Like so many other anglers, my trout fishing days started out baitfishing with my dad and my brother. He would take us to faraway places in search of our spotted quarry. Sometimes, we’d get ‘lost’ and end up at the trout farm. I think we’ve all been there haven’t we?
As I got older, and more impatient, walking the banks and chucking lures became the way to go. I would beg, borrow and steal to get my hands on lures I saw in magazines and books. This passion and obsession for lure fishing is still with me today.
Catching trout on hard-bodied lures is nothing new to many anglers. The wily old trout is a perfect target for so many different types of lures, and a variety of techniques. I wish I had a dollar for every fish caught on a Tassie Devil, or for every one spun up on a Celta. Better still, a dollar for every trout that has ever eaten a Rapala!
Impoundment trout can be found in many different areas. They cruise along drop offs, hunt baitfish in backwaters, hang around dead timber picking off small redfin and sulk on the bottom munching on yabbies.
Having a range of lures that can be presented to fish in a variety of situations is how most of us go lure fishing. Having one lure that can cover most presentations is even better but there aren’t many of those about! Deep diving floaters, sinking minnows, soft plastics – it’s really about options most of the time.
Lipless crankbaits, however, are amongst the most versatile lures on the market, despite their relatively recent arrival, or should that be return, on the scene.
Why? Because they can be fished in many different ways. Even in the middle of a retrieve, they can be let sink to work a different depth. Or the retrieve can be sped up to bring the lure higher up in the water column.
Trout are classic hunters and can move very fast. They are also very inquisitive creatures that respond very well to the loud rattle of a lipless crankbait and its fish-like body profile.
The great thing for us lure nuts out there is, as more and more quality Japanese lures become available in Australia, better sized lures for trout are hitting the market.
All impoundments have dominant structure of some kind; it might take the form of weed beds, rock walls or better still, timber.
Structure is likely to hold most fish, and is therefore the best place to cast your lipless crankbaits. Remember that structure not only provides a place to hunt, but also gives protection from even bigger predators such as cod.
My preference is for areas that have lots of dead timber around them. These are more likely to hold larger, territorial trout, which make great lure targets.
These areas are also home to prey items such as redfin, roach, smelt and even smaller trout. Yes, that’s right, trout are cannibals and willingly take young of the same species. Just think about the patterns of your favourite Rapala minnows – I’m guessing rainbow trout or brown trout pattern. Am I right?
I’ve also heard stories about large trout of 2kg or more regurgitating roach, some as big as your hand, when boated at Lake Eildon. So don’t be afraid to throw around big lures – trout can handle it and the big ones just might prefer them.
I like to work the outside edges of timber with long searching casts first, in case there are fish patrolling the perimeter.
Then, I move through the trees using my electric motor, making casts to likely looking areas, much like you would work trout lies in a stream.
Pay special attention to the base of larger trees, and cast right in tight. That is after all where so many of us target those redfin with yabbies and worms. You can move right up on the trunk using this approach, especially if you’re employing a vertical retrieve, but more on that later.
Other structure like weed and rock is not always as obvious and often requires local knowledge or a good depth sounder. Just like working the timbered areas, make searching casts in broad areas and concentrate on more likely locations.
A great time to drop your lipless crankbait straight over the side is when a school of bait shows up on your sounder. Bait schools will nearly always have predators nearby. A hungry trout very rarely refuses your loud and noisy offering, especially if it’s been excited by bait nearby.
Try to visualise the structure beneath the surface and work your lures accordingly. You’ll be surprised how much difference this can make. If you’re new to lure casting for trout, or even just new to crankbaits then take a few to a mate’s pool and play around with them. Cast them into the deep end and count them down to the bottom. Then retrieve them at different rates so you know how winding speed affects their action. Once you’ve got the hang of it, swap ends and imagine you’re casting into shallow water, along the edge of a weed bed of over newly flooded ground.
Retrieving your lipless crankbait can be as simple as winding it in, but like all things, there’s a lot more to it when you get into it.
When making searching casts and covering a wide area, keep your rod tip high and wind the handle at a steady pace. If you drop the rod tip down to the water, your lure will run lower in the water column. This is a great way to follow the contour of a sloping bank, when casting back to the bank from a boat.
Often, trout will cruise along featureless mud banks in search of yabbies and other food, especially at night. This technique can be deadly in these areas. If this approach sounds interesting then get familiar with the bank during daylight hours so you know what to expect at night. Note down the depth at which you should travel to be within casting range of the bank. Better still, use your GPS if you have one, and follow up a daytime route at night or very early in the morning.
For more ‘heart in your mouth’ fishing, try a vertical lift and drop retrieve. Those anglers familiar with fishing with soft plastics will know how this works.
After you’ve made your cast and let the lure sink to the target depth, give the rod tip a few aggressive lifts and jigs. This will make it zig-zag up and down through the water, imitating a wounded baitfish trying to escape a predator. This method is great around the base of large trees and close to big schools of bait. Turn your drag up a notch though, there’s no room for messing around here.
Trout are funny creatures sometimes and can become fixated on single food items – just ask any flyfisher you know!
These feeding trout will leave swirls, rises and boils that give away their presence. The trick is not to cast right at them. Instead, try and lead the cast by quite a way, anticipating the trout’s direction of travel. Lipless crankbaits often land like a brick, particularly when they land on their side, so this approach of leading fish minimises the risk of spooking feeding fish. The falling crankbait allows the sparked up trout to come to the lure rather than the other way around.
Fish that are smelting are feeding far more aggressively and are less likely to be spooked by a big lure splashing down. Nonetheless, you still need to anticipate their direction of travel.
Smelters will round baitfish up and smash through their hapless prey. The advantage of a noisy, rattling lure here is that it stands out from all the other baitfish and really gets their attention.
Sometimes the ‘trout’ you see feeding aren’t really trout at all. Roach and carp are regular offenders in places like Eildon, often raising your hopes and eventually dashing them. Redfin, yellowbelly, bass and cod will all have a decent old crack at your crankbait too, but that’s another story.
Catching trout on lipless crankbaits is great fun and can be very effective on impoundment trout. You can even do it while you’re trolling, although it pays to have a mate or two on the boat to keep everything in check.
It’s early days for the lipless crankbaits revival in Victoria’s freshwater lakes and rivers but expect to hear much more. They’re effective on most species and add another deep-water presentation option to your arsenal.
Lucky Craft LV & DVR
Berkley Frenzy Power Rattler
Berkley Frenzy Sinking Rattler
Team Daiwa Pro’s Vibration
Locations for Lipless
Cairn Curran Res.
Lake Bullen Merri
Blue Rock Res.
Rocky Valley Res.