How to

Understanding Lures

OVER the years I’ve consistently said that if you’re new to fishing and want to focus on purely catching fish, you should stick with bait. 

I say this because using bait will provide the best opportunity of consistently catching fish. 

So why would anyone want to use lures?

That’s a good question and one that was asked of me just recently. 

While I can’t speak for all anglers, I can confidently say that the vast majority of fishos start out using bait and eventually use lures more and more as they, for want of a better word, mature. 

I think this is because for many anglers there eventually comes a time when catching the fish becomes secondary to the overall fishing experience.

When I speak with other anglers who lure fish, one common theme that comes up is that most fish with lures because they feel they are actually “angling” rather than “fishing”. They are more connected with and in control of whatever is going on around them.

But some anglers lure fish because they don’t like the mess of bait fishing.

And then the simplicity of grabbing a lure outfit and going fishing is very appealing to many anglers. There’s no need to buy or collect bait, so lure fishing is simply more efficient.

The choice and availability of lures these days is staggering.  As a newcomer to fishing, trying to decide which lures you need to put in your tackle box can put your head in a spin. In a tackle shop, at least, you have access to specialist staff who are well versed with the lures, what they are good for and which ones to recommend to you. 

However, if like most of us you bought way more lures than you probably really need, you might find, when all alone out on the water, trying to choose which one to tie on can be very difficult. It is all well and good to know that a Rapala 7cm floating minnow is a dynamite lure for trout (which it is) but where and when is it a better choice than a bladed spinner?  Having an understanding of lure design combined with an understanding of the fish and the fishing environment will help you choose a lure capable of doing the job. 

The first thing to understand is that lures are not always intended to be accurate imitations of food items. For the most part, lure appearance catches more anglers than fish. Most lures catch fish because of a combination of how they look and how they perform in the water. This is because successful lures stimulate the fish to attack. This may be for feeding, instinctive, territorial or pure aggressive reasons.

As an example, I know so many anglers, myself included, who have used a “favourite lure” so much that the original colour is completely gone. The fact that you can still catch fish on what is effectively a lure blank tells you that appearance is important – for sales!  Why that lure continued to catch fish from when it was brand new down to bare bones largely comes down to what it was doing in the water.

Other examples of how performance overrides looks include very effective lures that have absolutely no physical resemblance to any living thing. Lures like spinnerbaits, bladed spinners or winged devil lures are all incredibly effective and yet don’t look like anything I’ve ever seen in the water. It’s where they work in the water column and what they do when they are there that gets the results. Choosing a lure that gets to where the fish are and activates either an attack or feeding response is the key. This is the real reason why you need a reasonable variety of lures in your box. 

We’ll be going over a whole range of lures over the next few issues but I wanted to particularly cover the point that successful lures need to get into, and stay in, the strike zone in order to be most effective at eliciting a hit. This should be the primary factor in deciding which lure you’ll tie on.

It’s better to be using an average lure in amongst fish than the best lure where there’s nothing.

All lures need to (and are designed to) move through or on top of the water to work most effectively. This may involve casting out and retrieving (lure casting or spinning), dropping to the bottom and retrieving to the surface (jigging) or towing behind a moving boat (trolling). Having an understanding of fish and their habitat is vital when it comes to successful lure fishing. When you get to this level of knowledge and thinking, you’ll discover there’s no such thing as a magic lure. Angling knowledge and skill is still required to make the lure you are using a “magic” one.

You also need to ensure you have the fishing fundamentals in order. Make sure that you are using balanced tackle, can tie good knots, can cast accurately and understand the fish you are trying to catch. 

There are literally tens of thousands of different types of lures available today. Despite this explosion in lure manufacture, most lures follow some broad conventions of design and performance that should fit them into one of several categories that we will cover over the next few issues of The Fishing School.


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