THE BOAT glides into a likely looking area before the electric motor is lowered. A garfish skitters across the surface and you can see little ringlets which indicate more garfish below. There is a swirl from a bigger fish and the school of panicked gar dashes for safety.
Your lure splashes down just above where the weed starts to taper away to deeper water. It’s in the zone where big fish patrol, hunting for their next meal. With a few cranks of the reel the lure comes to life. Twitching the rod and allowing pauses, the lure’s slender profile takes on the appearance of a wounded baitfish. On the third pause, the slack line lying on the water’s surface pulls tight. Strike! A bass has slammed the artificial and then realised its mistake. The fish powers away, easily pulling the light line from the reel. The loaded rod slaves away, tiring the struggling fish. What excitement!
Ripping is a technique very similar to jerkbaiting. It involves casting minnow-shaped (slender profile) lures and working them with a stop-start retrieve. Both soft plastics and hard-bodied lures can be used when rippin’. In this article I’ll going to concentrate on how I use hard-bodies.
When fishing Cressbrook’s weeded edges, I like to land the lure close enough to the weed so that when it reaches its maximum running depth, it’s just above the top of the weed before it reaches open water. This can mean changing the lure to one that has a depth suitable to the area being fished.
An alternative is to use correct boat positioning and angle casts so that they travel more diagonally across the face of the weed rather than straight out. This method also increases the time the lure spends in the most productive water.
The retrieve I use for bass is nowhere near as fast and violent as the one many guys use on barra. It depends on the mood of the fish as to how fast the lure should be worked. After the lure has landed, I begin by taking a few winds of the reel to make the lure begin to dive and then give it some downward rod twitches. I then allow the lure to pause for a second or two before winding up the slack until the rod is pointed towards the lure. Then, in a series of twitches, I bring the rod back towards the boat. This makes the lure dance erratically before it is paused and the process is repeated.
Shorter pauses (faster retrieves) are likely to catch more fish when they are on the bite or when you’re relying solely on reaction strikes to set fish off. With reaction strikes, the less time a fish has to look at something and think about whether to eat it, the better.
Longer pauses (slower retrieves) can allow fish to travel greater distances to strike, or give fish a chance to become more curious. Slowing down retrieves by giving pauses at shorter intervals is a good idea if you’re fishing around staggered weed beds. When the weed is broken or full of pockets, there are more places for fish to wait to ambush prey. Pausing the lure often allows the lure to be seen from more of these hidey-holes rather than dragging it straight across the top.
Strikes can happen at any time. Many will come as the lure is resting motionless waiting for the next twitch. I feel that on these occasions, the fish has travelled some distance to reach the lure and doesn’t slow down before striking.
Another common time for fish to strike is as soon as the lure moves after being paused. In this case, the lure gets the attention of a fish which then stops within striking distance, studying the offering before the movement triggers an impulse to eat it.
I’ve yet to find one lure that comes close to my favourite – the suspending C’ultiva Rip’n Minnow 70, distributed by TackleWorld. This lure (RM70SP) has all the qualities of a lure built for this job. With their super-sharp Owner hooks, they don’t miss many strikes. Other lures that come to mind are the Tilsan Bass, Eddy’s Wasp, Rapala Shad Rap and the small Rapala Husky Jerk. These are just some of the lures capable of doing the job.
One of the important characteristics a rippin’ lure should exhibit is that, when it is paused in the water, it should stay near horizontal. In this position it will give the best chance of a hook-up, as most fish will strike it from below. A sign of this is the number that will be hooked on the treble under the lure’s belly.
Floating, suspending and sinking lures can all be used. I have a preference for suspending lures; they have the most natural appearance under the water and stay right in the fish’s face.
Floating lures can be made to suspend or have a near-neutral buoyancy by adding bigger hooks or wrapping strips of lead around the shanks of the existing trebles, until you acquire the desired weight. Floating lures have the advantage of being able to be floated above the weed once the lure touches it, preventing the hooks being fouled up. Another time floating lures can work well is when using deeper divers. During the pause, the lure is allowed to float up through the water column before it is ripped back down to its maximum depth.
Sinking lures too have their place. Bass are known to love offerings falling through the water column. For this reason, sinking lures work well when worked to the edge of the weed and allowed to sink following the taper of the weed, looking like a falling, injured baitfish.
There are many other lakes apart from Cressbrook where rippin’ will work as well. I’ve used the technique with success at different times of the year on bass lakes in Queensland and NSW. It’s always handy to know if there’s a good population of fish on the bank you are working, especially when using such a technique, because you don’t cover water effectively and quickly at the same time. Lures like lipless crankbaits and spinnerbaits can more quickly determine where the fish are holding, and once located, they can be worked more thoroughly by rippin’.
When throwing the minnows I use for rippin’ I use spinning tackle. Most suitable lures are light, and on a baitcaster they can be a nightmare. My outfit of choice is a Strudwick Softbodz 7’ 2-4kg spin rod and an Abu Garcia Cardinal 501. One of the things that makes rippin’ easier is the type of rod you use. The Softbodz has a softer tip and medium action, which makes twitching and jerking the bait easier. It gives the lure a better action than when using a fast tip rod with quicker recovery.
The line I use is 4lb Fireline with a 10lb Vanish leader. It isn’t necessary to use Fireline or similar braids. Mono is fine provided that it has a light breaking strain of around 3–5kg. Although dearer than some monofilaments, I reckon Vanish in 10lb is an excellent choice.
I have written about Lake Cressbrook in particular because I know that rippin’ and jerkbaiting work so well here. Winter is a prime time to find the fish in numbers, as a lot of fish leave the deep thermoclines at this time of year. I hope that you can find the time to try to learn this technique and have plenty of fun doing so. I recommend that you give Cressbrook a go, and once you gain some confidence you should be able to take what you’ve learned and put it into practice elsewhere.
1) This Somerset bass was caught in shallow water around the edges on a 5/8oz AusSpin Prospin spinnerbait.
2) Fighting a bass near the boat on a light spin outfit suited to rippin’ small lures.
3) This bass was taken on a C’ultiva Rip’n Minnow 70.Reads: 1999