ways.

How to use nudes

Explaining how to ‘walk the dog’ has just about been done to death over the years, so I won’t go into a step-by-step procedure here. What I would rather do is simply encourage you to be a bit inventive and try to think like a fish when using nude lures.

Try to imagine yourself as a little baitfish. You wouldn’t just blindly stumble along down there or make a huge fuss up on the surface for that matter either. Instead, you would move in a discrete, stop-start fashion, scooting from one bit of cover to the next, then trying to stay as still as possible, so that you don’t draw any unwanted attention to yourself.

When you fish with nude lures, that’s exactly the way you have to make them move. Give the rod tip a bit of a flick and make the lure dart a short distance. Then stop and let the lure just sit there for as long as you can stand. In my experience, bass will hit surface lures that have been sitting dead still for a couple of minutes or more, so don’t be in too much of a hurry during the retrieve.

Once you can’t stand it any longer, move the lure again, give it another flick, or a longer draw with the rod tip to make it move a bit further before letting the lure rest again. The erratic nature of the way these lures move is what makes them work, so don’t be trapped into thinking that you have to achieve some sort of rhythmical side-to-side action or that if you can’t ‘walk the dog’ you won’t get any hits. I can assure you that this is simply not the case.

Target species

Freshwater and tidal river anglers will most likely benefit most from using nude lures. It’s not that saltwater species out in the open ocean won’t eat them, because they certainly will. It’s just that it is very rare to find the flat calm conditions in the salt which will allow these lures to do their best work.

Barra and bass would probably be at the top of the list of species to target with nude lures. Then would come saratoga, sooties and tarpon, followed by some of the smaller estuary species like tailor and Aussie salmon.

This means there is hardly anywhere in this big brown land of ours where you can’t target fish with nude lures, so why not get some and give it a go?

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