Lures that catch fish – and not anglers!
  |  First Published: February 2007


It seems that every year a new lure design becomes outrageously popular as the latest ‘deadly fish catching device’.

In tackle shops, we are presented with huge displays of different lures with endless shapes, colours and sizes to choose from. Anglers could be excused for feeling lost in such a sea of lures. I hope the following will help you decide which lures are for catching fish and which are for simply catching anglers.

The Right choice

Trendy lures in the fishing world come and go, and the biggest influence on the gear we use depends largely on who we fish with and what magazines and television shows we see. High profile fishos in the media and competition anglers push the sponsors’ products and that’s fine with me because that’s a big part of how the tackle industry works. Don’t we all wish we could be supplied with cheap or even free lures?

The real question is: do sponsored anglers really believe that the lures they are using are the best? I’d say in most cases the answer is yes, because they wouldn’t suffer using products that they weren’t confident with just to receive free gear. But what does this mean to the angler when standing in the shop, faced with choosing something from the smorgasbord of plastics and hard bodied lures? Surely we all only want to use the best fish catching tricks in the book - so what do you buy?

Current trends

The ‘flavour of the month’ at the moment is the Berkley Gulp range of soft lures. They are absolutely walking out of the shops and the fact they are not made of plastic but an edible scented protein makes them almost unique. They have become the new ‘wonder lure’ largely by word of mouth spread via the hundreds of successful anglers hooking fish with Gulps. It’s a kind of mania similar to what we saw with Squidgies a few years back, and it will no doubt occur again when other new and innovative products hit the market in the near future.

As far as hard bodies are concerned, the Ecogear range are the current “go to” lures at the minute and bream anglers especially swear by the SX40. Strike Pro Pygmies are not far behind. They are great lures alright.

Hard core fishos

So if you are new to lure fishing, any of the above brands are highly recommended and would be a great starting point.

For more experienced, hard-core lure chuckers, it’s time to break the shackles and get real about what fish will eat.

For the record, I haven’t recently used any of the Ecogear or Berkley lures on offer today, and I’m still more than happy with my catch rates. My last day on the water was a good example. I caught 41 bream to 35cm and 5 estuary perch to 36cm in a hot five-hour session using a forgotten packet of plastics I found in the bottom of a draw. I dragged out these three inch “swim minnows” made in the U.S.A. by “Strike Me Lucky”. I doubt many people have even heard of these things: they were a chance buy I made when holidaying in Merimbula one year. They worked a treat, but now with only two left I’m unlikely to use them again!

Serious anglers need to experiment and gain a greater appreciation for what actually works. Besides, if you really want to prove the worth of any one lure, you have to use others to confirm your findings.

Try something else?

One thing I have noticed is that when I team up with a new angling partner for the first time, they are always amazed at the type of lures I use and how I fish them. Some anglers I meet on the water even shake their heads in total disbelief when they see what’s tied on to the end of my 7kg leader.

I have experimented a lot with many types of soft plastics and bibbed lures over the last eight years, and I even pride myself in catching fish on some of the cheapest and nastiest products I can find. It’s somewhat of challenge to buck the whole system and continually catch bream, big flathead or perch on two or three dollar hard body lures! I even weigh them down with lead to make them sink, which also stops most of their action. That’s right – stop them from wriggling and writhing. It might be hard to believe, but I make my hard bodies dart, flop, droop, slump, lurch and falter their way back to my rod. This certainly flies in the face of getting the maximum action out of today’s lures. I even re-paint them with weird and wonderful colors. Pink nail polish works a treat!

As far as soft plastics are concerned, some I buy come in packs of 100 for about twelve bucks. It sure makes me smile when I hear other anglers saying that unless you spend twenty dollars or more on a single lure, you won’t catch fish!

Where to start?

First of all, before choosing a lure, don’t be scared of starting with the cheapest stuff on offer. The quality might not be quite as good, but in some cases they can be equally as effective, or even better, than the dearer products. Don’t be put off by odd-looking colors or shapes either. Just because you’ve never seen anyone else use them doesn’t mean they won’t work. Possibly the most critical factor is to choose the size of lures that suits your target species. Most of the biggest fish I catch take relatively small lures, and I rarely tie on hard bodies greater than 9cm.

Now for the real myth buster. The different types of lures on the market all work pretty much as well as each other. In other words, despite what the packet might say, no single soft plastic or hard body lure out performs any other lure. I have experimented with every type, color and form of lure and even created a few of my own, and I have yet to find a lure that won’t catch fish (at some time or another).

Many years ago, estuary perch, flathead and even a few bream were caught on silver Wonder Wobblers, bladed Celtas and even Tassie Devils and large metal spoons. All these lures would of course still work today, but not many anglers still use them. Furthermore, in a few years time there will be a whole new range of products that look nothing like today’s “must have” lures, but they definitely still catch fish.

I know it is contrary to common belief, but I have proven time and time again that color, shape, action and importantly the price of the lure has absolutely nothing to do with catching fish.

Be confident

One of the most important factors in getting fish attached to lures is confidence.

Too often anglers blame the lure they are using for not catching fish. The main reason we have long fishless hours on the water is not because of inappropriate lures but because the fish aren’t in the mood, or because they don’t even see our offerings.

It also seems clear that fish sometimes refuse a particular lure because too many anglers are throwing the same lure at them time and time again. They simply become tired and somewhat desensitised to seeing the same lure swim past them every day. I firmly believe that when I come along and swim my crazy looking “no action” weird-coloured lures, this at least gets the fish interested in checking out something new. This is why I am always trying something completely different: it may be the very thing needed to get a fish to strike.

Old favourites

Even though I use many different lures and continue to source new ones, I always tend to return to my old favourites. This has more to do with being practical and convenient than anything else.

Some days I just want to catch fish and I’m not in the mood to experiment. Sometimes it’s nice not to over-analyse my fishing and just enjoy a few hours tossing lures. It just so happens that Squidgy wrigglers are my confidence soft plastic lure. By that I mean through chance alone, I’ve had more success with these plastics than any other. They also come in my favourite confidence colour, bright pink.

My preferred hard body is a 6cm minnow style bibbed lure, with heaps of added weight for sinking. I don’t care what brand or who makes them – the cheaper the better! I also paint them partially or wholly pink. My real confidence booster, however, is knowing that the lure I’m swimming past fish is different from what most other anglers are using.

Unbiased view

So what is my message?

Is there just one lure that has just the slightest edge on all the others?

In an attempt to answer this ongoing dilemma, I hope I’ve given you a completely unbiased view on sorting out what lures work for a range of species. I think you’ll be surprised with the results if you’re just willing to experiment.

Because I fish with so many different anglers in any given year, it’s always interesting seeing what type of lures they use, and the different techniques employed for certain situations. Most of the time I find them using whatever the current trendy lures are, but now and then that special type of keen angler uses something I’ve never seen before, or uses a popular lure in a totally new way. These are the guys I like to fish with because quite often they’re at the cutting edge of developing new ways to catch fish - and as a consequence they’re catching more fish than most other anglers.

Over time, I’ve seen just about every conceivable lure on the market hit the water. Added to this, I’m always tying on something weird and wonderful myself, all the time trying to break the rules on what fish are not supposed to eat!

The rewards of discovery makes lure fishing very addictive.

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