The grub style fishing lures work well because they can perfectly imitate a shrimp in distress, which is usually the most common attraction to fish in natural waters. Large amounts of native shrimp in both fresh and salt water systems often mean the waterways you are fishing in are healthy and stable, which also indicates perfect conditions for sustaining most fish.
In fresh waters which have been disturbed or altered, along with man made impoundments and lakes which are often cut off from rivers, shrimp may not be present. This is often due to large numbers of Gambusia residing in these waterways, which wipe out the shrimp populations very quickly. In these other waters, the grub style lure can also imitate a fry fish (juvenile) in distress.
To tell whether there are large numbers of gambusia in a waterway, I often test this by swiping a landing net through the water as deep and fast as possible, and then empty the fish collected into a bucket with a little bit of lake water, I also carry a small square shaped clear plastic container, which I put some water and a fish I have collected into, from there I can easily tell if the fish I have collected are gambusia, goldfish or other types of freshwater fish. If there are shrimp you will also easily be able to see them in the clear container.
After seeing what type of small fish are in the waters, I have to dispatch the fish due to the fact goldfish and gambusia are declared as noxious species in my area. To do this humanely you will need a bucket full of ice and water, leave them in the cold water for over an hour until their body shuts down, then throw the bucket containing them onto the ground away from the water. If you are not this fussy, you could go straight to emptying the noxious fish onto dry ground.
If there were are any small native fish in the net, I always make sure to release these natives back into the waters, often there are a number of small native species people don’t know much about, so it helps to do a bit of research into the smaller native fish populations in your area, or at least find out which small fish are noxious, you can then ensure what you return to the water is not a pest species.
If during this process you observed large numbers of small fish in the water, it can sometimes help to choose a soft plastic lure colour different to those fish which you collected, as the fish already have a plentiful food source in these small fish, giving them something different to attack can often help in these situations.
Using the single method I will explain below, I have caught fish in many waters, this style is based upon imitating shrimp behavior, however it works for me even when no native shrimp are present.
The way to imitate a shrimp can be observed when keeping small predatory fish in an aquarium, then adding a lot of freshwater shrimp. At first the shrimp often hover around merrily, even right up close to the predator fish, before suddenly sighting the predator and doing a huge jump upwards to get away as fast as they can. Shrimp also appear to have a very short memory, and after about 5 to 10 seconds will have forgotten all about the initial predator, and continued on its food scavenging hunt at the lower parts of the water.
Often you will notice shrimp doing this fear jump to the exact same predator a number of times, clearly indicating they have forgotten the predator is there, even if it was only about 10 seconds earlier that they were in fear of the same fish in the same location.
Imitating this with a lure is simple, but loosing lures to this style can be common when first starting out. How I usually go about using soft plastic grubs is attach a 5 gram jig head in order to gain a decent distance, then cast as far as possible with my lightweight spin rod and light fishing line (6lbs). Once the lure is cast out, I retrieve the line until it becomes tight, then let the lure drop to the bottom of the water while lowering the fishing rod to a 90 degree angle (facing directly in front of me).
Once it is there I tighten the line once more and when I feel the very slight pull of the weighted grub lure on the end, I then flick the top of the fishing rod up quickly about 3 to 4 foot, now immediately after doing this I begin to lower the rod quickly while at the same time lightly reeling the lure in so that by the time it is back at 90 degrees, the line is again tight. I repeat the same motion once again, usually doing this 2 or 3 times within 5 to 10 seconds. If there is no bite on the line, I then retrieve the lure about another meter, before letting it sink again and repeating the process.
I continue until either the lure has returned to me, or a fish has taken it, if there is no fish, I will try again, changing the direction of the cast slightly each time. After around 10 casts I move along the waters edge to a new area a few meters away.
If you encounter a snag while doing this type of fishing you will often feel something which appears as though the lure has become heavier, should you get this feeling pause for a second, if the heaviness remains, then you will need to carefully lower the tension on the lure, then retrieve very slowly until you feel it free up when it passes over the top of the snag, try not to force the lure at all, keep what you are doing light and back off the pressure if it tightens again. Moving to a different area then trying to retrieve on another angle can also dislodge it from any snag should the hook be set in it.
The most important lesson in this situation is don’t always expect every change in the lure feeling to be a fish on the other end, this is how lures are often ‘snagged off’ or lost.
If a fish was to brush or nudge the lure you will notice another feeling, different to what you encounter with a snag, it will also free up after a second or two rather than staying constant. If a fish grabs the lure your line will then tighten heavily and the top of the rod will also bend a lot. Knowing the difference between these feelings is vital experience to gain.
I often allow a very slight amount of drag set at the front of the fishing reel, enough so I can only just pull the line outwards from the reel with two fingers. The benefit of this level of drag is that a completely tight line is likely to pull the lure from a fishes mouth immediately after they grab it, where as a reel with some drag set will allow the line to be taken and carried away by the fish momentarily, giving enough time for the fish to close it’s mouth and let you set the hook.
When a fish takes the lure (you will know it’s a fish from the massive weight shift that occurs, which feels nothing like a snag), what you need to do is in one motion quickly tighten the line by reeling in and at the same time immediately jerk the rod completely upwards. This movement yanks the lure back towards you and sets the hook in the fishes mouth, now you can begin the fight to bring the fish back to land.
Note that if the rod bends back and you assume it is hooked without doing the previous step, the hook may still not be set. It can help to do the reeling in and vertical motion to ensure the fish is hooked.
After you are confident the fish is on, you will want to lower the drag and allow the fish some ability to run and unwind the line slightly, while still giving you just enough power to reel the fish in, if the line is often becoming too tight, loosen the drag more, if the line is too loose and you aren’t able to reel in, then you will need to tighten the drag.
In the instance where you aren’t able to make progress on reeling the fish in due to setting the drag too low, you will hear the reel spooling outwards at the same time as you are reeling in, meaning you aren’t making any progress on getting the fish towards you. The only option in this situation is to tighten the drag slightly. While retrieving the fish another tactic you can employ is to allow the fish to run for a little while and hope it either settles down a little following this or begins moving towards you during the run, saving you fighting the fish all the way, then after this short break continue to reel the fish in as normal, this tactic can sometimes help, but is not recommended in situations where the fish can likely dive under or between fallen wood or mangroves, this will often result in the line becoming tangled and breaking.
Changing the drag settings as you go is vital to correctly landing fish, just because they are hooked doesn’t mean you will get them to shore or the boat, you will need to balance the return of the fish while not placing too much pressure on the fishing line or over stressing the fish, which will cause it to fight harder to break the line free, the main aim is to progressively lower the distance between you and the fish, sometimes it can happen quickly, other times it may take awhile, but it is always worth it, as this is the most enjoyable part of fishing.
In the next article, we will look at how to fish using hard body lures.
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