Sunday, 12 October 2008

Saltwater Lure Fishing Fundamentals for beginners

Saltwater Lure Fishing Series - First published Irish Angler 2004

  1. Improve your saltwater lure fishing introduction.
  2. Lure and tackle choices.
  3. On the big blue.

Part One

There is no escaping them these days. Just about every fishing shop you go to has stocks and a vast array of fishing lures. As you walk down the aisles they regard you with large holographic eyes and strange tight smiles. When you are at home turning the pages of your favourite angling magazine they jump off the page - the latest and greatest, the softest and the hardest, the fastest and the slowest, the brightest the dullest, the ones designed by scientists, oh and in case I forget the ones that catch the angler as well! How does any angler have a chance – indeed how does any fish refuse such a plethora of ‘foodlike’ metal jigs, plastic and colourful jelly? As a full time saltwater guide I am not afraid to admit it. My name is Jim Hendrick and I too have a large lure collection, including ones that taste like Pernod!

Over the next few months or so I hope to be able to help you in many aspects of your saltwater lure fishing. We will look at your lure choices and decision making, tackle and equipment that will help you achieve the maximum enjoyment from your fishing, and discuss many angling tactics to improve your catch rate. One of the key factors in successful lure fishing is understanding your target species, where they are and what their regular feeding, breeding and moving patterns are. With this knowledge and the information you can garner from these few articles you can successfully apply competent and efficient lure fishing techniques to your fishing.

There are a few things I would like to mention at this early stage regarding protection of the fish and indeed the angler when lure fishing. Most modern lures carry at least two and more often than not three treble hooks. These hooks are incredibly sharp and penetrate very easily. One lure can effectively be armed with nine hooks. When a predatory fish strikes or hits these lures its often with a lot of force. As a result of this attack hooks can become embedded in other areas of the fish other than the mouth region. This often causes unnecessary damage and death to the fish because of the following

1. Two or more barbed treble hooks are stuck in the fish’s body.

2. There is a protracted period of hook extraction from the fish

3. There is excessive and uncertain handling of the fish out of the water.

If you are considering lure fishing please also consider the following in order to nurture the saltwater sportfishing ethos. Remove all barbs from your treble hooks by flattening them with a pair of pliers. This will allow a very fast hook extraction with no pulling or ripping. Time spent extracting the hook from the fish is reduced to almost zero. Get into the habit of always carrying long nosed pliers. When you land a strong swimming species like a sea bass they will often thrash and splash around. Do not use a landing net – there are too many places for hooks to get tangled and you guessed it - stuck back in the fish while you try to get the lure free. Unsuitable landing nets remove slime and often damage fish. Uncertain and nervous reaching for the fish to control him will often lead to hooks been stuck in an anglers hand as the fish shakes his head to free himself of the lure. De barbing the hooks will help you in this instance.

Be confident in your control of the fish by thumbing him or by use of a boga grip. This is an invaluable tool that will allow you to quickly get the fish under control, weigh him, remove hooks etc and return him to the sea in less than 10 seconds.

Always try and remove the hooks from the fish while he remains in or at least partly submerged by water. The use of the boga-grip here is invaluable. Place you light spinning rod under your armpit in a tight grip, hold the boga in the same hand as you have the rod under, reach for the fish, grip and control him and remove the hooks using your pliers with the other free hand, release the boga trigger – fish drops into the water and swims away. Twelve seconds – a little room for improvement I think. When you capture a fish that you consider is worth photographing a little planning often helps the fish the photographer and the angler.

I find that I carry a small digital camera inside my shirt pocket all of the time when fishing. The camera is inside my chest waders and often inside my jacket, very safe. The strap of the camera is attached to a neck lanyard (like at pop concerts etc). The lanyard is always around my neck and is long enough to allow freedom of movement with the camera. I can simply pull the camera out of my shirt pocket by the lanyard, it slides out easily and I am then ready to take my photo. I can simply drop the camera back inside my waders after the shot and then return the fish. If you are fishing with a friend alert him before you land the fish that you want a photograph taken so he can be ready and in position to help. It does no harm to discuss and practice fish holding positions etc. Positioning, and remembering important factors like the angle of the sun before you go fishing will prove invaluable – a photograph in the fishes natural environment always looks great. Do not labour over your photographs and time should be kept to minimum. One portrait, one landscape and one change of position should be enough. Remember too that your trophy photograph will last forever and can be shown to hundreds of people, dead fish only last a few hours.

If you are fortunate enough to have found what looks like good lure fishing areas you should think carefully before telling too many people. There are a few points to bear in mind here as to why you should do this: Firstly some species are localised and very slow growing in their habitats. Bass for example take a long time to mature and are often subject to over exploitation. Always take care not to fish some special venues too often. Try to practice good catch and release policies and try to minimise unnecessary stress to fish. Bass, although they are very tough, you don’t want them to endure too many captures. You also don’t want to ‘over lure’ or spook the fish. The fewer lures they see the more likely they are to take yours. Make your own decisions about your sportfishing and exercise practical and thoughtful considerations.

Travelling light is one of the key benefits of lure fishing, little more than a small rucksack, two lure boxes, a bottle of water, suntan lotion and your rod and reel – what more do you need, some spares perhaps? Because you can often travel further and into places you wouldn’t normally venture when angling make sure you always tell someone where you are going and at what time you expect to return. Bring a mobile phone too in a sealed waterproof bag. A slip or fall in a remote area could prove fatal so always fish safely. Be aware of the state and heights of the tides, have an accurate idea of the weather forecast and never take chances on cliffs or rocky promontories. Always try and fish with a friend if you can.

So back to the lures – you’re walking down the angling shop aisle when you spot something that looks like a cast off from the latest Star Wars film. Its long, has flashy yellow spots over a light purple body and has two propellers back and front. You wonder does it take batteries and how hungry does a fish have to be to eat it? As it turns out, hunger is only one of the huge numbers of factors that drive a fish to attack a lure. Research into fish behaviour has been revealing other ‘triggers’ that fish find hard to resist, ‘triggers’ that lure designers might and often must use to blind a fish to the sharp truth about what really awaits it on the end of an anglers line.

With huge amounts of money been generated in the recreational angling arena, some lure manufacturing companies rely on science and computer design, rather than a simple ‘lets make one and see what happens approach’. In their quest to develop the most alluring of lures many companies will go to the far extremes of Computer aided design, colour physcology and visual spatial analysis. Many of the industry researchers' investigations focus on fish behaviour to guide the development of lures and their behaviour in or on water. Many other companies focus on the angler and force him subliminally to purchase lures based on what’s appealing to him or her. And as for trying to understand what goes on in anglers' minds when they're choosing and purchasing lures . . .. Well that discussion is probably more suited to a different type of publication!

To determine what turns fish on companies develop prototype baits in a variety of sizes, shapes, materials, and colour schemes, these prototypes are often given to trusted guides to test in various fishing situations. But before looking for live reports from the field, however, the designers put each lure through an assortment of lab tests. First, they examine its motion in a tank of flowing water, a fluid-filled version of the wind tunnels that aeronautical engineers use to test aircraft and automobile components. Slow-motion video recordings taken from several angles reveal a lure's movements in three dimensions and show, for example, how much a lure wobbles, or doesn’t, how it twists, stops hovers, sinks and how fast it swims back and forth, up and down

Often after tank trials come tests with live fish. Sometimes the artificial baits are towed past fish in a long, straight tank. In other tests, they're hauled around in circuits for a specified period of time at different times of the day. The researchers then compile statistics on how well a lure grabs a fish’s attention, or how a fish reacts to different lure travelling speeds and ‘swimming’ behaviour, colour and appearance.

Finally, in the most enjoyable part of the research-and-development process, for those designers and researchers interested in fishing, the baits are put to the test on lakes, streams and in the sea. It’s possible that amongst the best and most imitated lure manufacturers, for a lure to spend several years on the journey from conception through to final production. This factor should be one of the strongest points in assisting your decision-making regarding lure choice and purchase. Reputable companies make reputable lures. With so much information and choices decisions are difficult to make. In the next article we will discuss lure types, which ones you should use and how to use them correctly.

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Forwarded to - The Irish Bass Policy Group (David McInerny, John Quinlan, Shane O Reilly, Mike Hennessy, Dr William Roche, Dr Nial O'Ma...