Practical tackle


Of everything involved in lure fishing, actually buying lures might seem to be the simplest. If you want to buy your lures both in a cost effective, and a fish-catchingly effective way, then there are a few guidelines well worth following. When buying mail order there are some things to beware of. If there is a colour picture to show the patterns available, then all well and good. If not then you might easily be misled by the names used because patterns and pattern names do not match from one manufacturer to another. This is further confused by dealers who rename American patterns in a more European way. I wish they would stick to calling a shad a shad and not re-naming it a roach. I might not recognise a shad if you slapped me round the face with it, but I have a good idea what a shad pattern plug looks like! Manufacturers also vary in the ways they measure their lures, and so confusion can arise. Some work on extreme length, including the lip which might be half the overall length of some deep diving baits. Others measure just the body length. This latter method seems to me to be the correct way to go about things as it is the body that makes the lure look big or small. Beware, too, of quoted diving depths. Not all of them are strictly accurate. If a maximum depth is stated it might well refer to that which can be achieved when the lure is trolled, which will be considerably deeper than you will ever reach by casting and retrieving the lure. This is because, when retrieving a lure, the angle of pull from the rod will start to lift the bait before it has achieved its maximum depth. Dragging it on a long line behind a moving boat allows it to keep on diving until it can get no deeper. You can see that you have to know what you are doing to buy lures sight-unseen. As soon as you look through a lure catalogue you will see how bewildering the array of lures and their colours is, and you'll realise how easy it is to get carried away by it all and buy loads and loads of lures, just because they catch the eye. Looking good to the angler is no guarantee that a lure will look good to the pike! From time to time you will see photos in the press of a "lure expert" proudly displaying his huge lure collection. The range of types and colours is vast, surely enough to cover any eventuality - and a few besides. What is often noticeable in these photos is the lack of duplication. Rarely are there more than two colours of any particular model, and almost never is a lure duplicated exactly. There is, almost certainly, a large proportion of the lures on display that have only been used once or twice. Bought on impulse their hooks slowly rust through neglect. There is an element of the stamp-collector mentality about a lot of lure collections. Some people seem to take great pleasure in a kind of one-upmanship when it comes to having hard to acquire lures, usually U.S. imports. There is often little consideration for what the lure does, though. In the final analysis, all a huge collection of lures usually proves is that the owner has bought a lot of lures!

Occasionally, though, you will see a photo of a sensible lure collection. There are at least three samples of each lure, and maybe considerably more, even with two or three of a particular pattern. It will also be obvious that, while there is probably a wide range of lure types, there are very few actual models of lure. This angler knows what works for him, and is cashing in on the success of the patterns he uses most. This is the kind of lure collection you, too, should be aiming to have. The total number of lures need not be very high either. If all the waters you pike fish are under 10 feet deep there is little point in having a large range of ultra deep diving plugs, for example. Try to remember that lures are essentially tools to do specific jobs, and buy them with that in mind.

Whenever a lure takes my fancy I consider carefully what it is designed to do. Have I got a use for such a bait? If the answer is, "No", then it stays on the rack or in the catalogue. If the answer is, "Yes", then I buy one to try out. Should it prove successful, then I will buy a couple more in other colour schemes (or repaint them) and see how things go from there. Were one particular pattern to prove extremely successful, then a back up or two might be acquired to cover any losses that occur. Another way of having back-up lures is to buy lures designed for similar purposes from different manufacturers. One firm's minnow bait, for example, will behave slightly differently to the next firm's. Duplicating colours in these differing baits gives an added range (one may run slightly deeper than another, or have more wobble to it) while being close enough in times of emergency should a taking lure be lost.

Such is the way that the large lure manufacturers work these days that classic lures can suddenly go out of production. Often this is a rationalisation process after a business takeover. To the men in suits there is no point in one company producing two similar baits, the least profitable one gets dropped on the grounds that the remaining lure will sell more due to decreased competition. For some reason it always seems to be my favourite bait that gets the chop! If you get wind of this happening to one of your all time favourites, buy as many as you can before they disappear altogether! I have missed out once or twice, and have lived to regret it. As soon as a lure becomes difficult to get hold of its value rockets, and collectors who won't use the things buy them. This is a real waste to my mind, depriving anglers of the opportunity to fish with a favourite lure. There is nothing wrong with collecting lures for the fun of it, I suppose, but what it has to do with fishing is beyond me. As far as I am concerned tackle is for fishing with. By all means retire a lure, reel or whatever when it is past its best - so long as you have something to use in its place - but I can see little point in shelling out good money for an old piece of tackle that is only going to sit on a shelf.

Most lures on sale these days are of excellent quality, and are one hundred percent reliable in their fittings. Even so it is worth checking them over for faulty hooks or split rings when you get them home. If you are in any doubt ask for a replacement, or fit new hardware.

This split ring wasn't up to a tussle with a couple of double figure pike. Needless to say, it was swapped for heavy duty hardware on returning home.

I cannot remember buying a lure in recent years that has suffered from poorly seated hook attachments, but I don't buy my lures from the bargain buckets. There are plenty of cheap and cheerful lures still on sale, mostly in the small sizes and aimed at the occasional lure angler. Steer clear. One fault that is hard to detect until you are fishing, is the leaking body. To locate the leak try pushing the lure down in a bowl of hot water, the heat expands the air in the lure and forces it out through the hole. This is a tip I picked up indirectly from a non-angling model maker, and it works. Even the best hollow plastic lures have been known to leak at times. Either complain to your supplier, or dry the lure thoroughly (even drilling a hole in it to empty the water through) and seal the leak (and the hole!) with epoxy.

Almost every book you read on lure fishing mentions somewhere that plugs might need tuning to run true. This one is no exception! If a plug refuses to track straight, then carefully and gradually bending the loop, or eye, that you clip the trace one way or the other should rectify the problem. The aim is to centralise the loop along the centre line of the bait's lip, so that the water pressure is equal on both sides of the vane. To check if a lure is tracking straight, cast it out and point the rod directly down the line. Then wind the lure in with a steady retrieve. Any deviation from a straight retrieve will soon become apparent. If the lure tracks off to your right (the lure's left) bend the eye to your left (the lure's right). True tracking baits are easier to fish with and essential for trolling. Not only crankbaits and minnows are affected by an off-centre line tie, other bodied baits can be too. Jerkbaits, for example. The same procedure applies for tuning these lures. When buying lures with metal, or other non-moulded-in lips, check that they are centrally placed. If the lip is off-line then there might be nothing you can do to it to get it back on the straight and narrow. Short of refitting it, or even reshaping it. Neither line of attack is recommended as these operations can all too easily go wrong, and once you have tinkered with the lure it is unlikely that your supplier will accept it for replacement. Send such lures straight back where they came from.

Certain plugs come fitted with split rings on their line tie, while others do not. I frequently add a heavy duty split ring to the ties on my baits, especially those with small nose loops, as it makes the use of larger trace snaps far less fiddly. On a similar note I have found that the action of the Creek Chub Pikie can be increased by doctoring the split ring on the lip. Quite why the following procedure acts as it does I don't know, but the difference is remarkable. Turn the split ring so that the two ends of the wire are behind the lip. Then either epoxy or solder it in place. If soldering take care not to overheat the lip or it may begin to melt the body of the lure and possibly cause it to leak. The increase in wiggle is quite dramatic.
The hook hangers themselves are worthy of attention. Moulded in loops are pretty foolproof, I have yet to have a problem with one but if one was to fail it would be just about irreparable. Screw eyes benefit from removal and replacing with a coating of epoxy. This not only improves the strength of the fixing, but in wooden baits helps to seal the hole where water could easily get in. The same applies to the type of hanger that is held in place by two screws.

The Creek Chub on the left is as it comes out of the package, and next to it one that has had its split ring fixed as described in the text.

Plastic plugs suffer very little in the way of damage, the paint might chip or wear off, but little other harm comes to them. If this worries you, then coat the lure with rod builder's epoxy. Rod builder's epoxy is recommended over other types as it is not only crystal clear when cured but it is also designed to flex with a rod, whereas some other epoxies are quite brittle. Be warned, though, that this will alter the buoyancy of the lure making it slightly heavier. Sometimes this improves a lure's performance, particularly on lighter baits that might become almost neutrally buoyant after a coating of resin. The odd leak caused by a pike's tooth puncturing a lure is treated with five minute epoxy as already described. Wooden lures are another matter, and just about every finish I have come across will chip, crack or flake in time - the more so the more pike you catch. My answer is a simple one as I don't worry too much if my lures look worn, so long as they still catch pike! Minor paintwork damage is treated with clear nail varnish. More severe injuries are given a liberal coating of epoxy, covering any bare wood and the surrounding paintwork.

There are lures available that come with patches of reflective tape on them, and very successful they can be too. Unfortunately the tape has a habit of peeling off at its edges. Here, prevention is better than cure and the whole of the tape and the lure should be coated in a clear epoxy. This is the procedure I have always followed, but it occurs to me that running some five minute epoxy (which is quite clear enough) over just the edge of the tape might be just as effective.

All lures should be stored away from damp, and left to air dry on returning home from a fishing session. Proper care in this matter will protect the lure's finish and its fittings, ensuring that it lasts well and won't let you down. The advantage of plug pipes and hanging lure boxes is that they allow for a good flow of air around the lures. Leave the lid of the box open for a day or so to thoroughly dry the lures. Silica gel or some other desiccant can also be sprinkled in lure containers, but don't forget that this too needs drying from time to time or its usefulness is lost. Rust and rot must be kept at bay.

Spoons and spinner blades need care and attention too. Regular polishing never goes amiss. Swivels and clevises should be kept free of weed and so on. The same goes for propbait blades and lures with spinning body sections. A pin or needle comes in handy for this task, which is best performed while you are fishing. Anything that rotates around a shaft, such as buzzer blades, should have the shaft checked periodically for straightness or the spinning will be impaired. Similarly, check the alignment of spinnerbait arms to keep them running upright and to maintain their weedlessness.

It is true that lures can be used in ways that they were not intended to be. This is not to be recommended as a general practice, though. If you don't have the right lure for the job, then by all means improvise, but should you begin to encounter the same situation regularly get some lures to do the job properly. I have heard of an angler trolling a propbait on a paternoster rig. Why use a surface lure in this way? To prove it will catch fish? Far better to troll a spinnerbait I would have thought. However, there are times when it is worth modifying a lure to make it perform in a completely different manner. I describe a few ways of altering the buoyancy of hollow plastic baits elsewhere, and wooden baits can be doctored by drilling holes in them and filling them with lead. This is a tricky operation as it is easy to overdo things and completely ruin the lure. Wrapping lead wire around the hook shanks is quite a good way of effecting a temporary alteration in lure buoyancy. I say temporary as the act of gripping the hook with your pliers to unhook a pike soon makes a mess of the lead.

More drastic techniques for altering a lure's action include cutting and reshaping the lips of deep diving plugs. This never keeps the original action of the bait and is also a very tricky operation to get right. It is all too easy to end up with ten quid's worth of wrecked lure! Butchering lures in this way is something that I have no time for as there are plenty enough shallow to mid depth crankbaits and minnows around to my way of thinking. Repainting lures, on the other hand, is something I am completely in favour of. It has to be said that some of the lures you can buy have paint jobs that are little works of art. The problem is that the pike couldn't care less! If you aren't particularly artistically inclined, don't worry. You will still be able to produce patterns that will catch plenty of pike. In fact I have a distinct preference for patterns that are simple and bold. The only things that you need to remember when painting lures is to get a good base coat of white on the lure to start with, and then to add the lightest colours first and the darkest last. Always allow each colour sufficient time to dry before applying the next one. This prevents colours running or crazing as the two coats react. Car spray paints are the easiest to use, but if you have a mixture of acrylic and cellulose based paints the acrylics must be applied first. Metallic finishes also don't take kindly to overspraying and unwanted reactions will occur. To seal the final paintwork use either a few coats of polyurethane varnish (watch out if coating a metallic finish) or rod builder's epoxy. Epoxy is not easy to use, requiring the lure to be continuously turned for a perfect finish. However, it can be hung from one end for a while, and then from the other to even the coat out. Practice makes perfect. Not only can plugs and so on be repainted, but so too can spoons and spinner blades. Use your imagination, the possibilities are endless.