Sorting the tackle box
What is it about catching bream on lures, or any fish for that matter, which makes an angler, buy all kinds of weird and wonderful lures to try and trick them? After spending the winter re organising and sorting out the tackle box, (numerous times) I discovered that there were lures in my collection, which have not caught a fish let alone seen a drop of water. There were hard bodies of all types, deep diving minnows, shallow water minnows, shads, surface lures and assorted soft plastics.
The first thing to come to mind is how easy it is for tackle shops to sell us anglers all kinds of lures. We are like kids in a lolly shop. We can not resist. We see the bright coloured lures displayed in neat rows and just can not help grabbing them with all kinds of thoughts, (or illusions) going through the mind on how we are going to catch that elusive bream, trout or whatever fish is our preferred flavour. Then we hand our hard earned cash over to the smiling tackle shop owner behind the counter, walk out of the shop and wonder what just happened. Before we know it we now own a box full of assorted lures which may, or may not work.
The second thing which comes to mind is to give them all a go. Justify the purchase. To see if bream can be caught on any of the lures in your collection, from soft plastic right through to a hard body surface lure on any given day in the same waterway.
After reading stories on the various internet forums on how well the Scamander River was fishing with the bream schooled up in spawning mode, and with an invite from Jamie from St Helens Bait and Tackle, the opportunity came to test some of these untried lures and the techniques required to make them work. The fishing gear was packed, and down the East coast on Saturday afternoon for a planned early start on Sunday morning. The mail around St Helens was that the fish had finished the spawning run and gone off the chew put a bit of a damper on the enthusiasm. The weather was another thing. It belted with rain all night and into Sunday morning. Around 9:00am the rain eased to a drizzle. Boat and trailer on the back of the vehicle, full wet weather gear on, we set off and had the “SS St Helens Bait and Tackle” on the water at around 10:30am. Then the rain stopped. Our luck was in….!
The first lure of choice was a small hard body lure made by Luckycraft called a Pointer 48DD. Considering that the bank we started to fish was quite deep with fallen timber laying 1 – 2 metres under the water, it seemed a good choice. Jamie is a bit of a Squidgy fanatic, some would say fanatical enough to even look like the guy who created them. He had been saying how Squidgys were the only way to fish the Scamander. A Squidgy fishing clinic was something to look forward to…! As we drifted along the river edge, casting the Pointer hard against the bank with a slow wind and pause to get the lure down deep into the fallen logs, it wasn’t long before a bream hit the little hard body. It was an undersized bream of around 20cm, but still a fish. Always great to break the duck no matter how big the fish is.
As this little fella was de hooked and released for another day, a shout and some words of wisdom on catching fish with soft plastics came from the front of the boat, the weighted Squidgy Wriggler Jamie was throwing into the bank did the job, and a nice bream pulled from the snags, brought to the net and released. Convinced, a small lead head jig and a 100mm Squidgy Wriggler was tied onto my rod.
Anyone who has fished lures casting at river banks in a small boat propelled by a bow mount electric motor will know that the captain, in this case Jamie, gets the prime water. Prime water is the best structure, snags and rocks, on the banks likely to hold bream. Maybe it was a bit of payback from previous sessions? Anyhow, with limited access to the snags on the bank to cast at, and deep water at the rear of the boat, I had no option but to fling the Squidgy Wriggler into the deep water at the rear of the boat. The cast went out and a bit of a wait until the lure hit the bottom of the river. With a slow lift and drop retrieve the Wriggler was back in the boat for no result. Something read from an article on how to fish Squidgies came to mind… If you think you are fishing too slowly, slow it down even more. The second cast with the Squidgy went out, a long pause as the lure went to the bottom, gentle lift, count to 10 slowly, lift again and drop... Whack... fish on! A bit of wrestle followed to pull the healthy 30cm bream from the deep water and into the net. As expected, some special comments on how good these Squidgies are coming from the pointy end of the boat. After repeating this method and pulling a couple more bream, a move to another part of the river to try another technique was suggested.
The next spot was a steep rock ledge. After moving quietly along with the electric motor, bream were spotted feeding on the rock edges. The bream were chewing away at the barnacles growing on the rocks and any other crustacean game enough to poke their head out from their homes. To extract these fish the answer from “the captain” was a resin head jig and a surprise, surprise, a Squidgy Wriggler..! The technique is to cast as close as possible to a feeding bream on the rock edge and allow the lure to slowly sink. If ignored a slow lift and drop of the rod will normally get some attention. The bream will, if you can get them interested, slowly swim over and suck the lure in, and you are on..! Exciting stuff…! This was witnessed 3 or 4 times until we (more like Jamie) had covered the rock face and went on to look for a change of scenery.
After being shut out from getting a crack at the bream feeding on the rock ledge I was looking forward to the next challenge of fishing more of the fallen and over hanging timber at the rivers edge. This is perfect terrain for a small shallow diving hard body such as a Luckycraft Tango. A technique where searching for bream hiding amongst the snags and the skill of casting tight into a small gap between overhanging tree branches and fallen timber challenges the best of anglers. This is both exciting and frustrating at the same time as a lot of time is spent retrieving lures from timber due to an errant cast. Not to mention spooking plenty of fish when doing this. Though, if you are not bumping your lures on the timber you are unlikely to catch the fish..!
As we motored up to the first fallen tree, a small school of nice sized bream were spotted hanging amongst the sunken limbs. Having some etiquette, I allowed the Squidgey man first cast. There is nothing like the pressure of trying to pin point a cast with a soft plastic into some heavy timber loaded with fish to bring the best to their knees… Straight into an over hanging branch and snagged…! Beauty, finally I get a crack at some un “Squidgied” water. Handling the pressure, and some abuse from the front of the boat, an accurate cast with a Luckycraft Tango neatly lobbed right in some clear water between the fallen logs. The trick here is to keep the lure in the strike zone as long as possible. With a slow wind of the reel the lure was pulled under the water under the water around 1/2 a metre or so then paused. Another short quick wind of the reel to give the lure a bit of action, then pause again. One of the bream slowly swam over to the lure and stopped just short of it. The challenge here is to do nothing, try to not pull the lure out of the strike zone. Aware that other bream were sneaking up look at the Tango, the temptation of an easy meal became too much, and the bream sucked the lure in. Watching this, waiting for the bream to turn back into the snag with the lure in it mouth, a short, quick strike and then holding the spool to lock up the drag, the bream was wrenched from the timber and after plenty of commotion into the boat. Not much time for finesse here.! Heavier leaders, 6lb or more, and locked drags required for this job...!
The best part about fishing these snags, as long as you can get your lure in the right area, is the bream are generally keen to have a crack at your lure. Whether this is because bream are territorial, or it is competition from other bream, or it is the shelter of the snag makes them feel safe to eat anything unusual. Either way this is a challenging and exciting way to catch bream.
We managed to pull several more bream from the snags, even the Squidgies pulled a few, though bust offs were common as the plastics were well in the timber before the lure was hit so the bream had the upper hand. I didn’t mind this as while someone was re tying leaders and jig heads, clear water was mine. It is surprising how few hard body lures you lose fishing snags. A few hard body lures are lost fishing the timber, but mainly to a bream belting it when not paying attention or not checking leaders and knots for damage. Though, losing a lure to a fish, kind of makes it a little less painful for the pocket? At least you now know it worked and can justify replacing it.!
As we fished along the edges, the river structure changed to shallow and rocky bottom. A few bream were spotted cruising in the shallow water less than a metre deep. Time for a lure change…! Going through the tackle box, we had tried and succeeded using deep diving hard bodies, weighted soft plastic, unweighted soft plastic, and a shallow diving minnows. All that was left was a surface lure. Having read plenty of articles about, but never caught a bream on a surface lure, why not give it a go? A Lucky Craft Bevy Pencil 60mm long was tied on. The beauty of these lure is they can be cast long distance so can cover a lot of water, and hopefully fish.
A long cast was put out, parallel with the riverbank, across the shallow water. The retrieve consisted of a slow wind of the reel with some action from the rod to cause the lure to dart sideways and bob up and down on the water surface. Then, pausing, a slow count to 5. Start the retrieve again. This was repeated a couple of times when on one of the pauses, a swirl of water was seen behind the lure. The temptation was there to strike, or move the lure again, but leaving the lure stationary, a splash and the bream sucked the lure under. The biggest surprise was the fish was only about 25cm long..! So much for big lures big fish..!
The highlight of the day came while using the surface lure. With a long cast parallel to the bank, the surface lures was worked with a slow wind, and with action imparted from the rod tip to make it appear like a wounded bait fish followed by a regular long pause. In site of the boat a large bream spotted the lure and cruised over, seemingly with all the time in the world. The lure was paused. The bream stopped and inspected. For what seemed like minutes, the bream stared and the lure sat in the surface of the water with the rear end submerged. At the risk of spooking the fish, the rod was twitched ever so slightly, enough to just make the lure wobble on the water surface. This triggered the bream into action and it engulfed the lure right under our nose sucking it down with a load slurp. On a short line the bream played up nicely, around and under the boat a few times before being guided into the net. A quick measurement showed 38cm. Not a bad Scamander River Bream. Then back into the drink for its efforts.
Throughout the session, we probably landed and released over 20 bream from undersized 20cm up to very healthy 40cm long. Using untried lures and techniques adapted to the environment we were fishing, whether rock walls, heavy timber snags or open shallow rocky bottom it was possible to catch fish consistently.
So rather than let those lures you have purchased on impulse rust away in the tackle box, tie one on and work out how to use it and what will make a fish want to eat it. With perseverance it will catch you a fish. You may notice a preference for a particular brand used above. This is really only about being comfortable and confident in the particular lure brand being used. Confidence in the tools used generally leads to better results…!
The best thing about going through your tackle box, is trying new and innovating ways to catch a fish which makes the challenge of lure fishing so much more rewarding.