Fishing with lures is an excitingly effective way to target trophy fish. Unlike passive baits that rely on fish stumbling upon your hook, lures allow anglers to put on a show that actively triggers strikes from aggressive predators.
Lures come in a dazzling array of shapes, sizes, and colors - each tailored to mimic the frogs, baitfish, crayfish, and other prey favored by freshwater and saltwater game fish in your area.
Today we'll explore how to use three deadly lure fishing techniques - the versatile cast and retrieve, the lively jigging method, and trolling over promising open water. Each technique has its own nuances for putting lures right in the strike zones of hungry fish. You'll gain insight into properly executing these fundamental lure fishing methods and how to refine them with some pro tips and tricks. If you're interested about the different kinds of fishing lures, we talked about this in a previous post. Now let's dive into lure fishing!
Cast and Retrieve
One of the most fundamental yet effective lure fishing techniques is the cast and retrieve method. The basic process involves casting your lure out towards a promising area, allowing it to reach the desired depth, and retrieving it in a way that mimics injured or fleeing prey. But the retrieve component is where variations come into play for putting on a performance that triggers those primal predator instincts in fish.
When initially practicing the cast and retrieve technique, focus on accurately casting your lure towards structure, cover, drop-offs, flats, or other areas where fish are likely holding. Proper casting form and technique takes time to develop, but being able to place your lure precisely is crucial for pinpoint presentations. Once the lure reaches the intended depth after the cast, begin steadily reeling it back in.
As you retrieve the lure, try varying your reeling speed. A faster speed will generally keep lures higher in the water column, while a slower pace allows lures to dive deeper and run truer to their intended action. Take some casts and experiment to determine if fish prefer fast aggressive retrieves or slower more subtle presentations on a given day or in certain conditions. Adapting your reeling speed helps instill realism into lure actions, matching active/fleeing prey or dying/injured baitfish depending on the species you're targeting.
Another effective variation is incorporating light rod twitches and flicks during the retrieve. Subtle twitches makes lures behave more erratically, like an injured baitfish struggling to swim away. Quickly flicking the rod tip horizontally during the retrieve makes the lure jerk sideways and pause momentarily. This sudden change of action often triggers vicious strikes from predatory fish.
Brief pauses during lure retrieval can also help create a more natural presentation for finicky fish. After retrieving steadily, stop reeling for 3-5 seconds then continue reeling once more. This break in steady action can entice hesitant fish into finally striking. Stay alert during the pause for subtle pickups and set the hook immediately at any change in lure behavior.
The technique of jigging involves using quick, short strokes to make a lure move vertically in the water column. This lively, erratic motion mimics wounded baitfish and is extremely effective for attracting predatory fish, especially those relating to the bottom.
The essence of jigging is creating an enticing up-and-down bouncing motion with your lure to get fish to strike. It allows anglers to keep the lure dancing tantalizingly within a fish's strike zone for an extended period, as opposed to retrieves where the lure is constantly moving away. Jigging rods around 6-7 feet with a fast to extra-fast action facilitate excellent control over the lure's movements and are ideal for this technique.
To execute the jigging motion, start by allowing the jig to sink to the bottom on a semi-slack line. Once it touches down, perform a series of brisk upward flicks of the rod tip to make the lure jump up in the water column. Then let the jig fall freely again on a slack line. Repeating this sequence of lifting the rod tip sharply to make the lure dance upwards followed by a fluttering drop is the essence of jigging.
There are several variations you can incorporate to make the jigging action even more enticing. Varying the speed of the jigging motion can trigger strikes from different fish species and conditions. Some aggressive fish may attack a fast, erratic jigging motion, while finicky biters may prefer a slower, more subtle up/down movement. Subtly twitching or changing the lure's direction during the jig can also increase realism. Occasional pauses with the jig resting on the bottom can trigger curiosity bites from otherwise inactive bottom fish.
When jigging, it’s important to consider what depth you are targeting. This technique really excels in deeper water where fish are relating to the bottom. Jigging allows anglers to precisely keep the lure bouncing tantalizingly within a fish's strike zone along the bottom contour. Allow extra slack in your line for the lure to reach depth, then engage the reel and lift the rod tip to initiate the upward jigging motion.
Choosing the optimal lure for jigging is also key. Lures that quiver, flutter, or vibrate are most effective when jigged aggressively. Around heavy cover, consider weedless jigs to avoid fouling. Match the jig head weight to the conditions - use heavier jigs in current or deeper water, and scale down for finesse presentations.
If you'd like to know more about jigging, the National Park Service has a comprehensive guide on the technique, including where to jig, and what to expect while jigging.
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Trolling involves slowly dragging baits or lures behind a moving boat to mimic fleeing prey and attract fish over a large area. This technique, called by the U.S. National Park Service as a "very active type of fishing," allows anglers to efficiently explore open water while presenting lures in an enticing way.
The essence of trolling involves trailing fishing lines with hooked baits or lures behind a moving boat to imitate wounded baitfish escaping. Multiple lines can be deployed off rods held in rod holders or downriggers, spreading the lure coverage. Trolling enables anglers to thoroughly cover open water while keeping baits directly in fish strike zones.
Boat speeds for trolling generally range from 2-4 mph for slower deep water trolling, up to 4-10 mph when targeting aggressive fish like wahoo, tuna or muskie. The motion imparted by the boat makes lures like diving plugs, spoons, crankbaits and spinnerbaits swim enticingly at depth. Varying speeds can determine lure running depth.
Downriggers allow trolling weighted lines down to precise depths by attaching lures to release clips on downrigger cables. Planer boards spread lines sideways from the boat for wider coverage. Flatline trolling involves attaching lures right to the fishing line and slowly towing them, especially effective in shallow water.
Subtly varying trolling speed, incorporating occasional twitches of the rod tip, and brief pauses can make lures behave erratically like injured baitfish, triggering vicious strikes. Keeping lures lively is key.
Paying attention to where fish are located, their preferred depth, water temperatures and forage is critical to trolling success. Target the most promising areas and swap lures until you find what they want that day.
Armed with this array of lure fishing techniques, you now have the knowledge to excel at enticing savage strikes from apex predators across a variety of conditions. Whether finesse fishing a jig for bass, working a swimbait across a reef for tuna, or trolling deep diving crankbaits over a ledge for walleye, the right technique applied properly promises heart-thumping action.
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Now get out on the water and start honing your lure fishing skills. Remember to experiment and adapt your approaches until you unlock what drives the fish wild each day!
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